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7 Signs of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction in a Loved One

signs of cocaine abuse and addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 4.8 million people abused cocaine in 2021 and 1.4 million people had a cocaine use disorder or addiction.[1] Long-term cocaine abuse can lead to severe physical and mental health issues as well as social difficulties. The earlier people seek treatment for cocaine addiction, the easier it is to achieve and maintain sobriety without experiencing any of the long-term effects.

People who struggle with addiction may go to great lengths to hide their substance abuse, so it can be difficult to identify whether someone is addicted to cocaine. Knowing what to look for can help you notice the signs and symptoms so you can intervene if someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction.

Here are 7 common signs of cocaine abuse and addiction:

1. Displaying signs of cocaine intoxication on a regular basis

One of the easiest ways to spot cocaine abuse or addiction is to look for the physical and emotional side effects of cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant drug so it boosts energy levels and activity in the central nervous system (CNS).[2] Common side effects of cocaine include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased energy and focus
  • Excitability
  • Increased motivation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Boosted confidence
  • Increased talkativity
  • Wakefulness and inability to fall asleep

2. Developing a physical dependence on cocaine

Cocaine is highly addictive and regular consumption will lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence develops after the body gets used to having cocaine in the system to the point where it can no longer function “normally” without it. If a person who is physically dependent on cocaine stops taking it abruptly, they may experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:[3]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Fear and paranoia
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Suicidal thoughts

Cocaine withdrawal is usually not life-threatening, but suicidal thoughts and relapse can be serious, so it’s always important to detox under close medical supervision.

3. Concerning behavioral changes

Cocaine abuse and addiction can cause significant behavioral changes that can be easily identified by family and friends. As a person’s addiction gets more severe, the behavioral changes may become more apparent.

Common behaviors changes associated with cocaine abuse include:

  • Lying to friends and family about cocaine use
  • Frequenting places where cocaine is used such as nightclubs, parties, or get-togethers with other drug users
  • Stealing money or selling one’s personal items to keep up with their cocaine spending habit
  • Appearing dull, sad, irritable, or upset when the effects of cocaine wear off
  • Increased mood swings, irritation, and aggression
  • Changes in sleep patterns such as staying awake all night or falling asleep in the middle of the day
  • Changes in eating patterns. Cocaine reduces appetite.
signs of cocaine abuse and addiction

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4. Making multiple failed attempts to stop using cocaine

A recreational user may be able to use cocaine once or twice but stop when appropriate. However, someone who is addicted to cocaine has lost their ability to control their drug use. This often results in multiple failed attempts to cut back or stop using cocaine entirely.

Has your loved one ever sworn off cocaine forever, and even made a genuine attempt to do so, but ended up using cocaine again anyway? If so, they may be addicted and in need of a professional drug rehab program.

5. Developing an irregular sleep schedule

Cocaine is a short-acting stimulant drug, so although it produces a powerful and energizing high, the high only lasts a short time (5-30 minutes depending on the method of use and other factors). Cocaine users often binge on cocaine, using it over and over to prolong the effects and stay awake longer. Many people who use cocaine are interested in nightlife so they will go to parties, clubs, ravens, and other similar events while using the drug.

Nightlife combined with the stimulant effects of cocaine can result in an irregular sleep schedule. Someone may stay up all night, then “crash” when the effects wear off, going into a deep sleep for the rest of the day. Sleep patterns may vary, but most people struggling with cocaine addiction will be awake at strange hours and have an irregular sleep schedule.

6. Rapid weight loss

Like other stimulants, cocaine decreases appetite. People who use cocaine on a daily basis may eat little to no food except for when they crash. This often leads to rapid and unhealthy weight loss.[4] If you’ve noticed your loved one acting strange, eating less, and losing a lot of weight quickly, they could be struggling with cocaine addiction.

7. Engaging in risky behaviors

Cocaine lowers your inhibitions but also boosts your confidence. When people take cocaine, they feel invincible, as if they can accomplish anything without trouble. This ideology can lead to risk-taking, erratic, and even violent or aggressive behaviors.

While cocaine itself can cause risky behaviors, cocaine is often mixed with alcohol which can further reduce inhibitions and increase the risk of harmful behaviors such as driving while intoxicated, having unprotected sex, and making other poor decisions.

Over time, cocaine abuse and addiction change the brain, impacting the decision-making and reward systems. Studies have found that altered activity in reward and decision-making circuitry may underlie cocaine users’ heightened risk-taking.[5]

People suffering from cocaine addiction may make poor decisions over and over again, such as breaking the law, hurting relationships, or excessive spending, however, they will continue using cocaine despite the consequences.

Find Help for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Today

Without treatment, cocaine addiction can cost you your health, your relationships, and your happiness, so it’s important to get help as soon as possible. If you or a loved one are addicted to cocaine, please contact us at Woburn Wellness to verify your insurance and learn about your treatment options.

Cocaine rehab at Woburn Wellness is tailored to meet your needs. We begin with a comprehensive evaluation of your physical and mental health to figure out a treatment plan that works for you. Our staff, consisting of a multidisciplinary team of mental health and addiction specialists, work collaboratively to make sure you receive the most effective treatment possible.

Recovery from cocaine addiction is an ongoing journey that doesn’t stop when you leave rehab. That’s why we incorporate aftercare support services into your treatment plan, placing you on the right path toward long-term recovery. To learn more about treating cocaine addiction or finding help for yourself or a loved one, please contact us today.


Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC
Clinical Director

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