Cocaine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Cocaine is highly addictive because it is a central nervous system stimulant. Cocaine addiction and dependency can manifest in a variety of signs and symptoms. Learn how to recognize the cocaine addiction signs and get help.

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Cocaine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Cocaine is highly addictive because it is a central nervous system stimulant. Cocaine addiction and dependency can manifest in a variety of signs and symptoms. Learn how to recognize the cocaine addiction signs and get help.

Table of Contents

Am I Addicted to Cocaine?

Addiction, as well as the rate of addiction, can vary depending on several biological factors. As a result, determining whether you have an addiction to cocaine can be difficult, especially if the manifestation of physical signs has been mild or absent. A short self-assessment, whether professionally guided or not, can be beneficial in determining whether the following cocaine addiction signs are present. 

Cocaine Cravings

One of the most noticeable signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction is frequent, intense cravings. When the body becomes accustomed to the presence of cocaine, there is a high probability for it to develop a dependency on the substance. Cocaine can alter biological chemicals, especially in the brain, and it is highly addictive.

If an extended time has passed between dose administration, the body can enter the withdrawal period of early detoxification. This period can result in a variety of physical and psychological addictions, including cravings.

However, while frequent and intense cravings are a more noticeable symptom of cocaine addiction, cravings can also be subtle. The severity often depends on the frequency of administration and the dose administered. Extended periods of use can also create more severe symptoms such as cravings due to the body’s developed dependency. 


Like many other substances classified as stimulants, cocaine may increase energy, decrease fatigue, and cause an overall feeling of restlessness. Central nervous system stimulants directly affect the chemistry of the brain, and restlessness can often co-exist with other symptoms, such as insomnia or decreased mental health. 

Inability to Stop

The most common symptom of cocaine addiction is the inability to stop using the substance. This issue is due to the withdrawal stage, which can include intense cravings as mentioned above as well as a variety of other negative effects.   

Negative Impact on Quality of Life

The psychological and physiological effects of cocaine abuse can greatly decrease day-to-day quality of life. Active administration can cause feelings of isolation and disconnect with an increased risk for medical emergencies while withdrawal can cause mental and physical distress. 


One side effect that is seen often in all stimulants, including those prescribed for different medical treatments, is increased anxiety. This anxiety is due to the alteration of natural brain chemistry, as well as the mental “boost” that stimulants can provide. 

What are the Short-term Effects of Cocaine Abuse?

Short-term effects of cocaine abuse can either occur while the substance is active within the body or immediately after. These effects include the following issues: 


Behavioral effects can begin within minutes of a dose. Smaller doses can cause typical stimulant effects, such as feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and decreased appetite or need for sleep. Large doses, however, can cause erratic or even violent behavior that can be dangerous to the induvial and others. 


Even when used infrequently, cocaine abuse can lead to necrosis, which is the death of skin cells.1 This issue can cause large red or dark-colored patches along the hands, ears, and other extremities, as well as an increased risk for infection.2

The injection of liquid cocaine can also increase the risk for skin infections, as well as the spread of illness. 


Cocaine, especially when combined with other substances, can alter normal cardiovascular functions, which leads to changes in respiration, including slowed or halted breathing, which can be fatal. This factor is seen most often during a cocaine overdose


Since cocaine impacts the central nervous system, it can also cause psychological effects. One of the most common is panic, which can occur along with anxiety and paranoia. This effect usually occurs with larger doses but can occur anytime cocaine is administered. 

Abnormal Behavior

For some, cocaine abuse can lead to abnormal and even dangerous behavior. It is often elicited by a sense of grandeur or increased reckless which can occur with administration. Abnormal behavior can also consist of panic and other psychological conditions. 

What are the Long-term Effects of Cocaine Abuse?

Other than psychological effects such as dependency and addiction, long-term cocaine abuse can also cause other harmful effects.  


As a central nervous system stimulant, cocaine can increase certain amounts of brain chemicals, such as dopamine. Since the body depends on a balance of chemicals to organize its circadian rhythm, cocaine can lead to a variety of sleep-related issues, which can translate into day-to-day fatigue. 


With long-term exposure, cocaine can permanently damage certain areas of the brain, which can lead to the development of co-occurring mental conditions, including anxiety.  


Like anxiety, depression is another common long-term side effect of cocaine abuse. With cocaine addiction, the body grows used to the elevated levels of dopamine and other significant brain chemicals. As a result, any time that the substance is not active in the body, it can cause a sharp drop, which with time can lead to the development of depression. 


All stimulants have the potential to cause insomnia, especially when these substances are misused or otherwise abused. This issue is due to the surge of hyperactivity and increased energy they can cause in the body, as well as a psychologically decreased need for sleep. 

Delayed Thinking

Over time, cocaine abuse can impair psychological processes, including thinking and decision-making. This can greatly decrease day-to-day quality of life and make otherwise ordinary tasks difficult to complete.

This symptom has been shown to persist even after frequent administration has stopped. 


While cocaine is a substance designed to impact the central nervous system, it can also lead to a variety of negative effects throughout the body, especially the cardiovascular system.3 Cocaine abuse can lead to overall decreased blood pressure and flow in certain areas of the body, and it also has the potential to lead to heart failure and seizures. 


