- Cocaine Overdose Symptoms and Effects
- How an Overdose Affects Your Body
- Heart Problems
- Lung Problems
- Problems in Other Body Organs
- How Cocaine Overdose Affects Your Brain and Central Nervous System
- Finding Treatment for Your Addiction
- Treatment Center Types
- Cocaine: How It Works, Effects, and Risks
- Cocaine Overdose
- Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
- Risk Factors for Cocaine Overdose
- Preventing Cocaine Overdose
- 5 Signs Of A Cocaine Overdose
- 1. Physiological Changes
- 2. Unusual Behavior
- 3. Bluish Skin
- 4. Difficulty Breathing Or Rapid Breathing
- 5. Seizures
- Risk Factors For Cocaine Overdose
- What Are The Dangers Of Cocaine Overdose?
- What To Do If You Suspect Someone Has Overdosed On Cocaine
- Treatment For Cocaine Abuse And Addiction
- Cocaine Abuse Signs – Get Rehab Treatment in our Rehabilitation Centers
- Cocaine Abuse Mixing with Other Drugs
- When Cocaine Abuse Turns into Addiction
- What Are the Treatments Available in Our Facilities?
- Does AAC Give Medications for Cocaine Addiction?
Cocaine Overdose Symptoms and Effects
What Does a Cocaine Overdose Feel ?Symptoms of a cocaine overdose include chest pain, pronounced mood changes, seizures, and aggressive behavior. An overdose can damage the heart, liver, brain, and kidneys. Professional treatment can help a person recover from cocaine addiction and prevent future overdoses.
Addiction creates a level of self-delusion to maintain its hold on an individual. Many of those who suffer from addiction are able to convince themselves that “nothing bad will happen to me.
” This type of self-deception can be especially problematic with cocaine use; the reality is that cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world because even a first-time user can overdose.
Second only to alcohol, cocaine accounts for the second most frequent reason for drug-related visits to emergency rooms across the U.S.1 A person who snorts, smokes, or injects too much cocaine can suffer from an overdose.
To live through a cocaine overdose—or otherwise survive a life-threatening cocaine-related health scare—can be traumatizing, but can also serve as the motivation some users need to commit to treatment for cocaine addiction.
The euphoric effects of cocaine are very short lived—lasting around 30 minutes, or possibly up to one hour with intranasal use;2 however, the effects on the body can last for many hours.
Many overdoses occur because individuals continue to use more cocaine despite the fact that the initial bodily effects are still present—essentially stacking the deadly pharmacologic impact on their cardiovascular and other organ systems.
Some may place themselves at further risk of overdose because they attempt to use an extremely large amount once their initial high has subsided. As users pursue the euphoric feeling they felt at the beginning of their cocaine use, they often don’t realize just how much of the drug they have taken.
A cocaine overdose requires immediate medical attention because it can be deadly. Common symptoms that indicate a person has used an excessive amount of cocaine include:3,4
- Frenetic levels of energy.
- Irritability, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia.
- Extreme mood changes: feelings of exhilaration followed by depression.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Panic attacks, paranoia.
- Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain.
- Talking excessively.
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature.
- Chest pain.
- Dizziness and/or fainting.
- Headaches, seizures, coma.
- Twitches or tremors in the arms and legs.
How an Overdose Affects Your Body
Cocaine effects arise from the drug’s interaction on a wide range of bodily processes. Cocaine’s immediate physical harm—and eventually its deadly impact—can originate from a number of affected organ systems throughout the body. There are four primary ways that cocaine affects the body:
- Increasing “fight or flight” responses (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure)
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Increasing metabolism
- Nervous system overactivity
Each of the following effects of cocaine on organ systems is a direct consequence of one of the above mechanisms.
A cocaine overdose has a massive effect on the heart. The user may have severe chest pain or chest pressure as the coronary arteries that feed blood to the heart constrict.5 With inadequate flow from the coronary arteries, the heart is being starved of blood and oxygen.
