Is Cocaine Addictive? | Risk Factors For Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is an addictive drug that can result in dangerous physical and mental health complications in cocaine users. Cocaine is psychologically addictive, so risk factors involving cocaine addiction and treatment of cocaine addiction tend to weigh heavily on a psychological level.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Cocaine use is addictive, no matter what form of cocaine you are using.

While the effects of cocaine or crack cocaine can trigger physical consequences (such as high blood pressure or heart attack), the cocaine high is deeply psychological.

Cocaine abuse leads to addiction, in part, because of the feelings of confidence and boost of self-esteem that result from using the drug.

What Makes Cocaine Addictive?

Snorting, injecting, or smoking cocaine can be addictive because of the feelings the drug gives the user. People who snort cocaine derive a sense of confidence and greater self-worth from the drug.

The brain becomes accustomed to these feelings — to the point where it may rely on cocaine use for the production of feel-good chemicals associated with them.

How A Cocaine Addiction Forms

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that interacts with the brain in specific ways that create an addiction to the drug.

Because it is a stimulant, cocaine also gives the person using it a feeling of energy and vitality, resulting in extreme wakefulness.

However, the brain immediately starts developing a tolerance for the use of cocaine. This means that in order to get the same high, you need to take more of the white powder drug (or pure forms like freebase).

Higher use of the drug can have side effects, like nose bleeds and higher body temperature and heart rate. It can even lead to cocaine overdose and psychosis.

How Cocaine Affects The Brain

In the center of the brain are two areas called the hippocampus and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The hippocampus is the memory and learning center, but the VTA is the reward center of the brain.

It’s where our dopamine receptors are located. Cocaine triggers dopamine and interacts with the hippocampus by synthesizing molecules called endocannabinoids (which facilitate communication between brain cells).

By synthesizing endocannabinoids, cocaine triggers unnatural levels of dopamine and can even alter neuron cell growth related to learning, memory, and stress control.

Psychological Addiction To Cocaine

By interacting with the center of the brain that controls learning and memory, as well as stress control and mood regulation, cocaine creates a psychological addiction to the drug.

People who use cocaine feel they can’t, for example, control their mood without the drug. Side effects of cocaine can include paranoia, and cravings for it can stem from withdrawal symptoms like feelings of depression.

Another way cocaine creates a psychological addiction is through its interaction with your brain’s dopamine receptors.

Often called the reward center of the brain, unnatural dopamine highs, simply put, make you feel really good, which is why using cocaine can create an endless cycle.

People use it to feel good, but end up needing to use it in order to experience those feelings at all.

Can Cocaine Cause Physical Dependence?

No, cocaine cannot cause a physical dependence, or a physical reliance on the drug. There are physical symptoms that result from cocaine withdrawal, but it does not create a physical dependence like an opioid drug can.

Addiction refers to the complex reasons that cause a person to use a drug. Dependence is simply the need that the body develops for the drug because of prolonged use. The danger of cocaine is in the realm of psychological addiction, not physical dependence.

Risk Factors For Developing Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction often comes about because certain risk factors provide the need that the drug seems to meet.

Cocaine addiction risk factors can include a lack of support from parents and an early display of aggression (lack of self-control).

Other risk factors for cocaine addiction include:

  • chronic or long-term cocaine abuse
  • abuse of other illicit drugs
  • presence of mental health disorders
  • early age for first cocaine use
  • substance use disorder involving prescription stimulants, like amphetamines

Treatment Options For Cocaine Use

Cocaine addiction is treatable. Treatment programs may include detox, but since cocaine creates a psychological addiction, treatment often focuses on counseling or evidence-based treatment.

Matrix model therapy, inpatient programs, and outpatient programs, such as day treatment, may address a cocaine addiction.

Find Cocaine Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

The time to stop a cocaine substance use disorder is now, and at Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer a range of comprehensive, residential treatment programs to help you enter recovery.

Our Massachusetts treatment center is located near Boston and provides detox support, therapy and counseling, medical monitoring, and much more.

Call our helpline today, and let us find the right treatment plan for you or your loved one.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,rest%20of%20the%20nervous%20system.
  6. NYC Health

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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