Cocaine Effects & Warning Signs

Cocaine, also commonly referred to as blow or coke, is an illicit substance that is one of the most widely abused drugs in existence today. Causing a high that produces euphoria and increased energy levels, this harmful drug induces physical and psychological effects that can last for up to a half hour when it is abused.

Understanding Cocaine

Learn about cocaine and substance abuse

While under the influence of cocaine, individuals will likely be unable to experience pain and often engage in behaviors that are risky, due to the feelings of invincibility that occur. As enticing as a cocaine high may be to the individuals who abuse it, the high does not last long and frequently causes people to engage in a pattern of substance abuse that can lead to a whole host of detrimental outcomes.

Prolonged abuse of cocaine can cause tolerance to develop, which then requires a person to need larger amounts of this substance in order to experience the desired effects. As time presses on, the acquisition and abuse of cocaine becomes the focal point of an individual’s world, often leaving other things that were once priorities to fall to the wayside. Additionally, both short and long-term abuse of cocaine can wreak havoc on a person’s mental and physical health and significantly increases the chances for overdose.

A pivotal thing to know is that there are excellent treatment options in existence that can help men and women cease their abuse of cocaine so that healthier, sober lives can be achieved.


Cocaine addiction statistics

Cocaine is considered to be the second most abused illicit substance in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 12 percent of those within the age range of 18-25 abuse cocaine. Furthermore, almost 17 percent of those aged 26 and older are believed to abuse this substance as well. It is also estimated that approximately 5,000 people try cocaine every day and, of that number, almost 75 percent of those individuals go on to abuse it regularly.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

The core causes for why and how a person comes to abuse cocaine are rooted in genetics and certain environmental influences. Consider the following explanations, of which are widely agreed upon by experts in the fields of mental health and addiction:

Genetic: A substantial amount of research supports the notion that the tendency to abuse substances and developing an addiction can occur, in part, because of a person’s genetic history. Researchers have come to this conclusion after making the discovery that addiction often runs in families. The risk for developing a substance abuse problem with drugs, such as cocaine, is heightened when an individual has a first-degree relative who has also had a history of substance abuse.

Environmental: Even if a person does not possess a familial history of substance abuse, the environment in which a person spends most of his or her time can impact whether or not that individual will abuse drugs, like cocaine. Especially for those who are exposed to chronic stress or other individuals abusing substances, as well as those who lack the necessary skills for coping with said stress are at greater risk for abusing cocaine. Lastly, if a person is able to acquire cocaine with ease, there is a high probability that this substance will be abused.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history substance abuse or addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Residing in an environment that is chaotic
  • Experiencing peer pressure to use substances, such as cocaine
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Easy access to cocaine
  • Early exposure to substance use, which can include prenatal exposure to drugs as well

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

There are several telltale signs that infer a person is abusing cocaine. If you, as a concerned friend or family member, is wondering if someone you care about is abusing this dangerous drug, it can be helpful to note the presence of any of the following signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Change in peer group
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Possessing cocaine
  • Increased energy levels
  • Displaying volatile or aggressive behaviors towards others
  • Rapid speech
  • Decreased participation in activities that were once enjoyed

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Nose bleeds
  • Diminished appetite, which can lead to weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Poor decision-making
  • Inability to reason
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Angry feelings
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Increased agitation
  • Feeling irritable
  • Elevated levels of anxiety

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

In many cases, when a person seeks treatment to recover from a cocaine abuse problem, it is realized that that individual is also suffering from one or more mental health conditions at the same time. The following mental health disorders are those that are known to occur alongside a cocaine use disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia


Effects of cocaine addiction

The devastation caused by cocaine abuse can be far-reaching and impact the lives of loved ones as well. In addition to the ever-present risk for overdose, the various effects, or consequences, that can occur if a person does not seek treatment to end his or her abuse of this toxic substance include, but are certainly are not limited to:

  • Inability to acquire or maintain steady employment
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Brain damage
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Heart attack
  • Financial difficulties
  • Malnutrition
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Permanent heart damage
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage that can lead to respiratory failure
  • High risk for stroke
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Increased interaction with the legal system
  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • Death as a result of overdose

Withdrawl & Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: Abruptly stopping one’s use of cocaine can result in the onset of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal occurs as the body’s response to the absence of a substance, such as cocaine, that it has become accustomed to. The following are the effects known to occur when a person is withdrawing from cocaine:

  • Increased irritability
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Intense cravings for more cocaine
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid dreams
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia

Effects of cocaine overdose: Those who abuse cocaine are at an ever-present risk for overdose. In the event a person displays signs that he or she is overdosing, medical attention should be sought in order to prevent a fatal outcome. The following are examples of signs, rather effects, which are known to occur when a person is overdosing after ingesting more cocaine than his or her body can handle:

  • Problems with breathing
  • Panic
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Hyperthermia
  • Delirium
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
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