Cocaine can be a very addictive substance as it creates a rush of dopamine in the brain that increases feelings of pleasure. By altering the chemical composition of the brain, cocaine becomes increasingly difficult to quit.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that over 14 percent of Americans who are 12 and above have used cocaine in their lifetimes. Additionally, between 2001 and 2013, there has been a 29 percent increase in cocaine overdose-related deaths.
It can be snorted, smoked or injected. A high from cocaine is generally brief depending upon how it is administered, commonly leaving the body between 5 and 30 minutes. Since the euphoric effects from cocaine use do not last very long, it is often binged to keep the high going.
Consistent use can quickly and easily create a tolerance and dependence. There is often an urgency to consume more of it in potentially in higher quantities, making it powerfully addictive. When under the influence of cocaine, an individual might be extra talkative, hyperactive and have a decreased appetite. It also raises blood pressure and heart rate causing energy level increases and a greater ability to stay awake.
Once it is no longer in someone’s system, they will experience a “crash” period that might consist of heavy eating and sleeping.
Physical Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Determining whether you or a loved one has an addiction to cocaine might not be easy. The severity of a suspected addiction is measured on a spectrum from mild to severe. This is identified based on the level of impact cocaine use has on an individual’s life.
There are both physical and psychological impacts on the body. Here are 13 physical signs of cocaine addiction to look out for:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Weight loss
- Nose bleeds
- Burn marks on hands and lips
- Poor hygiene
- Needle marks
- Increased body temperature
- Impaired sense of smell
- Trouble swallowing
Some psychological signs and behaviors of cocaine addiction to also be aware of include:
- Mood swings
- Erratic or violent behavior
- Issues in personal and professional life
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Other obvious signs of a cocaine addiction can be the withdrawal symptoms that appear in the absence of the drug. Since cocaine releases an abundance of dopamine in the brain, the brain then becomes unable to generate regular amounts of dopamine by itself. This creates the urge to continue to use, despite harmful consequences.
Withdrawal symptoms can appear just hours after the drug has left the body and are generally more psychological than physical. There are also different stages of withdrawal that an individual can experience with the worst symptoms occurring within the first month after ending use. Although each person’s journey is unique, some withdrawal symptoms that can be expected are:
- After 1-3 hours
- Increased appetite
- Week 1
- Mood swings
- Weeks 2-4
- Depression and cravings continue
- Weeks 5-10
- Withdrawal symptoms may begin to subside
- Anxiety might come back
Health Impacts of Cocaine Addiction
In addition to short term signs of addiction and symptoms of withdrawal, cocaine can have lasting health impacts that can permanently damage the body. Over the long term, use can impact the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system. Individuals can potentially experience:
- Rapid breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Vein collapse
- Skin infections
- Soft tissue infections
- Decay of intestines
- Movement disorders
- Increased likelihood of respiratory infections like pneumonia
These effects can often lead to a heart attack or stroke. Overdosing is also common and can kill an individual in as quickly as 2-3 minutes. The severity of the effects of cocaine is heavily dependent on the frequency and intensity of use.
Once it is clear that cocaine addiction is present, it is immediately necessary to seek professional help. Do not wait until it is too late when the effects of cocaine use could be fatal.