As the heart reaches a crisis state, it begins to pump harder and faster to deliver more blood and compensate for its own poor supply, but it does so in vain due to the constricted arteries.
The result is a deadly cycle which can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke, even if the person is healthy.
Blood pressure and heart rate will also dangerously spike during an overdose, which could also cause the heart to fail.
6 If the user has high blood pressure or heart problems without the use of stimulants, the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke is much greater when stimulants are used.
Additionally, irregular heart rhythms can occur with stimulant use, also leading to possible death.7
Cocaine overdose can also result in acute bronchospasm as well as a number of other more serious lung problems—such as pneumothorax (collapse of the lung). Some users—particularly those injecting the drug—are also at increased risk of thrombus (blood clot) development in the lungs.8
Problems in Other Body Organs
Other organs that incur damage from cocaine overdose may also include:9-11
Intestines & kidneys: perforated ulcers, insufficient blood supply, metabolic acidosis (from too much acid production.
Muscle and bones: life-threatening metabolic imbalances can result.
The eyes: pupil dilation and resultant changes in visual acuity, retinal vessel spasms and/or microvascular infarcts that may lead to vision loss.
The brain and central nervous system: seizures, coma, headaches, intracranial bleeding.
How Cocaine Overdose Affects Your Brain and Central Nervous System
As mentioned above, seizures and convulsions are common during a cocaine overdose, as the brain is acutely sensitive to toxic levels of the drug.
As the more systemic cardiovascular consequences play out within the skull, blood vessels in the brain may rupture, and the user may suffer a lethal aneurysm or hemorrhagic stroke.
In addition, dangerously increased transmission of catecholamines (hormones that put the body into “fight or flight” mode) results in a lot of nerve cell “miscommunication” during which the user may experience uncontrollable muscle movements such as shaking, jaw grinding, or teeth chattering.12
The legs and arms may feel shaky and weak. An increase in muscular activity can lead to a dangerously elevated body temperature. Eventually, the overtaxed muscles may seize up, to the point where the user may not even be able to yell for help.
If you can imagine watching your body go through these changes while feeling helpless that you can’t do anything to stop them, you will get a glimpse into the horrific way that survivors of cocaine overdose describe this experience.
When individuals survive a cocaine overdose, both their physical and mental health may be affected forever. They may experience severe damage to major organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, brain and kidneys. Extensive damage can also occur to the intestines, to reproductive organs as well as to a developing fetus in pregnant women who use cocaine.7
The mental trauma of a cocaine overdose can also change the way that the user thinks and feels even if they successfully quit using the drug. They may suffer psychosis, paranoia, panic attacks, tremors, and delusions.13,14
Finding Treatment for Your Addiction
If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to cocaine, it’s important that you get the information and the help that you need. And it’s better to reach out for help before an overdose occurs.
If you have already survived this near-death experience, you have been blessed with a second chance. Take full advantage of it and learn more about how you can overcome your addiction.
Treatment Center Types
There are a few different types of addiction treatment centers that are available to help walk you through the rehabilitation process:
- Luxury treatment centers offer residential addiction rehabilitation alongside high-end luxuries and resort- amenities.
- Executive treatment centers offer many of the same luxurious amenities found in luxury rehab treatment but also cater to busy professionals who need to maintain an active presence in their place of work.
- Standard rehabilitation programs also offer high quality rehabilitation treatment—both on an inpatient and on an outpatient basis. While these programs do not come with the wide array of high-end amenities offered in luxury and executive treatment, they also cost less and prove to be a more affordable option for those on a budget.
Recovery Brands collected data in 2016 asking people that were leaving an addiction rehab center what clinic attributes they saw as valuable things to look for when examining programs. The highest-rated consideration was the center’s monetary policies, such as financial support, payment options, and insurance accepted. They also valued program offerings (comforts, quality of housing, room quality, etc.) a lot more after completing treatment. New patients will want to consider a facility’s financial practices as well as facility offerings to assist them in their final program decision. Read more
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
- Cone, E. J. (1995). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cocaine. J Anal Toxicol, 19(6), 459.
