It takes vigilance to identify a cocaine habit in a family member or friend so that they can get the help they require. Moreover, knowing what signs to look for is critical to recognize cocaine addiction – the symptoms and side effects of cocaine abuse will become more apparent and severe over time as the person sinks further and further into addiction.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
The initial signs of cocaine abuse are subtle in comparison to full-fledged addictive behavior – indeed, the physical and psychological symptoms of cocaine use worsen in proportion to the behavioral consequences of addiction. Thus, it’s much easier to overcome a cocaine habit in the early stage, because once a strong addiction sets in, the process of recovery may take months or years.
There are numerous signs that indicate the presence of a problem with cocaine, including the following:
- Strange or abnormal behavior
- Constant secretiveness or providing suspicious or whitewashed answers to questions
- Departing early from, showing up late to, or missing gatherings or obligations entirely
- Increased impulsivity
- New or exacerbated financial troubles
- White powder or stains on clothing, belongings, or skin, particularly around the nostrils
Compared to most drugs, cocaine is rather expensive. Thus, a cocaine habit may require the user to engage in extreme measures and risky behaviors to afford it, including the following:
- Repeatedly asking to borrow money
- Stealing from friends and family
- Selling possessions
- Taking extra jobs
- Taking out loans
- Emptying out their savings account or retirement fund
- Selling drugs
A cocaine habit often single-tracks the user’s mind into engaging in constant drug-seeking behavior, producing life-altering consequences. These behaviors should be considered red flags, and include the following:
- Being expelled or dropped out of school
- Quitting or getting fired from their job
- Extreme debt or bankruptcy
- Failed friendships or relationships
- Legal trouble or incarceration
Cocaine abuse can also cause physiological, mental, or emotional distress that requires emergency room visits, hospital stays or psychiatric intervention to rectify. Some of the most frequently encountered of these symptoms include:
- Alternating bouts of insomnia and hypersomnia
- Heightened anxiety
- Shortened attention span
- Introversion and lethargy
- Increased irritability
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Hyperstimulation and energy levels
- Bursts of euphoria and elevated mood
- Paranoia and hypervigilance
Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Use
Physical symptoms induced by cocaine abuse may range from mild to very dangerous. Since everyone’s body is unique, cocaine doesn’t affect everyone in an identical manner. Nevertheless, whether these symptoms are severe or not doesn’t make the underlying cocaine problem less worrisome.
Common physical symptoms caused by cocaine abuse include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny or bloody nose
- Twitchiness or shakiness
- Dark circles around or under eyes
- Headaches or migraines
- Stomach aches
- Elevated body temperature
- Rapid heart rate
Once a person is physically dependent on cocaine, withdrawal side effects occur if the dosage is reduced or eliminated. Withdrawal side effects from cocaine may include the following:
- Long periods of deep and interrupted sleep
- Intense cravings for more cocaine
- Heart issues
Cocaine is an extremely potent substance whose side effects may vary wildly depending on how much was taken, the body chemistry of the user, or other chemicals present in the system alongside it. It may also be cut with harmful additives that can precipitate overdose or sudden death, even after a single use.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
The longer a cocaine habit endures, the greater the risk of serious adverse effects on brain function and physiological health. A formidable addiction is but one of the long-term detriments associated with cocaine abuse.
Treatment specialists often must combat a litany of other problems experience by new arrivals to rehab. Sometimes, outside help from physicians, other specialists, and therapists is required to adequately treat long-term cocaine abusers. And, unfortunately, some of the adverse consequences caused by cocaine are irreversible.
Long-term health effects may include the following:
- Sexual dysfunction or chronic impotence
- Infertility and other reproductive complications
- Difficulty swallowing and breathing
- Lung damage
- Cardiovascular disease
- Seizures and convulsions
- Damage to septum, nose, and nasal passages
- Reduced or absent sense of smell
- Problematic weight loss and malnourishment
- Chronic, frequent nosebleeds
- Gastrointestinal problems and bowel decay
- Movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease
In general, the more a cocaine problem becomes established, the more risky one’s lifestyle becomes. As such, cocaine abuse may lead to ancillary health risks, including the following:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Cocaine exposure in unborn children
- Blood-borne illness from sharing unsterile needles (HIV and hepatitis B and C)
Each year in the United States, there are roughly 750,000 cocaine-exposed pregnancies. Cocaine abuse throughout a pregnancy can result in spontaneous miscarriage, a difficult delivery, or a litany of other complications before and during delivery.
Long-term cocaine abuse may also result in profound psychological distress, such as paranoia or auditory hallucinations. Some studies indicate that cognitive functions such as memory and motor control may be negatively impacted by protracted abuse. Cocaine abuse has been known to end in heart failure and death.
Signs of cocaine abuse can be difficult to spot at first but will eventually become too obvious to disregard. Cocaine tolerance initially develops during the early stages of use and gets stronger over time. Abusers of cocaine will require higher and higher doses to maintain the same desired effect.
Although cocaine can be dangerous at any dose, the danger posed thereby dramatically increases at very high doses. The nature of cocaine makes it easy to overlook the exorbitant amounts one is consuming to maintain a high. Once the stimulation becomes too much for the body, an often-deadly overdose can strike.
Signs of a Cocaine Overdose
The amount of cocaine required to overdose varies based on several factors, including physiology and other substances that are involved. An overdose is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms of cocaine overdose may include:
- Convulsions and seizures
- Delirium and delusions
- Respiratory failure
- Heart failure
- Cerebral hemorrhage
- Kidney failure
If not treated immediately, the risk of heart failure and/or death significantly increases. Statistics also reveal a strong correlation between cocaine overdoses and interactions with other substances. For example, in 2015, more than half of the identified overdoses related to cocaine in the U.S. also involved opioids. In fact, more than one-third (37%) of these deaths involved heroin.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction is most effectively treated through participation in a residential rehab program for a period of at least 30 days. During this time, the patient receives customized, evidence-based treatment that includes psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, and group support.
Following inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient is recommended for longer-term therapy and support while the client transitions back to the outside world.
Addiction recovery is a challenging lifelong endeavor, but you don’t have to do it alone. We can help you regain your life and the wellness and happiness you deserve!