Cocaine Addiction and Abuse

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can be detrimental to one’s overall health.

Cocaine dependence | Table of Contents

Understanding Cocaine

Cocaine is a white powdery drug that reacts with the body’s central nervous system. Originally derived from coca plants, It’s a potent substance that produces euphoria and energy. Coke, blow, and powder are other slang names given to this illicit drug. Many users either snort the drug, smoke it (also known as freebasing), while some dissolve cocaine in water and inject it. The highly addictive nature of cocaine makes this the most widely abused substance secondary to alcohol. It is estimated that about 1,800 Americans try cocaine for the first time each day.


What Is freebasing cocaine?

Freebasing is preparing pure cocaine (base) for injection or smoking, typically by dissolving and removing impurities with a strong alkali.

What is cocaine usually cut with?

Cocaine is commonly cut with corn starch, vitamin C powder, sugar, talcum powder, Italian infant milk powder, or local anesthetic to induce numbing.

How popular is cocaine?

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1.9 million or 0.8 percent of the population aged 18 or older are current cocaine users.

Cocaine Effects, Abuse, and Addiction

There’s no such thing as a minor or severe cocaine misuse. As it is an illegal substance, any use of it is considered abuse. Long-term use of cocaine adversely impacts every organ in the body. Many studies have shown that cocaine usage contributes to genetic changes in brain cells, proteins, nerve cells, among other side effects.

Other direct effects of using cocaine include:

  • Alertness
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Overconfidence
  • Talkativeness

The method of cocaine use also determines the potency and duration of its impact. Users who snort the drug experience its effects for about 15-30 minutes. Injecting or smoking the substance produces intense effects that only last for 5-10 minutes but could lead to profound consequences. Due to its short-lived effects, the majority of users use cocaine more frequently to maintain desired pleasure. Injecting cocaine increases the risk of overdose compared to snorting.

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that abnormally raises dopamine levels in the brain and ultimately reprograms its reward system. Unlike other addictive substances, cocaine misuse can lead to immediate short-term and long-term overall health issues, ranging from a fatal overdose to organ failures. Overdose from cocaine is exponentially higher compared to many other addictive substances due to its short-lived effects.

While cocaine misuse often leads to addiction, some individuals who misuse cocaine find it possible to quit on their own.


Can one time moderate use of cocaine lead to permanent brain damage?

Cocaine does not inflict irreversible brain damage or cognitive problems. Although long-term cocaine addiction does cause a number of harmful physical effects, addicts can completely recover once they are able to shake off cocaine abuse.

How long does cocaine stay in your bloodstream?

Cocaine remains in your bloodstream for approximately 72 hours.

Is cocaine dangerous to use during pregnancy?

Cocaine users may develop skin infections, anemia, and malnutrition during pregnancy. Women with cocaine addiction are likely to develop severe postpartum depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The babies may incur cardiovascular issues and disruption of the central and autonomic nervous systems.

Recognizing Cocaine Addiction

Frequent misuse of any drug can lead to the development of tolerance and dependency upon the said drug. As a consequence of such developments, users may require and depend upon the drug for their day-to-day functions and may experience symptoms of withdrawal when trying to quit. The severity of cocaine use disorder is generally measured based on the adverse effect of cocaine on the user’s life, ranging from the negative consequences on their personal life to professional life.

Common signs of frequent cocaine use include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Missing or being late to work
  • Over-excitement
  • Paranoia
  • Runny nose or frequent sniffles
  • White powder around nostrils
  • Legal issues
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • Financial difficulties
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mood swings
  • Overconfidence
  • Irritability & anger
  • Depression


Will one time experimental use of cocaine cause addiction?

Using cocaine once doesn’t cause an addiction. Cocaine addiction is a progressive and sinister process.

Cocaine Use and Danger

The side effects of cocaine abuse can be divided into short-term and long-term health impairments.

Short-term side effects of cocaine may include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Intense happiness followed by depression
  • Anger and irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Decrease in appetite

The long-term side effect of cocaine may include:

  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • Mood problems
  • Long-term headaches
  • Lung damage
  • HIV or hepatitis
  • Bowel decay
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds, difficulty in swallowing, and runny nose (if you snort the drug.)

The frequency and the quantity of consumption may directly affect the severity of long-term side effects.

Studies have also shown that long-term cocaine abuse can lead to heightened levels of paranoia in some users, resulting in an increased risk of developing cocaine psychosis. Hallucinations, anger, violence, and suicidal or homicidal thoughts are a few of the dangerous symptoms of this condition. Research has shown that sixty-eight percent to eighty-four percent of cocaine patients may experience cocaine psychosis that can quite easily escalate to suicide or murder.


How much cocaine can destroy your nose?

Frequent use of cocaine can slowly collapse the septum, the thin membrane that separates the nostrils.

Can cocaine be absorbed through the skin?

Cocaine can be absorbed into the skin, via exposed soft tissue and thin skin, like lips, gums, and eyes.

What is a lethal dose of cocaine?

This question cannot be easily answered as there remain many variables such as purity, drug combinations, and setting that determines the lethal dose. However, it is considered that as little as 20 mg administered intravenously can be fatal, while between 500 mg and 1.4 g ingested nasally or orally is considered dangerous.

What Causes Cocaine Withdrawal?

Cocaine boosts levels of a feel-good chemical called dopamine in the brain. Long-term use of this or any addictive drug can lead to the development of tolerance to the drug’s euphoric effects. Resulting in the requirement of higher and higher doses to achieve the desired effects. While the development of dependency leads to the user requiring the drug to function on a day-to-day basis, it can also result in withdrawal symptoms if the user quits the consumption of the drug.

