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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction?

Discover the signs and symptoms, causes, and side effects of cocaine addiction in this informative article.

What Is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction is a substance use disorder involving the ongoing use and uncontrollable use of cocaine despite the presence of negative consequences. Cocaine is probably one of the most popular illicit drugs with a relatively high addictive potential. In 2020, about 5.2 million individuals aged twelve and older reported cocaine use in the past twelve months.1
In addition, research shows that about 1.3 million Americans had a cocaine addiction or other related cocaine use disorder in 2020.2

Cocaine Origin

Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant, native to South American countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant with a variety of biological and physiological effects on the human body.

For hundreds of years up until the nineteenth century, cocaine was used as a medicinal product for several medical purposes. For example, it was commonly used as local anesthesia to aid surgeries.

Client meeting with a therapist to discuss their mental health.

Harmful Cocaine Usage

As a street drug, cocaine is produced and marketed as a white, fine powder. Sometimes, drug dealers mix cocaine with other ingredients to maximize profits without increasing the amount of cocaine. These additions include baking soda, flour, and other fine powders. In addition, at times, cocaine may be mixed with other illicit substances to boost its effects.

Cocaine Consumption

People engage in cocaine abuse in several ways depending on cocaine availability, purity, and preferred ease of use. The common ways to take cocaine include:

  • Eating
  • Snorting
  • Smoking
  • Injecting

As a drug of abuse, cocaine is commonly inhaled or snorted by directly applying the powder to the nose and breathing in. This action helps circumvent first-pass metabolism as it directly enters the bloodstream through the nasal tissues.

Other Cocaine Ingestion Methods

Other common ways to ingest cocaine include rubbing the powder on the gums in the mouth or dissolving it in water and injecting the solution intravenously. Cocaine can also be smoked, which helps aid absorption through the lungs.

Regardless of how cocaine is used, it still possesses a high addictive potential, risks of overdoses, and possible induction of heart attacks, seizures, strokes, and death.

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is highly addictive, as it acts on the brain's limbic system to elicit several psychoactive effects.

The limbic system helps regulate motivation and pleasure in the brain. For example, when cocaine is ingested, it increases the production of dopamine (pleasure hormone) in the brain leading to feelings of euphoria. However, after the effects of dopamine wear off, more of the drug is needed to elicit the same pleasurable effects.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction?

Similar to any form of illicit drug use, addiction to cocaine comes with several physiological signs and symptoms. It is always helpful to keep note of the following signs and symptoms as it may help spot cocaine addiction and the severity of abuse.

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction include: 

  • White powdery residue around the nose
  • Dilated pupils and sensitivity to light
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Needle marks on hands, forearms, legs, or feet
  • Rapid breathing
  • Constant runny nose or frequent sniffing
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Headaches
  • Sores in the nose
  • Decreased appetite

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine's side effects can appear on different levels. Also, several cocaine risks can be induced when using the drug for the first time. The following includes short-term physiological effects after ingestion of cocaine:

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mental alertness
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased temperature
  • Dilated pupils

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

After prolonged cocaine use, several long-term risks and side effects may occur. These include

  • Addiction
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Auditory hallucinations

Stages of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine use can gradually result in addiction, occurring in several interconnected stages.


The first stage of cocaine addiction is tolerance, a medical phenomenon where the body adjusts to a substance, requiring a higher dose to experience the same effects. Cocaine tolerance occurs progressively and worsens through continual drug use.


Craving describes an intense or abnormal desire to use a substance, making it a significant danger of cocaine use. In addition, drug craving, or drug-seeking behavior, is one of the main symptoms of substance use disorder.

At the stage of cocaine craving, people experience a pressing need to use cocaine the moment the drug's euphoric effects wear off. The degree of cravings varies depending on the individual and the extent of cocaine abuse and addiction.


Cocaine dependence is the final and most pronounced stage of cocaine addiction and is characterized as the constant need or urge to use cocaine to function properly. Cocaine dependence can be physiological or psychological, with the individual unable to stop cocaine use.

Drug dependence is a severe condition that can quickly lead to addiction. The significant danger of dependence is the feeling that cocaine is needed to function normally despite the negative effects on health or general well-being.

Risk Factors of Cocaine Addiction

Several factors may predispose or make a cocaine addiction likelier than usual. These will be detailed below.

Environmental Factors

Cocaine abuse can be increased by certain environmental factors, including childhood experiences, cocaine use by close relatives, peer pressure, and ease of access. In addition, stress plays a significant role in drug use. For instance, research shows that stress alters brain chemistry, induces drug-seeking behaviors, and increases sensitivity to cocaine-associated cues.3

Genetic Factors

Drug dependency and cocaine addiction are highly genetic. Studies show that genetic factors influence up to 65% of cocaine addiction in females and 79% in males. This means individuals who have close relatives with a cocaine problem have a higher risk of developing one themselves.4

Due to genetic predisposition, these individuals may find cocaine effects more pleasurable and have better tolerance to cocaine's side effects. Genetic factors are one of the dominant causes of cocaine addiction, resulting in other harmful effects of cocaine.

Personal Factors

Personal factors include knowledge and education, personality, political and religious views, self-control, values, perceived responsibility, cognitive biases, age, gender, and other considerations. For example, people with little knowledge about cocaine and poor self-control are more likely than others to develop a cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms, also known as withdrawal syndrome, are a combination of physiological symptoms that occur when an individual suddenly stops or reduces the use of the abused substance.

The withdrawal symptoms can make it challenging to maintain sobriety, as they can be quite severe. Withdrawal symptoms also boost drug craving, making it essential always to detox at a medical facility.

Common Indicators of Withdrawal

Common cocaine withdrawal symptoms, irrespective of the cocaine dangers, include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Delayed thinking

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the Body?

Cocaine can stay in urine for up to three days and blood and saliva for two days. For those with a severe cocaine use disorder, the drug can be traced in the system for up to two weeks after cocaine effects from cocaine stimulants have weaned off.

How to Mitigate the Impact of Withdrawal

Adverse effects of cocaine withdrawal are prevented and managed by properly initiating the cocaine detoxification process at a treatment facility. This can also avert cocaine relapses while quitting cocaine.

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction Treatment at Anew Treatment Center

Anew Treatment Center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to helping individuals manage and treat all forms of substance use disorders and addictions. Cocaine addiction requires several levels of care, cutting across detoxification, stabilization, therapy, and inpatient or outpatient support, depending on the patient's needs.

Our medical experts are trained and knowledgeable in various evidence-based cocaine addiction treatments to ensure each patient recovers successfully.  All our services are delivered in a homely, supportive environment to aid treatment and prevent cocaine relapse.

For more information on cocaine addiction and how to get help and treatment, contact us today at the Anew Treatment Center.

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