- Mayo Clinic. (2017). Drug addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
- Hollander, J. E., Hoffman, R. S., Gennis, P., Fairweather, P., DiSano, M. J., Schumb, D. A., et al. (1994). Prospective multicenter evaluation of cocaine-associated chest pain. Acad Emerg Med., 1(4), 330.
- Koppel, B. S., Samkoff, L., Daras, M. (1996). Relation of cocaine use to seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsia, 37(9), 875.
- Khan, R., Morrow, L.J., McCarron R. (2009). How to manage medical complications of the five most abused substances. Current Psychiatry, 8(11), 35-47.
- Kugelmass, A. D., Oda, A., Monahan, K., Cabral, C., Ware, J. A. (1993). Activation of human platelets by cocaine. Circulation, 88(3), 876.
- Pecha, R. E., Prindiville, T., Pecha, B. S., Camp, R., Carroll, M., Trudeau, W. (1996). Association of cocaine and methamphetamine use with giant gastroduodenal ulcers. Am J. Gastroenterol., 91(12), 2523.
- Goldfrank, L. R., Flomenbaum, N. E., Hoffman, J. R., et al. (2006). Goldfrank’s Toxicologic Emergencies, 8th E. McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing Division.
- Libman, R. B., Masters, S. R., de Paola, A., Mohr, J. P. (1993). Transient monocular blindness associated with cocaine abuse. Neurology, 43(1), 228.
- Enevoldson, T.P. (2004). Recreational drugs and their neurological consequences. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 75(3), 9-15.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the long-term consequences of cocaine use?
- Spronk D.B., van Wel J.H.P., Ramaekers J.G., Verkes R.J. (2013). Characterizing the cognitive effects of cocaine: a comprehensive review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 37(8):1838-1859.
Cocaine: How It Works, Effects, and Risks
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that ups your levels of alertness, attention, and energy. You may hear it called a stimulant. It’s made from the coca plant, which is native to South America. It’s illegal in the U.S. Other names for it include:
It comes in a few different forms. The most common is a fine, white powder. It can also be made into a solid rock crystal.
Most cocaine users snort the white powder into their nose. Some rub it onto their gums or dissolve it in water and inject it with a needle. Others heat up the rock crystal and breathe the smoke into their lungs.
The drug sends high levels of dopamine, a natural chemical messenger in your body, into the parts of your brain that control pleasure. This buildup causes intense feelings of energy and alertness called a high.
Other short-term effects of cocaine may include:
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
- Intense happiness
- Paranoid feeling
- Decreased appetite
People who use cocaine often may also have more serious side effects and health problems, :
You may have strong cravings for the drug and the high it brings. But the more you use cocaine, the more your brain will adapt to it. You’ll need a stronger dose to feel the same high. This can lead to a dangerous addiction or overdose.
Stronger, more frequent doses can also cause long-term changes in your brain’s chemistry. Your body and mind begin to rely on the drug. This can make it harder for you to think, sleep, and recall things from memory. Your reaction time may be slower. And you’re at risk for more heart, stomach, and lung problems.
Counseling and other types of therapy are the most common treatments for cocaine addiction. You may need to stay in a rehabilitation center (or rehab).
Sessions with a trained therapist can help you make changes to your behavior and thought processes. Medical detox centers can help your body adjust to treatment, but you’ll probably have to pay for them your own pocket.
Most insurers don’t cover hospitalization for withdrawal anymore. No medicines are approved to treat cocaine addiction.
The most important part of any treatment plan is that you give up the drug right away. Many people who are addicted to cocaine go through a phase called withdrawal when they first do this. Symptoms can include:
A cocaine overdose is more difficult to treat. Physical signs include:
Watch for these mental signs of overdose, too:
An overdose often leads to a stroke or heart attack. An ER doctor will test for those conditions and try to treat them first. He may also use medication to treat other complications you have.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: Treating Cocaine Addiction,” “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction,” “What Are Stimulants?” “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” “What is Cocaine?”
