October 30, 2023

Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

a man looks to camera representing cocaine addiction and cocaine addiction treatment.

Cocaine, a potent stimulant, carries a significant risk of abuse, physical dependency, and cocaine addiction. Among the 4.8 million U.S. adults who experimented with this substance in 2021, 1.2 million developed coke addiction (stimulant use disorder).

Overcoming cocaine addiction is a difficult process, but with the right treatment and support system it is absolutely possible. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction, it’s always better to reach out for help from a treatment center sooner rather than later, as the disease progresses. These treatment centers are specialized in providing medically-supervised and effective treatments to ensure a lasting and safe recovery, and provide you with the resources to readjust to life after treatment.

This guide to cocaine abuse highlights the following key issues:

  • How addictive is cocaine?
  • Why is cocaine so addictive?
  • Is cocaine dependence the same as addiction?
  • Addicted to cocaine? How to get help right away.

Is Cocaine Addictive?

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Cocaine is highly addictive due to its impact on the brain’s reward circuit. The drug works by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This flood of dopamine produces the euphoric high associated with cocaine use. Over time, the brain adjusts to increased dopamine levels, leading to a decreased response to the drug, meaning that larger amounts are required to achieve the initial effects. This phenomenon is clinically described as tolerance.

If someone who develops tolerance to the drug continues using cocaine, they may become psychologically and physically dependent on the substance. Dependence can lead to the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms like depression, fatigue, increased appetite, and intense cravings for the drug when cocaine use is reduced or discontinued. The combination of tolerance and withdrawal can make it challenging to stop using the drug without professional help.

Beyond this, the intense cravings and the temporary feelings of pleasure associated with cocaine use can lead to repeated use, even in the face of adverse outcomes like health problems, financial issues, strained relationships, and legal troubles. This cycle of addiction can be extremely difficult to break without comprehensive treatment and support.

image of woman representing signs of cocaine addiction

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

There are many observable cocaine addiction signs. These may include:

  • Deteriorating physical appearance is one of the hallmark signs of a cocaine addict. This may include weight loss, pale skin, and dilated pupils. 
  • Behavioral changes such as increased secrecy, social isolation, or unexplained financial problems.
  • Mood swings, including irritability, restlessness, or anxiety, alternating with euphoria or a false sense of confidence.
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities, such as work, school, or family obligations.
  • Paraphernalia associated with cocaine use, like small plastic bags, razor blades, or straws.
  • Noticeable financial issues despite having a stable income.
  • Unexplained periods of hyperactivity or excessive talkativeness followed by prolonged periods of exhaustion or sleepiness are potential signs of a coke addict.
  • Increased risky behavior or engaging in dangerous activities under the influence of cocaine.
  • Sudden changes in social circles, often involving individuals associated with drug use.
  • Neglecting or losing interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Experiencing legal problems related to drug use, such as arrests for possession or distribution of drugs.

Quickly responding to the signs of a cocaine addict can help people seek more effective support and intervention for their cocaine addiction.

Symptoms of Coke Addiction

DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, revised text) outlines a set of symptoms for cocaine use disorder as follows:

  1. Excessive consumption of cocaine beyond intended limits or for extended periods.
  2. Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or manage cocaine intake.
  3. Devoting significant time to acquiring, using, or recovering from cocaine’s impact.
  4. Intense cravings or a compelling urge to use cocaine.
  5. Inability to meet important responsibilities at work, school, or home due to repeated cocaine use.
  6. Persisting with cocaine use despite ongoing social or interpersonal issues resulting from or worsened by its effects.
  7. Abandoning or decreasing significant social, professional, or recreational activities due to cocaine use.
  8. Repeated use of cocaine in physically risky situations.
  9. Continued cocaine use despite awareness of persisting physical or psychological issues likely aggravated by cocaine.
  10. Tolerance, either requiring significantly higher doses of cocaine for desired effects, or experiencing noticeably reduced effects with consistent use of the same quantity.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms, demonstrated by the typical withdrawal syndrome associated with cocaine, or using cocaine (or a closely related substance) to alleviate or evade withdrawal effects.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Treatment for cocaine addiction typically involves a broad approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the addiction. Some effective treatment options include:

Behavioral therapies

Various behavioral therapies, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), CM (contingency management), and MI (motivational interviewing), are commonly used to help people modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. These therapies can assist in building coping strategies, managing triggers, and preventing relapse.

Medications

While there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for treating cocaine addiction, certain medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and help streamline the recovery process. These medications can help mitigate depressive symptoms, reduce cravings, and manage other co-occurring mental health conditions.

Support groups

Participating in support groups or 12-step programs like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or CA (Cocaine Anonymous) can provide those in cocaine addiction recovery with a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences and learning from others who have successfully overcome addiction can be incredibly valuable.

Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs

Rehabilitation programs offer structured environments that provide a combination of various therapies, counseling, and support. These programs can be either inpatient, where individuals reside at the treatment facility, or outpatient, allowing individuals to live at home while attending therapy sessions and support groups regularly.

Dual diagnosis treatment

Since substance abuse often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, any underlying mental health issues should be addressed alongside the addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment involves simultaneously tackling both the addiction and mental health conditions.

Holistic approaches

Integrative approaches – yoga, meditation, and exercise, for instance – can complement traditional treatments, promoting overall well-being and aiding in stress management and relaxation.

All treatment plans for cocaine addiction should be tailored to individual needs and should include a comprehensive aftercare component, with access to ongoing outpatient therapy if required. What can you do if you need help right away, then?

An image of a woman using addiction hotline's to find cocaine addiction treatment

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction by Calling an Addiction Hotline

Cocaine addiction can be damaging and disruptive, but it also responds positively to science-backed treatment. Call our addiction hotline to get immediate help if you or something that you care about is abusing cocaine.

Addiction to cocaine is a chronic, relapsing condition that usually gets worse if untreated, so the sooner you engage with professional treatment, the more seamless your recovery will be.

Call 855-701-0479 any time of day or night. The call is toll-free and confidential, and you can access compassionate support and guidance when you need it most.

Calling an addiction hotline is the first crucial step toward a healthier life unconstrained by cocaine addiction.

Want to learn more?

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Compassionate Care for Substance Abuse Treatment

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