How to Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

Bloody nose symptom of cocaine abuse

Whether you’re dealing with a cocaine problem yourself or you’re concerned about a loved one, you might be wondering how to recognize signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse. Being able to notice warning signs can help you come to terms with cocaine addiction and make a decision to get the help you need.

But first, what is cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug usually sold as a powder substance. Cocaine use generally takes the form of snorting or injecting. Another version of the drug, called “crack cocaine,” is composed of rocks or crystals which are usually smoked. Different names for cocaine include:

  • Blow
  • Coke
  • Crack (shortened version of crack cocaine)
  • Rock
  • Snow

The drug cocaine is originally derived from the coca plant, which is native to Latin America. The cocaine sold for recreational use on the street, however, is far from being a natural product.

What does cocaine do?

The drug produces brief feelings of euphoria and exhilaration that last from minutes to hours, followed by a comedown. Cocaine produces these effects by increasing activity in the body’s central nervous system and sympathetic peripheral nervous system. This leads to feelings of improved performance, increased energy, and high levels of activity.

While many people use cocaine for these perceived benefits, the benefits are short-lived. The high that cocaine and crack cocaine produce is fleeting. By taking repeat doses of cocaine to feel its effects, chronic cocaine users will develop cocaine dependence, which eventually leads to cocaine addiction.

Warning signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse

People who abuse cocaine will usually exhibit signs that point towards drug addiction. You might recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one if cocaine use is happening regularly.

  • Excitability
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent nightmares or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis and hallucinations
  • Nosebleeds or runny nose (from snorting the powder form of cocaine)
  • Nagging cough (from smoking the crack form of cocaine)
  • Inability to stop using
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • A change for the worse in the quality of life, relationships, and employment

One of the clearest indicators that someone is experiencing cocaine dependence and potentially cocaine addiction is their inability to stop abusing drugs despite major health consequences.

As the effects of cocaine wear off and cocaine withdrawal symptoms present themselves, many cocaine users will continue to abuse the drug to maintain what they think is equilibrium. The presence of such symptoms and behavior will indicate if you or someone you love needs treatment for cocaine addiction.

What causes cocaine addiction?

Cocaine addiction happens because cocaine increases the natural reward messenger in the circuits of the brain. This chemical messenger is dopamine, and it is influential in the control of movement and feelings of reward. When your brain functions normally, dopamine recycles back into the cell that released it. This then shuts off the messaging between the nerve cells.

When you introduce cocaine to the system, however, the dopamine is prevented from being recycled. This results in large amounts of dopamine building up in the space between the cells, which then stops their communication. This flood of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain reinforces the drug-using behavior.

Eventually, the brain’s reward circuit adapts to the extra dopamine which makes it lose its sensitivity to it. Because of this meddling in the reward circuit, you need to use stronger and more frequent doses to get the same feeling you got the first time you used cocaine. Plus, a regular user will feel symptoms of withdrawal if they have to go without, or without enough. This is tolerance which leads to dependence and cocaine addiction.

Difficulty at work sign of cocaine abuse

Short and long-term effects of cocaine use

Cocaine use ranges from the occasional user to the repeat or compulsive user with different patterns in between. Whatever the level of use, it has the potential to lead to ingesting toxic amounts of cocaine. This can cause heart attacks, strokes, or seizures, all of which can result in sudden death.

In fact, one of the main concerns with this type of substance abuse is how it affects the human heart. Long-term cocaine abuse in particular can alter the cardiac function of the human heart. In one study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, chronic cocaine users were found to have weaker hearts than people of the same age who did not engage in cocaine abuse.

Overall, the negative consequences of this type of drug abuse are not worth the effects (such as a cocaine-induced dopamine release) that are seen as desirable by cocaine users.

Some of the short and longer-term effects of cocaine abuse include the following:

Short-term effects of cocaine use

  • Exaggerated sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
  • Extreme happiness or euphoria
  • Anger, irritability, or aggressive behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mental alertness and extended wakefulness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Talkativeness
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Heightened blood pressure and heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat

Long-term effects of cocaine use

  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Difficulties with swallowing
  • Rupture in the intestinal tract
  • Higher risk for stroke and seizures
  • Malnutrition
  • Memory problems
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease

Many cocaine abusers experience a negative impact to nearly every single one of the human body’s major functions. This is especially true for people who abuse cocaine along with other drugs.

Discover cocaine addiction treatment in New Jersey

At Lifetime Recovery we provide cocaine addiction treatment in Mullica Hill, NJ, in South Jersey at our outpatient and medical detox treatment center where we treat people with conditions ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to mental illness as well as co-occurring disorders/dual-diagnosis.

We’re also one of the few alcohol and drug rehab centers to provide gambling addiction treatment. Through our integrated model and holistic approaches, we provide evidence-based winning solutions for you to recover from addiction and develop healthy ways to live the rest of your life.

Serving all of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York.

Treating mental health and trauma

Our behavioral health and substance abuse treatment experts also treat co-occurring disorders/dual diagnoses (including trauma), and we are one of the few alcohol and drug rehab centers offering gambling addiction treatment.