Foundation for a Drug-Free World: “Effects of Cocaine.”
Center for Substance Abuse Research: “Cocaine (Powder).”
SAMHSA/CSAT Treatment Improvement Protocols: “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.”
Narconon: “Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use.”
UpToDate: “Cocaine use disorder in adults: “Epidemiology, pharmacology, clinical manifestations, medical consequences, and diagnosis.”
The University of Arizona Methamphetamine and Other Illicit drug Education: “Cocaine Overdose.”
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Crystal Meth
Because its effects come on relatively quickly and result in a euphoric, energetic high, many users fall into a dangerous pattern of escalating abuse. In 2014 alone, more than 5,500 people died from cocaine overdose 2. Knowing the risks and symptoms of cocaine overdose may help save a life.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
When a person abuses cocaine, their body experiences a number of sensations and physiologic changes, all relating back to its strong stimulant effects.
These effects can spiral control when a person uses too much, leading to an overdose.
During a cocaine overdose, the brain and body become dangerously overstimulated—resulting in a situation wherein commonly experienced cocaine effects, such as increased heart rate, are elevated to potentially lethal levels.
- Arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm).
- Severe tachycardia (elevated heart rate).
- Very high blood pressure.
- Dangerously high body temperature.
- Severe anxiety or agitation.
The lihood of an overdose is difficult to predict, as it can be influenced by a number of variables, including the purity of the sample, the method in which it is used, and the general health of the user. Make no mistake, though, even first-time users can die for cocaine overdose 1.
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Risk Factors for Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine overdose can happen to anyone from a novice user to a regular abuser. If you take too much of a substance, the consequences can be dire. Though it may appear obvious, using cocaine at all is the biggest risk factor for cocaine overdose, and the best way to prevent overdose is to stop using cocaine.
Combining cocaine with other substances is also a major risk factor for overdose.
When used with sedating or depressant drugs, cocaine’s stimulant effects may seem diminished, leading the user to more easily ingest toxic levels of each substance without fully realizing the extent of their intoxication.
Combining cocaine with another stimulant Ritalin may compound the stimulant effects, potentially leading to lethal consequences.
Cocaine is particularly dangerous to use with alcohol, as the combination produces a powerful toxin in the body called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is eliminated even slower from the body than cocaine and can intensify the cardiotoxic effects, for example by further increasing the heart rate and enhancing the concentration of cocaine in the bloodstream 4.
Another specific combination that can quickly be fatal is that of cocaine and heroin, also known as a “speedball.” Both of these substances have very powerful opposing effects, which may cause the subjective effects of each drug seem less intense. This can lead the user to take very high or unpredictable doses, thereby increasing their risk of lethal overdose 5.
Finally, as a person uses cocaine, they begin to build up a tolerance to its effects. As tolerance increases, the user will need to continually increase the dose in order to counteract it and get “high.” Doing so is a major risk factor for eventual overdose.
If you notice the signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose in yourself or someone else,call 911 right away to get emergency medical help.
Cocaine overdose death can happen relatively quickly, so the faster you get the person medical attention, the better the chances of survival.
While you are waiting for professional medical help, there are a couple things you can do to help a person experiencing cocaine overdose:
- Apply a cold compress to keep their body temperature at a safe level.
- If the person is experiencing a seizure, make sure there is nothing around them that can injure them, such as sharp edges or hard objects.
- Most importantly, stay with the person until medical help arrives.
Once in the care of emergency personnel, the individual will be monitored for body temperature, cardiac complications, hypoglycemia, and neuropsychiatric complications. When appropriate, benzodiazepines may be used in order to calm the patient and mitigate psychological distress 6.
Preventing Cocaine Overdose
The only sure way to prevent cocaine overdose is to stop using cocaine. Those who continue to use it will notice that their cocaine tolerance builds quickly. As tolerance mounts, people often begin to exhibit binge patterns of use, which can further solidify a developing addiction and, furthermore, greatly increase their risk of overdose.
