What are the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction?

What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction?

Learn the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction – the compulsive use of cocaine despite adverse health consequences.

Table of Contents

What Is Cocaine?

There are quite a number of drugs and substances abused in communities worldwide, and the abuse of these substances is more or less responsible for rising rates of drug abuse and addiction all over the world. One such substance of abuse commonly linked with addiction cases is cocaine.

Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug used medically as a local anesthetic to manage medical procedures such as surgeries. Beyond this, however, cocaine abuse is also quite common, stemming from its illegal use as a recreational drug, which usually results in cocaine addiction. 1

What is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction refers to an individual’s compulsive, repetitive use or intake of cocaine stimulants, irrespective of any adverse cocaine effects that might accompany such uncontrolled cocaine usage. This repetitive cocaine usage (cocaine abuse) usually results in cocaine dependence, which finally causes cocaine use disorder.

Illness Requiring Treatment

It is important to know that addiction to cocaine is classified as a substance use disorder. This means that addiction to cocaine is an illness, which often requires professional treatment to recover.2

Why Is Cocaine Addictive?

Statistics of cocaine usage show that cocaine ranks close to the top of the list of most abused illicit drugs, indicating that it is very addictive. The question, however, is why is cocaine so addictive? 2

CNS Stimulant

As earlier mentioned, cocaine is a CNS stimulant, which means it elicits its effect primarily on the brain and affects the entire central nervous system. When cocaine is ingested, it affects the “reward” regions of the brain and amplifies the effects of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

Feelings of Euphoria

In addition, cocaine stimulants also block the reuptake mechanism of these neurotransmitters, thereby prolonging their contact and influence on the brain. This results in feelings of euphoria (a high on cocaine).2

Cocaine Tolerance

Repeated use of cocaine to replicate this “high on cocaine” feel eventually results in the alteration of normal brain configuration and the build-up of cocaine tolerance. This eventually results in a state where an individual cannot do without consuming cocaine, thereby causing addiction to cocaine.

Signs and Stages of Cocaine Addiction

While cocaine addiction (resulting from cocaine tolerance) can be detected by monitoring cocaine consumption levels, this isn’t always possible, as an individual with a cocaine problem will go to great lengths to try and hide their cocaine dependence issue.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

There are, however, several tell-tale symptoms of cocaine addiction. These signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction include:

  • Increased agitation
  • Effusive enthusiasm
  • Disinhibition
  • Increased movement (i.e., hyperactivity)
  • Signs of involuntary movements (i.e., muscle tics)
  • Changes in concentration and focus

Stages of Cocaine Addiction

It is important to note that cocaine addiction doesn’t just occur spontaneously. Instead, it occurs in stages, each with its share of cocaine dangers. The stages of cocaine addiction are as follows:3

  • Tolerance: Tolerance simply means a reduction in drug response or sensitivity, and it is the first step of the cocaine addiction problem.
  • Cravings: Cravings are the next step of cocaine addiction. Due to cocaine’s drug effects in causing tolerance, an individual abusing cocaine will need to take even larger amounts of cocaine to experience that “cocaine high” feeling. At this stage, the individual actively craves the cocaine high experience.
  • Dependence: Eventually, this repeated cocaine consumption causes a “reconfiguration” of normal brain functions such that the brain becomes unable to function correctly without the presence of cocaine. At this stage, the individual’s cocaine use is not compulsive such that they can’t stop using it even in the face of cocaine risks and negative cocaine effects.

Common Ways to Use Cocaine

One factor contributing to an increase in the “severity” of the cocaine problem is that there are different ways to take cocaine. The harmful effects of cocaine felt and experienced when cocaine is ingested differ in severity and cocaine risks depending on the way cocaine is used.

Cocaine Consumption Methods

Some of the different ways to take cocaine include the following:

  • Eating
  • Snorting
  • Smoking
  • Injecting

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine’s side effects go beyond cocaine addiction and dependence issues. These negative cocaine effects can be divided into short-term and long-term effects of cocaine use.

Cocaine dangers differ in severity and range from relatively “mild” effects like a decreased appetite to much more severe adverse effects of cocaine such as blood vessel constriction. Short-term effects of cocaine use include the following:

  • 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

Long-term cocaines drug effects on the body include:

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

What Are The Medical Complications of Cocaine Abuse?

Beyond the short-term and long-term negative cocaine health effects, it’s also important to know that medical complications have also been known to occur with cocaine addiction and abuse, which are divided into different types.

Symptoms of Complications

The types of cocaine medical complications include:

  • Cardiovascular effects include disturbances in heart rhythm and potential heart attacks.
  • Respiratory effects manifest as chest pain or even respiratory failure.
  • Neurological effects include strokes, seizures, and headaches.
  • Gastrointestinal complications include abdominal pain and nausea.

Dangers of Cocaine Addiction

The major danger of cocaine addiction is arguably its toxicity. High cocaine levels in the body result in several different types of cocaine mental and physical side effects. Cocaine dangers also include loss of sense of smell (in cases where cocaine is ingested via inhalation/snorting), increased vulnerability amongst adolescent cocaine users, and an increased risk of contracting severe infections like hepatitis C and HIV. 4

Given enough time, cocaine use can cause severe damage to internal organs and the development of other chronic health conditions. There is also an increased risk of cocaine relapse in people who have previously suffered from cocaine addiction.

Risk Factors of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine risk factors include all of the known possible causes of cocaine addiction. The first and major risk factor of cocaine addiction is cocaine use. Cocaine risk factors can be divided into the following categories:

  • Environmental Factors: Environmental factors such as drug accessibility and incidence of drug use can serve as risk factors for cocaine addiction.
  • Genetic Factors: Genes and family drug history also play a huge part in determining the possibility of cocaine addiction and how quickly it develops.
  • Personal Factors: This includes risk factors such as stress, early drug exposure and use, troubled relationships, and so on.5

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

There are several treatments for cocaine addiction. However, treatment for cocaine addiction usually starts with a doctor’s official diagnosis and then detox. Detox involves the gradual reduction in cocaine concentration/levels in the body until there is no cocaine left.

What is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal happens when someone who is physically addicted to cocaine ceases using the drug. It is usually accompanied by several withdrawal symptoms ranging in seriousness from mild ones like headaches to much more severe withdrawal effects.

Treatment Options

Other cocaine addiction treatment options include:

  • Behavioral Therapy: This term describes several forms of therapy used in treating and managing mental health conditions. This treatment aims to recognize and assist people with cocaine addiction to change potentially harmful or unhealthy behaviors. It is predicated on the notion that all behaviors are learned, and as such, they are modifiable.6
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: This treatment option is usually combined with behavioral therapy to ensure optimum treatment results. Medications effectively take care of any withdrawal side effects to ensure patient safety.

Find Help For Cocaine Addiction at Alta Centers

Successfully quitting cocaine use requires that you have access to quality, result-driven treatment options. If you need help with cocaine addiction, Alta Centers is the perfect place for you.

At Alta Centers, patients have access to all the help, treatment, and care needed to kick cocaine addiction for good! Reach out today and get the kind of quality care you deserve.7