10 Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Calendar icon Last Updated: 08/21/2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Cocaine is a powerful, highly addictive street drug that causes severe cocaine symptoms to occur. There are two different forms of cocaine: powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine is commonly known as “coke” or “blow,” while crack cocaine is known as “crack” or “rock.” Both forms of the drug produce unique and serious cocaine symptoms that can indicate cocaine addiction.

Here are 10 of the most common symptoms of cocaine addiction:

  1. Nasal problems
  2. Paranoia
  3. Skin infections & itching
  4. Heart problems
  5. Weight loss
  6. Isolation & loneliness
  7. Risky behavior
  8. Memory Loss
  9. Mood changes
  10. Movement disorders

1. Nasal Problems

Powdered cocaine is commonly snorted, which can irritate, inflame, and damage both the nasal cavity and throat. Frequent sniffing, sinus problems, allergies, reduced sense of smell, and recurring nosebleeds are just some common nasal problems that may indicate cocaine addiction. Nasal membrane irritation, nasal crusts, hoarseness, and difficulties with swallowing are other nasal problems triggered by cocaine addiction. Some chronic cocaine users may also go on to develop perforated septum and palate — holes in the nose and roof of the mouth caused by snorting cocaine.

2. Paranoia

Paranoia is found to occur in between 68 and 84% of cocaine users. Cocaine-induced paranoia is often temporary, can take various forms, and last anywhere from a few hours to several days or weeks. The most common type of paranoia experienced by those addicted to cocaine is believing that everyone knows what you are doing. Some who suffer paranoia may want to avoid being in public or around large groups of people and stay home for long periods unless they need to leave to obtain more cocaine.

3. Skin Infections

Cocaine can lead to skin infections due to the way this drug makes its users feel as though bugs are crawling beneath their skin. Clawing and scratching at the skin can cause wounds that may easily become infected. Skin infections may also occur due to other infections that enter the bloodstream through nasal injuries caused by snorting cocaine.

Some cocaine users combine the drug with heroin and inject it — an act known as speedballing. Those who inject cocaine can go on to develop skin infections caused by using dirty, contaminated needles.

4. Heart-Related Problems

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that constricts the blood vessels to increase heart rate and blood pressure — putting undue pressure on the entire cardiovascular system. Those who use cocaine tend to suffer heart-related problems as a result, even when heart problems don’t run in the family, or the user doesn’t have a history of heart problems. Heart attack, stroke, tearing of the aorta wall, myocarditis, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure are other serious heart-related problems that may arise from cocaine use and addiction.

5. Dramatic Weight Loss

The use of cocaine speeds up the central nervous system resulting in appetite suppression. These combined effects can make cocaine users lose a high amount of weight within a short period. Dramatic weight loss is one of the main reasons many people start using cocaine in the first place. When used regularly for a long time, cocaine can also lead to malnourishment on behalf of extreme weight loss.

6. Isolation

Many cocaine users tend to isolate and distance themselves from close friends and loved ones. Cocaine addiction can lead to isolation for some reasons — such as paranoia, depression, wanting to hide the addiction from others, and devoting more time to cocaine use than to long-held favorite activities.

7. Risky Behavior

Cocaine impairs judgment, which can lead to risky sexual behavior with partners who may be infected with HIV, hepatitis, and other serious diseases. Cocaine users also tend to engage in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence or combining cocaine with other dangerous substances like alcohol and heroin. Risky behavior is strongly tied to legal problems, which is a common symptom of addiction to any drug or substance.

8. Memory Loss

Studies have linked cocaine addiction to problems with cognition — such as deficits in attention, working memory, and declarative memory. Working memory is the part of short-term memory involved with perceptual and linguistic processing, while declarative memory is the memory of facts and events. In addition to memory loss, cocaine addiction may also cause impairments in emotional empathy along with social cognition and decision making. Some experts theorize that cocaine interacts with certain brain neurotransmitters in ways that cause serious damage to the brain and memory.

9. Mood Changes

Irritability, anxiety, and paranoia are common cocaine symptoms. Cocaine users will often go from being euphoric to acting irritable and anxious within a short period. When high on cocaine, users are full of energy and hyperactive, which strongly contrasts with their lack of energy and anxiety when not using cocaine.

Many cocaine addicts will also suffer depression when going through withdrawal. Mood changes are often the first clue that indicates cocaine addiction and are most noticeable by close friends and family.

10. Movement Disorders

Cocaine interferes with the brain’s dopamine levels in ways that increase the risk for a variety of movement disorders when used long-term over several years. In addition to its involvement in motivation and reward, dopamine is also involved with motor control, which is why cocaine addiction is linked to movement disorders. Tourette syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, acute dystonia, dyskinesias, and myoclonus are other common movement disorders associated with cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Addiction FAQs

How Addictive is Cocaine?

Cocaine is extremely addictive. It functions by increasing the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for a variety of positive feelings including increased energy, focus, and euphoria. However, this high wears off within a matter of 1-2 hours, which can result in the user doing more cocaine in order to keep the high going and the negative effects at bay. This results in a vicious cycle that can lead to rapid dependence and addiction – much quicker than for many other hard drugs.

Is Cocaine Physically or Psychologically Addictive?

Cocaine is both physically and psychologically addictive. The rush of dopamine it provides physically alters the amount of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, creating a physical dependence on the drug. At the same time, feelings of euphoria and other social cues (such as a stressful work environment or party) reinforce the psychological side of cocaine use, so users want to keep using to feel good in that environment.

How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted?

While there are many factors that can affect how quickly you get addicted to cocaine (genetics, life environment etc.), cocaine is generally considered to be one of the most addictive drugs. It is possible to develop an addiction within a few uses in a single night due to 3 main factors:

  1. How quickly cocaine enters the bloodstream and spikes dopamine levels
  2. How quickly the initial high wears off, prompting a user to take more
  3. How quickly the brain becomes desensitized to it due to physical changes in dopamine receptors

What Are Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Chills
  • Tremors and muscle spasms

How to Stop Cocaine Addiction

Due to its highly addictive nature, the best way to quit serious cocaine use is to seek professional addiction treatment help. Cocaine addiction is often made worse by environmental triggers (particularly other users), so one of the best ways to make it through the first 2 weeks of withdrawal is to remove yourself from the environment and get clean in a safe, controlled space.