Getting help with a cocaine abuse problem may be the difference between life and death.
Treatment for cocaine abuse will help users identify the thought patterns and behaviors that trigger their use and practical methods to help resist the urge to use. It can also help a person examine their own personal reasons for turning to cocaine abuse and how they can practice healthy coping strategies for future relapse temptations.
Call us today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to find quality treatment for cocaine abuse for yourself or a loved one-it’s never too late to get help.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). DrugFacts: Cocaine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Overdose Death Rates.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). MedlinePlus: Cocaine intoxication.
- McCance, E. F., Price, L. H., Kosten, T. R., & Jatlow, P. I. (1995). Cocaethylene: pharmacology, physiology and behavioral effects in humans. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 274(1). 215-223.
- Ochoa, K. C., Hahn, J. A., Seal, K. H., & Moss, A. R. (2001). Overdosing among young injection drug users in San Francisco. Addictive Behaviors, 26. 453-460.
- Medscape. (2016). Cocaine Toxicity Treatment & Management.
5 Signs Of A Cocaine Overdose
Using excessive amounts of cocaine in a single sitting can risk overdose, which in severe cases can lead to seizures and death. If you or someone you know is abusing cocaine, knowing the signs of overdose can be important to prevent life-threatening consequences.
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that comes in the form of a white powder. According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine was most widely used in the United States in the 1990s.
Although rates of cocaine use have generally been stable for the past decade, the rates of drug overdoses involving cocaine have not. This is in part attributed to the opioid epidemic, as cocaine is just one of several drugs often-times mixed with opioids. In severe cases, mixing drugs cocaine and opioids can lead to serious health consequences, including death.
It is also important to understand the dangers of using cocaine alone. Many people abuse cocaine for its ability to cause a brief but intense high, resulting in increased energy, talkability, and alertness. Repeated use of cocaine can lead to addiction, negative side effects such as paranoia and spasms, as well as increase a person’s risk for overdose.
If you know or suspect that someone you know is using cocaine, it may be helpful to know the most common signs of an overdose. Knowing the signs of a cocaine overdose can be life-saving, and prevent other serious short and long-lasting dangers of cocaine abuse with proper treatment.
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1. Physiological Changes
Some of the most noticeable signs of a cocaine overdose are the physiological changes that can occur within the body following an excessive dose. These can be dangerous and lead to life-threatening consequences.
Physiological signs of overdose can include:
- high blood pressure
- rapid heart rate or palpitations
- chest pain
- high body temperature (which can cause severe sweating)
- loss of control over urine flow
- dilated pupils
Overdose can also cause common side effects of cocaine use to become more intense. This includes symptoms such as increased nausea, fever, and lightheadedness.
2. Unusual Behavior
Cocaine abuse can cause drastic changes in both appearance and behavior, often causing a person to become severely agitated, paranoid, or act in other ways that seem bizarre. When someone has overdosed, these behavioral changes can become even more pronounced.
Behavioral signs of cocaine overdose may include:
- lack of awareness of one’s surroundings
- severe confusion
- severe agitation
Strange behavior is not uncommon among people using cocaine, but should still be taken seriously, particularly when accompanied by serious physical symptoms of potential overdose.
People who are acting very unusual after taking cocaine may be unable on their own to recognize they have overdosed, and will ly require help to seek emergency medical attention.
3. Bluish Skin
A common symptom of a drug overdose is changing in skin tone or color. Similar to overdosing on opioids, one of the most visible symptoms of a cocaine overdose is bluish skin. Body parts such as the fingernails and lips may also appear blue or purple-ish.
If a person has become severely pale or develops a bluish tint to their skin after using cocaine, this may indicate an overdose and should be treated accordingly.
4. Difficulty Breathing Or Rapid Breathing
Taking excessive doses of cocaine, especially through means of snorting or injecting the drug, may quickly lead to overstimulation within the body. This can cause a person to have difficulty breathing, or begin breathing very rapidly.
People who have overdosed may be unable to slow their breathing and may experience similar symptoms such as fast heart-rate or heart palpitations.
