What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse?

Signs of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a powerful, addictive stimulant drug. Although cocaine can be used as a legitimate anesthetic in some surgeries, its use as a recreational substance is dangerous and illegal.

Cocaine comes in a white powder form and is often cut with harmful chemicals and other illicit drugs, including synthetic opioids and heroin. Long-term cocaine abuse can cause serious, permanent mental and physical side effects, and increases the risk of heart attack.

In 2014, there were as many as 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 and older. People between the ages of 18 and 25 have the highest cocaine abuse and addiction rates, with 1.5% of this age group struggling with a cocaine addiction.

It’s crucial that people understand the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse in a friend or a family member. Without treatment, cocaine use will lead to serious long-term health consequences and is associated with high-risk behaviors. The following article will explore the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction, and what types of treatment methods are available for people struggling with addiction.

What are the signs of cocaine abuse?

First, it’s important to understand that cocaine can be used in different ways – ingesting, snorting, smoking, or injecting. For example, someone who snorts cocaine will exhibit different signs and symptoms of addiction than someone who injects cocaine.


Needle marks on the skin, frequent soft tissue infections, and scarring are symptoms that someone is injecting cocaine.


Cocaine that is processed into a crystal rock form is called “crack cocaine.” This form of cocaine is smoked, and the high is usually intense and short-lived. People who smoke crack cocaine exhibit marked increases in energy, and also paranoid and violent behaviors. Smoking crack cocaine is also associated with an increased risk of lung infections.


White powder on a person’s nose, frequent respiratory infections, loss of smell, runny nose, and problems swallowing indicate that someone is snorting cocaine.


People who are addicted to cocaine will sometimes rub the drug onto their gums. Bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, and ulcers can indicate that someone is ingesting cocaine. Long-term ingestion of cocaine can cause bowel decay and other gastrointestinal problems.

Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine abuse causes different short-term, and long-term symptoms.

Short-term symptoms:

  • Intense euphoria, happiness, and energy
  • Paranoia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Increased talking and socialness
  • Increased energy

Long-term symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Changes in mood
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bowel decay and stomach issues
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Sexual problems
  • Increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • Risk of bloodborne infections from injecting cocaine

People who are addicted to drugs of any kind, not just cocaine, will display other symptoms of addiction. They may experience financial problems from spending too much money on drugs. Drug addiction also causes individuals to become secretive, and to isolate themselves from family and friends. Also, cocaine abuse, in particular, is associated with an increased risk of violent behavior, homicide, and suicide. Changes in brain chemistry from long-term cocaine abuse can cause paranoid and violent psychiatric issues, especially in crack cocaine abusers.

What are the consequences of cocaine abuse and addiction?

Cocaine abuse causes many different changes in brain chemistry that can permanently damage the way a person thinks and feels. When someone abuses cocaine, the brain’s reward pathways become desensitized to natural, pleasurable enforcers. Activities and things that would typically lift a person’s mood are unable to once someone abuses cocaine for a long time.

As these reward pathways become desensitized to pleasurable enforcers, the pathways in the brain responsible for stress become more and more sensitive. When a person addicted to cocaine stops taking the drug, they will experience increased moodiness and displeasure. These two effects compel the user to focus more and more on seeking out the drug, instead of focusing their energy on activities that would typically enhance their mood.

As a person continues to abuse cocaine, they will develop an increased tolerance to the drug, where they will need more and more cocaine to produce the effect, or high, they crave. Higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are the results of tolerance and long-term addiction. Simultaneously, the user will become desensitized to the adverse effects of cocaine use including anxiety, convulsions, or seizures. This increases the user’s chances of experiencing cocaine toxicity and overdosing on the drug.

People who binge cocaine are also at high-risk of experiencing psychotic episodes, where they lose touch with reality and hear and see things that aren’t real. As cocaine abuse continues, the individual increases their chances of experiencing adverse psychological effects that can put themselves or others in danger.

How can someone with a cocaine addiction get help?

Cocaine abuse causes serious physical and psychological side effects. Because long-term cocaine addiction causes increased tolerance, stronger withdrawal symptoms, and increased sensitization to the adverse effects of cocaine, it is critical that people get help from medical professionals. Withdrawals from cocaine can be especially painful and distressing. Also, long-term cocaine abuse decreases a person’s ability to enjoy usually pleasurable activities. Someone going through cocaine withdrawal can become clinically depressed, which increases their risk of both self-harm and suicide, and also relapsing.

For people who struggle with addiction to cocaine, medical detox centers, and inpatient rehabilitation centers can help. Therapists, doctors, and social workers are on staff at a rehab or medical detox center and they can monitor someone during withdrawals. In addition, rehab centers are equipped to help patients with painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms. Doctors can prescribe safe medications to help lessen the severity of symptoms. Also, aftercare plans for cocaine addiction can be created for patients, decreasing their chances of relapsing once they leave an inpatient rehab center.

Untreated cocaine addiction can destroy a person’s physical and emotional health. If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine addiction, reach out to an experienced drug abuse counselor today to explore your addiction treatment options.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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