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Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction

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Medically reviewed: 12/17/2018
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions LLC

Cocaine is the second most widely used illegal drug worldwide, second only to cannabis. It owes its popularity to the intense feeling of wellbeing it produces – a feeling which is highly addictive.

From the first-time cocaine is used, the drug will affect a user’s behavior. Here we have some of the common behavioral side effects of cocaine.

Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Use

Euphoria

Extreme joy is a common symptom of cocaine use which people miss. The level of happiness shown may seem natural, but it will often develop for no apparent reason. Ask the individual why they’re happy, and the chances are they won’t have an answer.

Hyperactivity

During this period of joy, a person using cocaine will also move quickly in everything they do. They will have difficulty sitting down or sitting still and will be noticeably restless. Furthermore, they will not only be hyperactive in how they move and react, but also in how they speak. They may be extremely talkative, and some people will even have a changed tone of voice. People with deeper voices tend to experience this more than those with higher pitched voices.

Mood Swings

These surges in happiness are often followed by dips in mood as the drug wears off. For some, this will manifest as fatigue or sadness, but others will show irritability and hostility. They may be able to find something to blame for the emotions they are feeling, but the actual source is a physical reaction to the ups and downs of cocaine use.

Changes in Sleeping and Eating Patterns

Someone using cocaine will have a suppressed appetite and will go through cycles of insomnia and oversleeping. They usually lose weight without trying and may develop dark circles around their eyes.

Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Abuse

Frequent Disappearances

As the high from cocaine only lasts for a short period, someone who’s abusing cocaine will want another hit almost immediately. This will happen time and again. To refuel, they will retreat to a bathroom or other secluded location for a few minutes.

Emotional Instability

Unexplainable mood swings, aggression, depression, suicidal tendencies, and frequent outbursts of anger are common side effects of cocaine abuse. The nerves and emotions of a cocaine abuser become progressively more unstable the longer they use cocaine and the more cocaine they use. Cocaine intoxication disrupts communications between the brain and central nervous system and the accumulation of problematic neurological malfunctions become like faulty wiring in an electrical system so that you never know when the person will lose control.

Depression

Chronic cocaine abuse will deplete the supply of dopamine in the brain while simultaneously causing the brain to produce less dopamine as time goes on. This results in the individual having difficulty experiencing any pleasure at all unless they are using cocaine. As this dependence continues, depression becomes a common experience, especially when compounded with the added sense of guilt and shame that cocaine abusers often suffer. These feelings also tend to become “triggers” to use more cocaine, and when combined with depression, may even lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

Anxiety and Nervousness

Anxiety and nervousness are among the most common side effects of cocaine abuse. Cocaine overstimulates the central nervous system in an artificial “fight or flight” response. Early on in use, this stimulation can cause a pleasurable surge in energy and sense of invincibility, but as the individual develops a tolerance to cocaine’s euphoric effects, they will start to experience the stimulation as nervousness, anxiety, and even panic.

Paranoia

Cocaine abuse signs that are indicative of impaired psychological functioning often take the form of paranoia and suspicion. These effects tie into the “fight-or-flight” response, and will eventually warp a person’s reasoning abilities. When a person feels so physically certain of inherent danger, they naturally scan their surroundings for a reason, which makes them increasingly paranoid.

Cognitive Changes

Negative cognitive changes are inevitable for cocaine abusers. The person may begin to suffer memory loss, difficulty focusing and making decisions, and become increasingly unable to think logically. This will lead to problems at school or work, as well as with their ability to interact normally with loved ones.

A Decline in Personal Hygiene

While a person abusing cocaine is losing weight and showing other signs of deteriorating health, their appearance will also suffer due to neglected personal grooming and hygiene.

Impulse Control

As the brain grows more dependent on cocaine’s effects, drug cravings start to alter the individual’s self-control. They may lose their inhibitions and engage in dangerous activities such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence. They may even commit crimes to get money or drugs, or merely because they were unable to recognize and check a bad impulse.