Seizures are one of the leading causes of death as a result of a cocaine overdose. In the event of an overdose, people who are seizing should be kept away from any objects nearby that could do them harm, including any sharp objects or unstable pieces of furniture. People experiencing seizures should also be kept on their side, not their back, to avoid choking.
If someone has temporarily stopped seizing, do not take this as a sign that danger has passed. Continue to seek emergency medical attention right away, as seizures may recur.
Risk Factors For Cocaine Overdose
Overdose can occur regardless of whether or not a person is using cocaine for the first time, or abuses it regularly. People who have never used cocaine before and are using it alone for the first time can be at high risk for using too much of the drug and overdosing.
People who regularly abuse cocaine, however, are at an even greater risk for overdose. Those who regularly abuse or are addicted to cocaine are more ly to act recklessly, have a high tolerance, and mix cocaine with other drugs. Mixing cocaine with substances such as alcohol or opioids can overwhelm the body much faster than using cocaine alone, and can be more deadly.
In addition, people with cocaine addiction are also more ly to take it in binges, which can dramatically increase the risk for overdose, cardiac arrest, and sudden death.
The primary cause of cocaine overdose is using too much of the substance at once or mixing it with other drugs. However, there are still several risk factors that can increase the chance of overdose.
Risk factors for overdose can include:
- alcohol abuse
- low tolerance
- using highly-concentrated forms of cocaine
- using cocaine in hot weather or while dehydrated
What Are The Dangers Of Cocaine Overdose?
It is common when abusing an illegal drug cocaine to be worried about seeking help, even in the event of an overdose. When someone has overdosed, however, it is imperative to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Cocaine overdose and overdoses involving multiple drugs can be deadly, with the most common causes of death being seizures and cardiac arrest.
Overdosing on cocaine can also risk permanent brain damage and moderate to severe organ damage. The outlook for a person who has overdosed will often depend on how severely organs such as the kidneys and heart were affected.
Depending on what organs have been affected in the event of an overdose, dangers of cocaine overdose may include:
- chronic symptoms of psychosis
- chronic anxiety
- kidney failure
- destruction of muscles
- lasting effects on mental functioning
- heart problems
- sudden death
What To Do If You Suspect Someone Has Overdosed On Cocaine
Watching someone you know overdose, or experiencing overdose yourself, can be scary but should be treated as quickly as possible.
If you or someone you know is demonstrating any signs of an overdose listed above, contact emergency services immediately by calling 9-1-1. Seeking professional medical attention is the most effective way to treat an overdose and prevent life-threatening consequences.
Upon arriving on the scene, emergency medical technicians may request the following information:
- amount of cocaine used
- whether the cocaine was mixed with other drugs
- age of the person
- your relationship to them
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, simply answer whichever questions you can. This can be important for making sure the person receives the most appropriate treatment.
Vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature may be measured repeatedly to monitor for escalating symptoms. People who have overdosed may also require hospitalization for breathing support, IV fluids, or other medicines.
Treatment For Cocaine Abuse And Addiction
Experiencing an overdose, or watching someone you care about overdose, can be frightening and may often be a wake-up call. If you or someone you know is abusing cocaine, it is never too early or too late to seek treatment.
At Swift River, our treatment center offers a safe and supportive environment for people to overcome their addiction to powerful drugs cocaine and discover the benefits of a future in recovery. Our Massachusetts facility offers various levels of care, including detox, residential, and outpatient treatment for people working to overcome their substance abuse.
Our individualized treatment plans for addiction feature a variety of evidence-based and holistic treatment services offered the unique needs of each patient to help them achieve lasting recovery. That is the Swift River difference.
For more information about cocaine addiction or our treatment programs, contact Swift River today to talk to one of our treatment specialists.