The above effects are examples of long-term physiological problems that can occur with a cocaine abuse disorder. However, other physiological problems can occur, especially in the nasal cavity and respiratory system.

These types of symptoms occur most often when cocaine is snorted. Nasal administration leads to more intense effects with a rapid onset, but it can also wear away fragile membranes and tissues. 

How Does Cocaine Abuse Affect Mental Health?

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An additional long-term effect of cocaine abuse is a decrease in mental health, which can manifest in many ways, including anxiety and depression. It can also cause a physiological impact on mental health by directly affecting the nervous system and the physiology of the brain. 

Central Nervous System

The main source of mental health changes because of cocaine use is due to the alteration of natural brain chemistry, which includes influxes of significant chemicals such as dopamine.


As a stimulant, one of the defining characteristics of cocaine is an increase in energy. It comes from an increase in neurochemical dopamine, which impacts how the brain and neurons communicate.4


An increase in dopamine can also lead to feelings of euphoria. It can lead to a false sense of grandeur or elevated happiness, which can disappear suddenly as the substance is eliminated from the body.

Mood Swings

With the fluctuation of neurochemicals, mood swings are a significant part of cocaine’s effects on mental health. During active exposure, cocaine can lead to elevated positive emotions, which then result in negative emotions, such as periods of depression, as cocaine is metabolized and eliminated from the body. 

Anti-Reward System

Long-term substance abuse can interfere with how the body naturally responds to stimuli. As a result, anti-reward-system-based therapies are often needed to help rewire the brain for natural function, in which chemical elevations, such as that with dopamine, are restricted to natural events rather than appearing as the result of substance use disorders. 

Impact on Cocaine Withdrawal

The mental effects developed as a result of cocaine abuse can make the withdrawal process difficult. This aspect is due to the development of co-occurring diagnoses which can act as triggers and make certain cocaine withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, more severe. Cocaine withdrawal can also lead to psychosis. 

How Long Does Cocaine Psychosis Last?

Cocaine-induced psychosis is a temporary condition. Most often, cocaine psychosis develops and manifests at different stages, though the brevity of these stages and the severity of the symptoms may vary. 

Stages of Cocaine Psychosis


The early stage of cocaine psychosis may cause hardly noticeable symptoms. These symptoms are common and can occur any time the body is exposed to a substance and can include symptoms such as agitation or paranoia. It is often a gradual decline that can lead to the acute stage.


The acute stage is where notable psychosis begins to emerge. During this stage, the patient may experience hallucinations, extreme mood swings, delusions, or confused thinking. Acute psychosis can be distressing and usually requires medical intervention.


With the use of effective treatment, most patients usually do not experience a second psychosis episode. Some acute symptoms may still be apparent during the recovery stage, but psychosis is a temporary and treatable condition, and those too will pass with time.  

Type and Cause

Cocaine psychosis is a type of temporary psychiatric withdrawal symptom that may occur.

The most common cause of cocaine psychosis is the dopamine deficiency that occurs during the detoxification period. As the body begins to go through withdrawal and revert to its natural brain chemistry, it can often cause a variety of side effects – psychosis included. These are usually temporary conditions though that will pass once the substance is fully metabolized and eliminated from the body. 

How to Find Treatment for Cocaine Addiction?

The first step to learning how to treat cocaine addiction is to understand that an addiction is present. Afterward, there are several different routes of treatment to pursue, each one with unique formats that may be best suited for some patients over others. Reaching out to a professional for guidance during this time is recommended to ensure the best possible treatment plan is chosen to help ensure a successful recovery. 

Seek Professional Help

Recovering from cocaine addiction can be more than difficult; in some instances, depending on the severity of addiction, it can be dangerous to undergo alone. A medical professional can aid in finding the right treatment for each individual while supervising to ensure a healthy and safe recovery. 

Integrated Treatment

Integrated treatment is a complex form of rehabilitation treatment. Most often, this term describes using two or more forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy utilizing medication to treat cocaine addiction and withdrawal, to treat multiple co-occurring conditions.

Since cocaine addiction can often be caused by a variety of pre-existing conditions or can lead to the development of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia, integrated treatment helps reduce the risk of relapse by treating all variables of a cocaine abuse disorder. 

Post Treatment Counseling

Even after professional treatment, counseling can aid in continuing in recovery while helping to prevent relapse. Counseling allows individuals to recount situations and circumstances in a safe environment with the guidance of a professional, improving chances for long-term recovery.  

Support Groups

Support groups can be one of the most beneficial tools for recovery, especially in those seeking out-patient treatment. Anonymous groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, provide a way to connect with individuals in similar situations and develop new coping mechanisms and perspectives. 

Lifestyle Modifications

While professional help is highly recommended when recovering from cocaine abuse, some steps can be taken by the individual of their own accord. These changes include lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding relapse triggers by changing environments. 

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention can come in many forms, or even a combination of different treatments. For many people looking to recover from a substance abuse disorder, especially cocaine abuse, a combination of support groups, psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and either in- or out-patient treatments have proven beneficial. 

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