Aggression

Over time, the energy surges associated with cocaine “highs” start to affect a person’s overall personality, as do the changes to their neurotransmitter system. Unusually hostile and aggressive behavior displays appear more and more often the longer a person continues to use.

Violence

Ongoing norepinephrine and serotonin chemical imbalances in the brain can have drastic effects on a person’s emotional health. Closely tied to impulse control problems and increased paranoia and aggression, violent displays of behavior are often a prime indicator of developing psychiatric disorders.

Psychotic Symptoms

Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia develop in 68 to 84 percent of cocaine addicts. These cocaine abuse signs can last anywhere from a few hours to days or weeks at a time. Psychotic symptoms indicate a significant decline in cognitive function has taken place. Some users will see or hear things that aren’t there, engage in obsessive/compulsive behaviors, or suffer tactile hallucinations, such as the sensation of bugs crawling on or under the skin. Picking at the skin, face, or obsessive hair plucking hair is another sign of cocaine abuse that can visibly damage the person’s appearance. Furthermore, after a person has experienced a psychotic episode due to chronic, high doses of cocaine, they are made vulnerable to experiencing another, more severe psychotic episode after taking a much smaller dose of cocaine.

Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Evidence of Cocaine

Although drug addiction tends to be accompanied by secretive behavior, once someone is addicted to cocaine, they may accidentally become careless about concealing the evidence of their drug use, and you may notice signs of it in their home. Cocaine is usually stored and delivered in small plastic baggies with zipper closures. Depending on how they are administering the drug there will be some equipment being used. Some of the items to look for are:

  • Mirrors
  • Razor blades
  • Glass pipes
  • Plastic straws or rolled up dollar bills
  • Miniscule spoons

Isolation from Family or Loved Ones

As cocaine addiction takes over an individual’s life, the people that they once made a priority start to take second place to the addiction. The addict will drift away emotionally and physically, especially if loved ones have started to notice signs of drug addiction. Cocaine addicts will become secretive and may often lie to hide their drug use to avoid confrontational issues with loved ones who would discourage it. They may also isolate themselves during the lows that hit after a binge and while going through withdrawals. Depression, loss of interest, guilt, and excessive stress can also be reasons that a person addicted to cocaine ignores the people they love.

Changes in Associations

While a person addicted to cocaine is isolating themselves from family and friends, they will also be developing new relationships outside of their normal social circle. They do this not only to enjoy social activities and engagement with other people who use cocaine but also to maintain access to drug suppliers and dealers.

Lack of Interest in Activities

Cocaine addiction can consume all facets of a person’s life. For this reason, they may begin to eliminate the activities and hobbies they previously enjoyed. They may do this because they now want nothing more than to get high, but they may also drop these activities due to declining health, increased depression and anxiety, or problems with cognitive function.

Borrowing or Stealing Money

Cocaine is a very expensive drug that can cause the addict to develop major financial difficulties. A person who was once responsible for their money may start to be unable to pay their bills or to provide the necessary food or clothing to dependents. It is very common for a cocaine addict to sell or pawn their possessions or their loved ones’ possessions to get the money to continue feeding their addiction.

Engaging in Risky Behavior

From violence to unprotected sex, a person who is addicted to cocaine may make decisions that could lead them towards many types of trouble. The use of cocaine, in particular, can lead to uncontrolled and dangerous actions stemming from cognitive decline, impulsivity problems, and aggression and paranoia. Financial problems combined with a tendency towards risk-taking can easily result in criminal behavior and trouble with the law. Individuals may get arrested, fired, or expelled, and yet continue to use cocaine.

When an individual persists in drug-seeking and using behavior in the face of negative consequences resulting from cocaine use, they are suffering from a serious addiction, and need intensive professional help to recover. Speak to an expert today to learn how to quit cocaine abuse today.