Addicted to Cocaine: 5 Signs You May Have a Problem

It might seem like a party drug, but prolonged cocaine use can easily spiral into dangerous addiction.

Cocaine sends intense signals to the pleasure centers of the brain, which leads to increased alertness and a “high” feeling. Cocaine can be snorted through the nose, smoked, taken orally, or injected. Cocaine use can alter the brain after just one use, and regular use can lead to intense cravings, withdrawal, and neurological changes.

Here are some symptoms of cocaine addiction to watch out for.

Physical Changes

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Regular cocaine use can cause many internal physical changes over time. How cocaine manifests physically depends on the method of consumption. Snorting cocaine can lead to nose bleeds, frequent runny noses and difficulty swallowing, while oral consumption can cause bowel decay. Smoking cocaine can increase risk for respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and breathing problems. Needle use can cause physical scarring.

“If you suspect that a friend or loved is struggling with a cocaine use problem these are some signs to look out for: red, bloodshot eyes, pupil dilation, runny nose or frequent sniffing [and] change in eating or sleeping patterns [such as] decreased need for sleep and decreased appetite,” Sara Makin, licensed counselor and founder of online therapy group Makin Wellness in Pittsburgh, said.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

A marked sign of cocaine addiction is tolerance, or the need for more of the drug to get the same high. Tolerance is often coupled with withdrawal. In addition to overwhelming cravings, symptoms of withdrawal include chills, aches, fever, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and irritability.

When cravings are overwhelming and painful, it’s usually time to seek help. It’s also important to undergo withdrawal under professional care.

“A cocaine user would exhibit higher heart rate and higher blood pressure, along with decreased appetite, and would eventually reach exhaustion aftere,” Merlyn Sexton, licensed alcohol and drug counselor at Bridge Counseling in Las Vegas, said. “If they try to withdraw from use ‘cold turkey’ they will be under extreme pain.”

School, Work and Money Problems

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Prolonged cocaine use can lead to financial problems, including missing work and falling behind on bills. Cocaine addicts might also miss school and lose track of life goals.

While procuring cocaine is illegal in itself, an addiction can lead to increased criminal behaviors as a result of its high cost. Cocaine addicts might also borrow, steal and defraud those around them, including loved ones.

Mood Changes

Cocaine addiction can lead to several behavioral and personality changes, including increased irritability and depression. Cocaine can both cause and worsen mental health conditions like anxiety, paranoia, mania and delusional thinking. And the increased confidence that cocaine’s high provides can lead to intense lows during withdrawal.

“Withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine use include depressed mood, anhedonia, [or] inability to experience pleasure, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep quality, and severe depression with suicidal ideation,” Makin said.

Social Changes

Cocaine can wreak havoc on all kinds of relationships. In addition to secrecy, manipulative behavior and prioritizing the drug over people, addiction can also cause aggression and abusive behavior.

Cocaine users might also withdraw from family and friends out of shame, which can make treatment especially difficult. According to experts, connection with family can be crucial to treatment.

“The family/significant others are the key to successful substance use disorder treatment and should be involved directly with substance use treatment,” Sexton said “They are valuable assets to encourage the loved one…”

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