Signs And Symptoms Of Cocaine Abuse

It can be easy to recognize when someone is abusing cocaine based on certain physical and behavioral signs and symptoms. It is also beneficial to consider seeking substance abuse treatment for someone who is living with a cocaine addiction.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Cocaine is a powerful and intense stimulant drug that is considered one of the most addictive substances in the world.

People may not intend to get addicted to cocaine, or any illicit drug for that matter. But what starts out as recreational use can quickly turn into drug addiction, and if left untreated, can leave a person’s life spiraling out of control.

Learning the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse can help you more easily identify a drug use issue or cocaine use disorder, in case you want to help a loved one seek treatment.

Common Symptoms Of Cocaine Abuse

For someone who is addicted to cocaine, the drug may completely take over their lives, affecting their behavioral, physical, and mental health.

Physical Symptoms Of Cocaine Abuse

Depending on a person’s method of cocaine use, you may notice white powder residue around their nose (if snorting), track marks (if injecting), or cracked and burned fingers and lips (if smoking).

Other physical symptoms of cocaine use include:

  • general deterioration in physical appearance
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • frequent nose bleeds
  • weight loss
  • excessive sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • shaking and twitching
  • increased blood pressure

Mental Signs Of Cocaine Use

Someone who is addicted to cocaine will likely cycle through mental states drastically depending on whether they are high or in cocaine withdrawal. They may be over-excited and happy one minute, and irritable and anxious the next.

Other mental health symptoms of cocaine drug use may include:

  • obsessively thinking about cocaine
  • mood swings
  • cravings
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression

Behavioral Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction can truly take over a person’s life.

A person may find themselves missing work, skipping school, stealing from loved ones, and generally acting in ways they never would have before becoming addicted to cocaine.

Other behavioral changes a person may experience due to cocaine use include:

  • risky behaviors
  • acting impulsively
  • financial problems
  • relationship problems
  • inability to stop using cocaine
  • overconfidence
  • withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • bizarre, aggressive, and uncharacteristic behaviors
  • staying up late
  • sleeping less than usual

Other Signs That Someone May Be Using Cocaine

Some of the signs of cocaine addiction are less obvious or are more easily hidden, such as the effect of cocaine on the eyes or the paraphernalia (items) a person uses to ingest cocaine.

Cocaine Paraphernalia

The cocaine paraphernalia that you might find around someone who is addicted to cocaine will depend on the way they are using cocaine.

For instance, if someone is injecting or boofing cocaine you are likely to find mixing tools, such as a spoon, cup, and stirrer, as well as syringes (with needles for injecting and without needles for boofing).

On the other hand, if someone is smoking crack cocaine or freebase cocaine, you would instead likely find a glass pipe or stem or tin foil and straws.

Cocaine’s Effect On The Eyes

The effects of cocaine on the eyes can be so drastic that there is actually a term for it, “cocaine eyes”. Cocaine eyes feature pupils that are heavily dilated but can also possess a few other characteristics as well.

Not only does cocaine dilate the pupils, but it also causes blood vessels in the eyes to expand, which can result in red or bloodshot eyes.

Long-term effects of a stimulant like cocaine can also result in jaundice, which can cause the normally white area of the eyes to develop a yellow color. Corneal ulcers can also be a result of long-term cocaine abuse.

Cocaine’s Effect On The Pupils

As a stimulant drug, cocaine use causes the pupils to dilate or become larger.

When the pupils are dilated, they are able to take in more light, which causes sensitivity to light in people using cocaine.

At first, a person’s pupils will only remain dilated during the high and for a short period after. In someone who is addicted to cocaine, the cocaine use is so frequent that their pupils may remain dilated constantly.

Signs Of A Cocaine Overdose

The more a person uses cocaine, the more they are putting themselves at risk of overdose. A cocaine overdose is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • chest pain
  • fast heart rate
  • excessive sweating
  • difficulty breathing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • confusion
  • hallucinations

Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction

An addiction to cocaine can be a dangerous condition, and it is important to seek help at a treatment center for a loved one if you recognize any signs of cocaine abuse or other drug use.

Treatment services for cocaine addiction include:

  • inpatient treatment
  • outpatient treatment
  • medically monitored detox
  • behavioral therapy
  • dual diagnosis treatment
  • 12-step programs
  • aftercare support
  • life skills workshops

Find Addiction Treatment Services At Bedrock Recovery Center

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we can help you find addiction treatment for cocaine addiction or any other substance use disorder for yourself or a loved one.

Even if you just have questions about substance abuse or about what cocaine addiction treatment involves, our treatment specialists are here to guide you.

Give us a call today — it is never too early or too late to get started.

  1. Indian Health Service
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine

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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