Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

Cocaine is a highly addictive, illicit drug that may cause mental and physical health problems for people who misuse the drug. Treatment programs for cocaine abuse include counseling, inpatient care, and more.

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Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is typically used in a white powder or hard, rock-like form called crack. Cocaine can be ingested by snorting the drug, smoking it, or injecting it with a needle.

Research shows that about 5.2 million Americans used cocaine in the past year. Of those, approximately 1.3 million have reported having a cocaine use disorder.

People with a cocaine addiction feel a compulsive need to use the substance regardless of the harmful consequences. While cocaine use may lead to physical dependency, treatment and recovery services are available.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine derives from the coca leaves in South America, long used by people for their stimulating effects. The powder form of cocaine is created through a chemical purifying process, which means many forms of cocaine also contain adulterants.

Currently, cocaine is considered a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse but may have some legitimate medical use as a local anesthesia.

Learn more about cocaine and where it comes from.

Common Street Names For Cocaine

When sold on the street, cocaine may be referred to by a range of slang terms depending on the formulation of the drug. Some of these street names include snow, coke, crank, flake, rock, and crack.

Read more about common street names for cocaine.

Is Cocaine A Stimulant Or Depressant?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug, which means it speeds up messages traveling between the brain and other parts of the body. When used, cocaine will make a person feel alert, confident, and energetic.

Learn more about cocaine’s stimulating effects.

History Of Cocaine

Cocaine has a storied history, starting as a medicine used during cataract surgery to widespread dissemination in commercial products such as Coca-cola drinks.

The crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s spurred a flurry of anti-drug legislation that ensured that cocaine would remain illegal in non-medical-use forms.

Learn more about the history of cocaine.

How Is Cocaine Made?

Cocaine is made through a process of harvesting coca plant leaves and soaking them in gasoline to extract the chemical cocaine hydrochloride.

Once the leaves are fully strained, the final product is heated and dried before being prepared for distribution on the illicit market.

Read about the process of making cocaine.

Dangers Of Cocaine Cutting Agents

During the manufacturing process, cocaine is oftentimes cut with a range of different substances to add more potent effects to the high or add volume for increased profitability when sold.

Learn more about cocaine cutting agents.

Cutting Cocaine With Fentanyl

One of the most dangerous cutting agents used in cocaine is the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Drug dealers add fentanyl to cocaine because it’s a cheaper substance and provides a powerful high.

Fentanyl is dangerous due to the fact that it’s many times more potent than morphine and may cause a drug overdose after using a minimal amount.

Find out more about cocaine that’s been cut with fentanyl.

Different Types Of Cocaine

There are several different types of cocaine available on the illegal market, including pure cocainecrack cocainepink cocainefish scale cocaine, and more.

Types of cocaine will vary based on their formulation, cutting agents, and purity level. Due to the unregulated nature of cocaine distribution, it’s nearly impossible to know the precise ingredients in any particular batch of the drug.

Read more about different types of cocaine.

How Cocaine Is Used

Cocaine may be used in a variety of ways depending on its form. The most common method of cocaine abuse is by snorting the powder form of the drug through a straw or rolled-up dollar bill.

Other common types of cocaine abuse include:

While cocaine is not commonly ingested orally, some cocaine users may eat or rub a small amount of cocaine on their gums to test for purity and quality.

Learn more about common routes of cocaine administration.

What A Cocaine High Feels Like

People who use cocaine describe the sensation as a strong feeling of power, confidence, and alertness. It also may create a local anesthetic effect that numbs the throat, gums, and tongue.

Not every person who tries cocaine describes it as a pleasant experience. Some people have described an intense feeling of anxiety, paranoia, and agitation after taking cocaine.

Read more about what a cocaine high feels like.

Identifying Cocaine Paraphernalia

Paraphernalia associated with cocaine use will vary based on how the drug is being abused. Common paraphernalia may include straws, hollow pens, small mirrors, lighters, syringes, and glass pipes.

Learn more about identifying cocaine paraphernalia.

What Cocaine Looks, Smells, And Tastes Like

The appearance of cocaine may vary based on cutting agents used on the batch. Powder cocaine may be pink, brown, yellow, or a shiny white color when it’s a pure formulation.

The smell of pure cocaine is typically a floral, sweet scent. If a number of adulterants are in the drug, you may smell burnt plastic, kerosene, or other chemical smells.

Crack cocaine will have an off-white color and may smell like gasoline, ammonia, or diesel fuel due to the process of manufacturing the substance. Usually, the taste is tart or bitter.

Read more about the look, smell, and taste of cocaine.