Cocaine crash or cocaine comedown is a condition that occurs when the person abruptly stops taking the drug. The user may feel depressed, anxious, irritable, tired, or vulnerable during this crash. Some users can become extremely paranoid, agitated, and suspicious. The withdrawal symptoms of a cocaine crash can last for many days. The user may experience high cravings during this crash period.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The euphoric rush of cocaine fades rapidly, making withdrawal symptoms occur soon after the last dose. Some cocaine users consume more and more of the substance or binge on it within a short time to avoid withdrawal. Similar to binge drinking, cocaine binge often causes fatal overdosing.

Characteristic withdrawal symptoms of cocaine abuse may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Increased appetite
  • Restless behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Nightmares

Duration of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms may begin within hours of cessation. The worst cravings and withdrawal signs usually occur within the first month. The severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms depends on the quantity and frequency of intake. Depending on the severity, withdrawal symptoms for some users can persist for months after the last dose.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

First 1-3 Hours

The user may experience withdrawal symptoms within a few hours after the last dose. Feelings of exhaustion, irritability, anxiousness, and increased appetite are a few of the common early withdrawal symptoms.

Week 1

This is a period of intense withdrawal symptoms. The patient may endure intense exhaustion, insomnia, depressive mood swings, and unpleasant dreams during this period.

Weeks 2-4:

Intense cocaine cravings and depression may continue during this period. Patients may experience difficulty in concentration, agitation, irritability, and emotional breakdown during this time.

Weeks 5-10

The patient’s body and mind gradually begin to heal. While withdrawal symptoms may begin to fade away, cravings for cocaine may not. General uneasiness and anxiety may return during this period.

The timeline provided above is merely a general exemplar. Although certain people experience withdrawal symptoms only for a few weeks, some patients can experience withdrawal symptoms for many months as the severity of one’s condition and relapse can alter this timeline completely.

Cocaine and Other Drugs

Many people who experiment with cocaine do it in places where other addictive substances are also available. Therefore, the majority of cocaine users are also known to misuse other drugs. This behavior is known as polydrug abuse. Combining cocaine with other addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and heroin can be extremely dangerous as it can lead to a fatal overdose.

Alcohol is the most commonly mixed substance with cocaine. This simultaneous usage typically leads to a point where alcohol becomes a triggering factor for recovering cocaine users. The consumption of cocaine with heroin combined, referred to as a speedball, is the most dangerous combination of polydrug abuse.

Patients suffering from polydrug abuse must find treatment for all abusive substances.


Is it safe to mix cocaine with ecstasy?

Cocaine and ecstasy are two commonly abused drugs. Using them together could result in dangerous consequences.

What is an eight-ball of cocaine?

One eight of an ounce (3.5 grams) of cocaine, is referred to as an 8-ball.

Cocaine Statistics

According to a survey, there have been more cocaine-related emergency room visits compared to any other addictive substances; sixty-eight percent of these patients had more than one drug in their system.

  • 600K first-time users: According to a report in 2012, more than 600,000 individuals confirmed to trying cocaine for the very first time. The average age for first-time users is 20.
  • 658K received treatment: About 658,000 individuals underwent treatment for this addiction in 2012.
  • 300K formed dependency: Approximately 300,000 individuals formed a dependence on cocaine during 2012.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Deciding to seek treatment for cocaine addiction is the first step towards rehabilitation, which is also often the toughest step for many patients. A treatment program that includes medication detox followed by inpatient rehabilitation is an ideal option for those dealing with this addiction. Detox is a procedure that extracts all traces of the drug from the patient’s body. Medically-assisted detox provides a much safer environment for cocaine users to get sober.

Psychological dependency on cocaine is often the most difficult to resolve. However, rehab services greatly increase the chance of successful rehabilitation. Getting a substance abuse assessment done by an addiction specialist is crucial for the whole treatment process. These professionals will help you pick the best recovery options that can fully liberate you from the abuse.

Treatment Centers for Cocaine Addiction

After the completion of detoxification, patients must enroll in inpatient rehabilitation. This is a crucial step to help individuals battle this disease in the long run. These treatment centers provide their patients with the necessary tools, support, and guidance that they most desperately require to overcome their addiction and decrease their chances of relapse. These treatment programs will also address any underlying co-occurring disorders that may have led to their addiction.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for Cocaine Addiction

Inpatient rehabilitation is probably the best approach to help tackle cocaine use. Rehab facilities keep SUD patients in an environment void of any temptations and distractions. These rehab facilities instruct people on how to maintain a cocaine-free life in the long term. Treatment strategies for inpatient recovery include:

  • Equine therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Mental health counseling
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • 12-step or alternative programs
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Aftercare planning

Narcotics and Cocaine Anonymous

When individuals leave treatment, it is vital they have a support framework in place. Consistent involvement in support groups is a key strategy to help prevent a relapse. These groups link recovering addicts with veterans who have once battled and overcome this disease. They provide valuable insight and advice to those who are just out of rehab as they understand how challenging the path to rehabilitation can be.

There are several support groups that are explicitly dedicated to those suffering from drug abuse. Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous are two such support groups widely found across the US. Many groups have branches throughout the country and utilize a 12-step program to provide recovering cocaine addicts a course of action for long-term sobriety.

Ongoing Recovery

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a standard way of helping people with addictions. Cognitive-behavioral therapists help patients recognize negative feelings regarding themselves and the circumstances in which they may feel the urge to use cocaine again. Patients will learn coping mechanisms to banish relapse-oriented thoughts and avoid tempting situations through this therapy. This therapy method offers people a sense of control and responsibility, a feeling that is important for remaining focused and keeping cocaine away once and for all.

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