It may take diligence to recognize when a friend or family member is abusing cocaine. Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for is critical, and these will become more severe and obvious over time as the individual falls further and further into addiction.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
The beginning signs of cocaine abuse may be relatively subtle in comparison to full-blown addictive behavior. Physical and psycho-emotional symptoms will become worse in proportion with the severity of the addiction. Therefore, it’s much easier to overcome a cocaine addiction in the early stage, because once a severe addiction has set in, the process of recovery may be more difficult and take longer.
There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate a person has a cocaine use disorder, including the following:
- Exhibiting extreme increases in energy, hyperactivity, or talkativeness
- Erratic, impulsive, or abnormal behavior
- Secretiveness or providing suspicious or vague answers to questions regarding drug use
- Neglect of obligations
- Social isolation, withdrawing from family and friends
- New or worsening financial trouble
- White powder or stains on skin, clothing, belongings, especially around the nostrils
- Runny nose and sniffling
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Changes in sleep patterns, alternating periods of insomnia and lethargy
- Changes in appetite
Compared to many other drugs, cocaine is relatively expensive. Thus, a user with a coke habit may be forced to go to extreme measures and engage in risky behaviors to afford it, including the following:
- Repeatedly asking others to borrow money
- Stealing items or money from friends and family
- Selling personal possessions
- Taking out loans
- Emptying their savings account, 401K, or retirement fund
- Selling drugs
- Resorting in prostitution
A cocaine habit often hijacks the user’s mind and drives him or her to engage in obsessive drug-seeking behavior, which in turn produces adverse, life-altering consequences. The following are a few warning signs:
- Dropping out of school or being expelled
- Quitting or getting fired from a job
- Extreme debt or filing for bankruptcy
- Broken friendships or relationships
- Legal issues or incarceration
Cocaine use can also lead to physiological and emotional distress that requires emergency room visits, hospital stays, or psychiatric interventions to address. Some of the most frequently experienced symptoms include the following:
- Increased anxiety
- Impaired attention span
- Mood swings
- Increased irritability
Due to the chemical imbalances related to cocaine use, unpredictable and explosive mood swings are common among users. When a loved one develops a cocaine abuse problem, they may appear cold and aloof, and almost unrecognizable from the person whom they used to be. Indeed, when this happens, it often makes it more challenging to recognize subtleties in behavior as they occur, and the more these changes accumulate, the more troublesome the problem becomes.
Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse
Physical symptoms produced by cocaine abuse may range from mild to severe. Because every person’s body is unique, cocaine abuse doesn’t affect everyone in an identical way. Nevertheless, regardless of whether these symptoms are severe or not, it doesn’t mean that the underlying cocaine use disorder any less worrisome.
Physical symptoms related to cocaine use may include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Sniffling and runny nose
- Bloody nose
- Twitchiness or shakiness
- Dark circles under eyes
- Headaches or migraines
- Stomach aches
- High body temperature
- Elevated heart rate
- Sexual problems
After a person has developed a physical dependence on cocaine, withdrawal effects will occur if the user abruptly discontinues use. These effects may include the following:
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Long periods of sleep
- Intense drug cravings
- Heart problems
Cocaine is an extremely powerful drug with side effects that can vary depending on how much was used, individual body chemistry, or other substances present in the system. It may also be laced with harmful adulterants that can precipitate overdose or sudden death, even after just one use.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
The longer a cocaine habit persists, the higher the risk of encountering severe adverse effects on brain function and health. Addiction notwithstanding, health care providers must often address a myriad of other problems experienced by new rehab arrivals. Sometimes, external help from physicians and other specialists is required to treat long-term cocaine abusers appropriately.
Long-term health complications may include the following:
- Sexual dysfunction and impotence
- Infertility and other reproductive issues
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Lung damage
- Cardiovascular disease
- Seizures and convulsions
- Damage to the septum, nose, and nasal passages and surrounding tissues
- Reduced or lost sense of smell
- Problematic malnourishment and subsequence weight loss
- Chronic, frequent nosebleeds
- Gastrointestinal issues and bowel deterioration
- Increased risk of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
Other health risks may include the following:
- Unsafe sex and sexually transmitted diseases
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Cocaine exposure to a child in utero
- Blood-borne infections from sharing unsterile needles (e.g., HIV and hepatitis B and C)
Each year in the U.S., there are roughly 750,000 pregnancies in which a child is exposed to cocaine. Cocaine abuse during pregnancy can lead to a spontaneous miscarriage, a risky or difficult delivery, or a myriad of other complications prior to and during childbirth.
Chronic cocaine abuse has also been associated with profound psycho-emotional distress, such as paranoia or hallucinations. Some research has indicated that cognitive functions such as memory and motor control may be impaired by prolonged abuse.
Signs of cocaine use can be challenging to identify at first but will eventually become too obvious to ignore. Cocaine tolerance develops during the early stages of use and continues to build over time. Cocaine users will require increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effects.
Although cocaine can be hazardous at any dose, the danger posed dramatically increases when a person uses an exorbitant amount. The addictive nature of cocaine makes it easy to overlook how much a person is using to maintain a high. Once the stimulation becomes more than the body can handle, a lethal overdose can occur.
Signs of a Cocaine Overdose
The amount of cocaine that can lead to an overdose varies based on multiple factors. These include the individual’s physiology and the presence of other substances, such as alcohol, that may be involved. An overdose of cocaine is considered to be a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms of cocaine overdose may include the following:
- Respiratory failure
- Heart failure
- Cerebral hemorrhage
- Kidney failure
If not addressed immediately, the risk of heart failure and death significantly increases. Statistics also suggest there is a strong correlation between cocaine overdoses and adverse interactions with other drugs or alcohol. In 2015, for example, more than half of overdoses related to cocaine in the United States also involved opioids. In fact, 37% of these deaths involved heroin.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction is most effectively treated through participation in a residential rehab program. During this time, the patient will receive individualized, evidence-based treatment that includes psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and much, much more.
Addiction recovery is a challenging and potentially lifelong endeavor, but please know, you don’t have to do it alone. Just Believe Recovery can help you reclaim your life and begin to experience the happiness and wellness you deserve!