Someone can become addicted to cocaine after only one use. Highly dangerous, cocaine was involved in nearly 1 in 5 overdose deaths in 2019, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 5 million Americans reported using cocaine in 2020. That figure is almost 2% of the population. Helping someone before they become addicted is essential, so it is important to know the signs of cocaine use.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine comes from the coca plant, which is native to South America. A stimulant drug, cocaine, is sold as a white powder that can be snorted or injected. When this powder is cooked with baking soda, it becomes crack, which is then smoked in a pipe. When someone uses cocaine, they experience a fast, intense feeling of energy. Once this wears off, the person typically feels depressed and nervous. The effect does not last long for cocaine and lasts for an even shorter time if cocaine is in the form of crack.
Cocaine, like many drugs, interferes with how the brain processes dopamine. Typically, this natural chemical messenger is recycled back into the cell that initially released it. This shuts off the signal between nerve cells. Cocaine stops that process, causing dopamine to build up between nerve cells and disrupting regular communication. The result is a flood of dopamine that reinforces the desire to use cocaine. Over time, the brain’s nerve cells adapt and become less sensitive. This leads to the need to take more cocaine in higher doses to achieve the same effect.
Some of the other names used for cocaine include:
- Nose candy
Signs of Cocaine Use
Use of cocaine results in both physical and emotional signs. A person high on the drug may appear more upbeat, energetic, restless, paranoid, or irritable. They may be more alert or euphoric than is usual for them. They may also display an increased sensitivity to touch, light, or sound.
Physical signs of cocaine use include:
- Dilated pupils
- Higher body temperature and blood pressure
- Faster heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Erratic behavior
- Tremors and muscle twitches
- Constricted blood vessels
A person can quickly shift from their feelings of euphoria to extreme lows as the drug wears off. This shift often leads to the person wanting or needing to take more of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
A person may suffer from nosebleeds, a loss of smell, or trouble swallowing. They may develop asthma or more frequent respiratory infections. Their risk of certain infections, such as pneumonia, HIV, and Hepatitis C, increases. Long-term damage also happens with cocaine use.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Addiction to any drug, including cocaine, happens when the person cannot stop using it even though they have experienced the risks and consequences of their substance misuse. Signs that someone is addicted to cocaine, or any drug, are:
- Sleep pattern changes
- Ignoring hygiene
- Risky behavior
- Mood swings
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Financial problems
Someone who tries to stop using cocaine will most likely experience withdrawal symptoms, ranging from irritability and fever to depression and suicidal thoughts. Seeking help for cocaine withdrawal at a detox facility can help manage these symptoms and keep the person safe.
Cocaine Overdose Symptoms
There is a range of severe side effects anyone can experience who uses cocaine. It causes headaches, convulsions, and seizures. Cocaine may also increase a person’s risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Someone who snorts cocaine may leave a hole in their septum, the collection of bone, cartilage, and tissue that divides the two sides of the nose. Finally, cocaine use can lead to sexual issues.
If someone is suspected of overdosing on cocaine, they will exhibit some or all these symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion, seizures, tremors
Mixing cocaine with alcohol or heroin is very risky and increases the risk of overdose. There is no medication currently that treats cocaine overdose. Medical personnel, therefore, treat whatever health complication the overdose leads to, such as a heart attack, seizure, or stroke. For instance, the health care worker will either try to stop the seizure or restore the heart’s blood flow for a heart attack or the oxygen-rich blood supply to the brain with a stroke.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
No medications are currently available to help in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Someone seeking help must use various behavioral treatments to help them manage their addiction. These include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy — helping change thinking and behavioral patterns by learning to spot negative thoughts and developing coping skills
- Contingency management/motivational incentives — providing rewards to those who continue to stop using any substances
- Therapeutic communities — drug-free residences where people in recovery help each other understand and change their behaviors
- Community-based recovery groups — like 12-step programs
Bridges of Hope’s treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. Using therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices, Bridges of Hope provides superior patient care in Indiana through its all-inclusive treatment services.