Signs & Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with cocaine addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of cocaine addiction treatment.

Understanding Cocaine

Learn about cocaine and substance abuse

One of the most predominantly used recreational substances today is cocaine, also known as coke or blow. This extremely addictive substance comes in the form of powder or crystallized rock and is said to be the most powerful stimulant that comes from a natural origin. Acting as a stimulant to the central nervous system, the use of cocaine causes individuals to experience feelings of euphoria as the drug increases the amount of dopamine that is released in the brain. With chronic use, coke changes the brain’s reward system, which ultimately leads to tolerance, addiction, and dependence.


Cocaine addiction statistics

Cocaine is said to be the second most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and is the third most common illegal substance found in this country’s schools. According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, there are approximately 3.6 million people in the U.S. who use cocaine on a regular basis. Additionally, 14.7% of the American population over the age of 12 has used coke at least once in their lifetime. It is believed that 75% of people who try cocaine end up becoming addicted to the substance and, sadly, only one in four people are able to quit using the substance without professional treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

The reasons why some people develop addictions to substances while others do not, despite using the same drug, is believed to be the result of a number of different factors, including the following:

Genetic: A person’s genetic makeup can have a large impact on whether or not he or she will begin to abuse substances such as cocaine. Whether that abuse will turn into an addiction has an even greater genetic tie due to the fact that variations in the development of different genes can have a positive or negative effect on the resistance that a person has towards developing an addiction. Addictions tend to run in families and research has shown that the children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves, as opposed to individuals who do not have a similar genetic predisposition.

Physical: The use of cocaine stimulates the receptors in the brain that are responsible for recognizing changes that are occurring within a person’s body. As the brain begins releasing excessive amounts of dopamine as a result of the drug crossing the blood-brain barrier, individuals begin feeling the almost immediate sensation of euphoria.

Environmental: The environments in which people are immersed can play a role in whether or not they begin to experiment with drugs. For example, when individuals have a chaotic home life, they may begin to use substances as a way to escape mentally from their surroundings, to numb unpleasant emotions that result from their surroundings, or to have something to control since they are not able to control their environment. Similarly, people who are excessively exposed to drug use have a higher likelihood of experimenting with substances than those who do not have this type of exposure.

Risk Factors:

  • Unstable home environment
  • Poor parenting or lack of parental involvement
  • Prenatal exposure to cocaine
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Exposure to virus
  • Suffering from a mental disorder
  • Peer pressure
  • Excessive levels of stress

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

The signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is abusing coke will vary amongst individuals depending on the amount of cocaine that they are using, as well as the length of time that they have been using. Signs that may be displayed by people who are abusing coke can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Extreme bursts of hyperactivity
  • Excessive levels of energy
  • Speaking rapidly and excitedly
  • Unprovoked violent behavior
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Lacking the need for sleep

Physical symptoms:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Track marks
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Ability to hyperfocus
  • Intensified alertness
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Poor judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic mood fluctuations
  • Prolonged mania
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis


Effects of cocaine addiction

Prolonged cocaine abuse can have a detrimental impact on the lives of those who use it. Depending on how long the person has been using cocaine, as well as how much of the substance they used, the severity of the effects will vary. Examples of the possible long-term effects that can result from excessive cocaine use may include:

  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Permanent damage of the heart and blood vessels
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • Respiratory failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Unhealthy weight loss
  • Loss of job / academic failure
  • Strained relationships
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

There are a number of mental health disorders that can occur alongside cocaine abuse. Additionally, the presence of mental illnesses can lead a person to seek out substances as a means of unconsciously self-medicating. Some of the most common disorders that are known to occur with cocaine abuse include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Conduct disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Addictions to other substances

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

If someone has been abusing cocaine and then suddenly stops the use, he or she can experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from cocaine is not normally a life-threatening occurrence, but the symptoms that one experiences can be extremely unpleasant. Examples of possible withdrawal symptoms that an individual may experience can include:

  • Bloody nose
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Excessive agitation and irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression

The high that people experience when using cocaine is normally short-lived, typically never lasting more than half an hour. As a result, tolerance can develop rapidly, causing individuals to use increasing amounts of the substance in order to receive the high that they crave. This has the potential to lead a person to experience an overdose. Overdosing on cocaine should be viewed as a medical emergency because it has the potential to result in death. Warning signs that may indicate that a person is experiencing a cocaine overdose can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Irregular breathing
  • Hyperthermia
  • Panic
  • Intense chest pains
  • Delirium
  • Stroke

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I was treated with respect and staff showed me love, and understanding from day one till leaving out the door! I received courage, motivation, open eyes, and my heart. Thank you staff, for bringing me back to life.

– Former Resident