Cocaine Abuse Signs – Get Rehab Treatment in our Rehabilitation Centers
Signs of cocaine abuse include:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Social isolation
- Risky behaviors
- Boost in confidence
- Talkative habits
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- White powder residue around the nose and mouth
- Burn marks on the hands and lips
- Deterioration in hygiene habits
- Financial difficulties
- Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
- Increased need for privacy
- Spoons, razor blades, plastic baggies and other drug paraphernalia in the person’s room or clothing pockets
If you know anyone with these cocaine abuse signs don’t hesitate to get help.
Over 14 percent of all Americans age 12 and older have used cocaine in their lifetimes, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports.
Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases energy levels and keeps people awake while raising heart rate and blood pressure.
Cocaine also makes people feel good by flooding the brain with dopamine, one of the chemical messengers that increase feelings of pleasure.
There are two main types of cocaine: a powder that is snorted, injected, or smoked, and a rock form called crack cocaine that is generally smoked, although sometimes it is placed into body orifices.
Cocaine abuse accounts for most of the emergency department visits related to illicit drug abuse or misuse at 40.3 percent, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report in 2011.
There has also been a 29 percent rise in cocaine overdose deaths between 2001 and 2013, and close to 5,000 people died from an overdose on cocaine in 2013, NIDA publishes.
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can change the chemical makeup of a person’s brain with regular use, making it challenging to quit using the drug without help.
In order to prevent a potentially tragic outcome, it is beneficial to recognize the warning signs that a loved one or family member may be abusing cocaine.
Cocaine takes effect quickly, but has a short half-life, meaning that the high is generally short-lived—lasting from 5-30 minutes, depending on how the drug is used and how quickly the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, Psychology Today publishes.
The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah reports that the fastest way to send drugs into the brain is by smoking, and injection is the second fastest method.
Smoking cocaine is the most popular method of ingestion, as NIDA reports that 72 percent of all admissions to cocaine abuse treatment centers involve crack cocaine abuse.
Cocaine creates its “high” by blocking dopamine from being recycled, therefore artificially increasing the activity of this “feel good” neurotransmitter. Users may be overly talkative, excitable, have fewer inhibitions and high confidence levels, and have lowered appetites or need for sleep when under the influence of cocaine.
After coming down from the cocaine high, there is often a crash period, and users may eat and sleep more than usual during this time. Some other signs that someone may be abusing cocaine include:
- White powder residue around the nose and mouth
- Needle marks from injecting the drug
- Burn marks on hands and lips
- Drug paraphernalia in their personal effects (e.g.
, syringes, pipes, spoons, razor blades, small plastic baggies, etc.
- Change in sleeping and eating patterns
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- More frequent sexual encounters
- Dilated pupils that may be sensitive to light
- Runny nose and/or frequent nosebleeds
- Lack of concern for personal appearance and personal hygiene
- Financial troubles
- Social isolation
Since cocaine leaves the body quickly, some people may abuse cocaine in a binge pattern, taking several doses back to back, which may lead more quickly to physical and psychological dependence than other methods of taking the drug.
Other times cocaine abusers may take higher doses at once, which can lead to hostility, anger, irritability, and even violent outbursts. Long-term users of cocaine may start to experience negative side effects when taking the drug as well. Paranoia, anxiety, anger, and hallucinations may be signs of cocaine abuse in someone who has been using for a long period of time.
Cocaine Abuse Mixing with Other Drugs
Cocaine is often abused with other drugs or alcohol.
For instance, the Treatment Data Episode Set (TEDS) from 2002-2012, which details admissions to substance abuse treatment services in the United States, reported that 7 percent of all admissions for illicit drug use were for people primarily abusing cocaine, while double that number cited cocaine as a secondary or tertiary drug of abuse.
If cocaine is abused in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol, this is called poly-drug abuse and there may be additional noticeable physical and psychological side effects. For example, injection drug users may mix cocaine with heroin, which is called a “speedball.
” Since cocaine is a stimulant and heroin is a central nervous system depressant, there may be a conflicting effect. Anxiety and stress are dampened by heroin, which may accompany the high energy and excitability indicative of cocaine abuse.
Someone taking both of these drugs may have impaired motor functions and blurred vision in conjunction with suppressed appetite and lack of sleep.