Common Symptoms Of Cocaine Abuse

The most common symptoms of cocaine abuse are behavioral ones. People on cocaine appear uncharacteristically energetic, restless, or paranoid.

You may also notice physical symptoms in people who use cocaine, such as dilated pupils, loss of appetite, and an elevated heart rate.

Learn more about the symptoms of cocaine abuse.

Risk Factors For Cocaine Addiction

Risk factors for cocaine addiction and other types of substance addiction depend on a variety of variables.

Risk factors typically include:

  • family history of addiction
  • mental health disorders
  • peer pressure
  • drug abuse at an early age

People of any age, sex, or status may become addicted to cocaine after prolonged use.

Read more about the risk factors for developing a cocaine addiction.

Short And Long-Term Side Effects Of Using Cocaine

Cocaine use will affect people in different ways, but over time the long-term effects of the drug can be extremely harmful to a person’s well-being and potentially deadly.

Short-Term Effects Of Cocaine

The short-term effects of cocaine appear almost immediately after use. The person may feel euphoric, alert, and hypersensitive to light.

Short-term physiological effects typically include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, runny nose, and changes in blood pressure.

The duration of these effects will depend upon the route of administration and potency of the substance.

Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine Addiction

Long-term effects of cocaine will also depend on the method of consumption and may include frequent nose bleeds, weight loss, loss of smell, asthma, respiratory infections, and more.

Long-term cocaine use may also contribute to harmful consequences in cardiac and brain function. Cocaine can contribute to the onset of mental health issues such as depression or psychosis.

Learn more about the long and short-term effects of cocaine addiction.

Effects Of Cocaine On Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Using cocaine during pregnancy may cause serious problems for the baby both before and after birth.

Effects of cocaine on pregnancy may include:

  • placental abruption
  • premature birth
  • miscarriage
  • neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)

Cocaine use may also result in long-term health and behavioral problems in your child including learning difficulties, vision and hearing problems, and issues with paying attention.

Read about the effects of cocaine on pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Cocaine Intoxication

Cocaine intoxication is a condition in which your body-wide symptoms make you feel ill or impaired after ingesting large amounts of cocaine.

Intoxication may be caused by taking a highly concentrated version of the drug, using cocaine in hot weather, or mixing it with other substances such as alcohol or opioids.

Learn more about cocaine intoxication.

Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose occurs when a person uses too much cocaine or combines it with other substances such as alcohol.

Cocaine overdose symptoms may include profuse sweating, high body temperature, seizure, and heart attack.

A cocaine overdose may be treated if addressed quickly by emergency healthcare personnel. Oftentimes, this involves the administration of a benzodiazepine (sedative) to reverse the effects of the overdose.

Read more about cocaine overdose.

Cocaine Detox: Getting Cocaine Out Of The Body

When someone seeks treatment for cocaine addiction, their first stop will typically be a medically monitored detox program.

Detoxification is the process of removing harmful toxins in the body while also managing the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that may occur.

Withdrawal symptoms for cocaine may include intense cravings, depression, vivid dreams or nightmares, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and more.

Learn more about detox for cocaine addiction.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?

There are three ways to test for cocaine in the body to determine when the last use was. These methods include a saliva testblood test, or urine test.

Saliva and urine tests can usually detect cocaine up to 3 days after last use. A hair test may be able to indicate cocaine use months or years in the past.

For example, hair drug tests may discern crack cocaine detection for up to 90 days after the last use.

Read more about how long cocaine can stay in your body.

Cocaine Withdrawal Syndrome

The withdrawal timeline for cocaine is usually around 7 to 10 days but may vary based on length of abuse, the average dose used, and any co-occurring mental health conditions that may be present.

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include insomnia, vivid dreams, irritability, and more. Treatment services will typically involve medical monitoring to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Learn more about cocaine withdrawal.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

Effective treatment for cocaine addiction will almost always start with a detox program, followed by admittance to an inpatient or outpatient treatment program for further counseling.

An inpatient substance abuse treatment program may take up to 90 days or longer to complete and may involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and aftercare planning.

Outpatient treatment centers allow for a more flexible schedule and allow clients to continue living at home and working while attending weekly therapy sessions with a support group or their counselor.

Learn more about cocaine addiction treatment programs.

Find High-Quality Cocaine Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one need help to overcome drug use, or if you have questions about the symptoms of cocaine addiction, call our helpline today at Bedrock Recovery Center.

Our residential treatment facility offers evidence-based services to treat the effects of cocaine use and put you on the path to recovery.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What is Cocaine?
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Know the Risks of Using Drugs

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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