All of the potential side effects from each drug may be multiplied by mixing them, and mental health issues may also be compounded.
When a large amount of cocaine is taken at once or in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol, the risk for an overdose or other negative health consequences increases also. An overdose occurs when too much of the drug is ingested at one time for the body to handle, and drug amounts reach toxic levels in the bloodstream.
The signs of an overdose from cocaine include nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, elevated heart rate, chest pain, and a rise in blood pressure and body temperature. A cocaine overdose can result in a stroke or heart attack, and it is a medical emergency. If an overdose is suspected, call for professional help immediately.
When Cocaine Abuse Turns into Addiction
Cocaine is considered a Schedule II drug in the United States by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in part due to its high potential for addiction. Cocaine makes people feel good by changing the way the brain feels pleasure, making it more difficult to feel as good without the drug.
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Regular use of cocaine can cause someone to become tolerant to the drug, and higher doses must be taken in order to continue to feel the effects that are desired. More and more time may be spent trying to obtain the drug, using it, and then recovering from using cocaine as control over drug use becomes harder.
Other duties such as schoolwork, familial obligations, or workplace responsibilities may be overlooked or neglected completely. It may be difficult to rely on people who are addicted to cocaine, and they may withdraw from loved ones and peers, and stop participating in activities or events that they used to enjoy.
Addiction is a disease affecting the motivation and reward circuitry in the brain. When people are addicted to cocaine, they may feel that they need the drug in order to feel any sort of balance.
Someone addicted to cocaine may seek out the drug in order to feel some relief from physical and emotional withdrawal side effects that may occur as soon as the drug leaves the bloodstream. Withdrawal symptoms may include drowsiness and fatigue, increased appetite, depression, irritability, mood swings, nightmares, and drug cravings.
Cocaine may not have the same physical withdrawal symptoms as other drugs; however, the emotional toll can be just as difficult to manage without help.
In 2013, the National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 1.
5 million Americans were considered current users of cocaine, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published that 855,000 were classified with a substance use disorder due to cocaine abuse that same year. The physical and emotional side effects of cocaine abuse and addiction can generally be reversed with proper care and support.
Early intervention and recognition of the signs of use or abuse of cocaine can be essential to getting someone on the right path toward recovery.
What Are the Treatments Available in Our Facilities?
In our American Addiction Facilities—with locations in Texas, Las Vegas, Florida, and more—we treat cocaine addiction with high-quality evidence-based behavioral therapies.
Many of our facilities also offer holistic, expressive, and recreational therapies to help you find healthier ways of dealing with negative emotions and grow your coping skills. the facility you choose, trauma-based therapies may also be available to help you understand and cope with past traumas.
Therapies that help with trauma include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and Seeking Safety, among others.
Treatment at AAC facilities is customized to your personal needs. We do a thorough assessment of your mental and physical health to determine how best to treat you. Our staff, which includes doctors, nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, behavioral health technicians, and case managers all work together to make sure you get the best shot at lifelong recovery from cocaine addiction.
Many of our facilities also offer specialized treatment tracks that target specific populations, such as veterans or LGBTQ+ individuals. Not only that, but we provide co-occurring disorder treatment for those individuals who struggle with addiction plus another mental health disorder, such as depression. Our programs give you all the tools you need to put cocaine abuse behind you.
Of course, recovery from cocaine is a lifelong journey that doesn’t end when you leave a treatment facility. All AAC programs incorporate aftercare planning to set you on the right path. When you arrive, we begin preparing an aftercare plan for you and adjust it as necessary so you’ll be fully prepared when you leave our program.
Does AAC Give Medications for Cocaine Addiction?
While there are no FDA-approved medications for cocaine dependence, should you struggle with other drugs such as alcohol or opioids, you may be a candidate for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is the combination of therapy plus medication.
If you undergo medical detoxification in one of our programs, you might be given certain medications throughout to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms.
American Addiction Centers can help you move past addiction and find joy in a life of recovery. See how we can help you start over.