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How Addictive Is Cocaine?

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Medically reviewed: 12/17/2018
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When a person abuses cocaine, he or she is in great danger of becoming addicted. Cocaine itself is a highly addictive drug, and the more someone abuses it, the higher his or her chances become of developing a life-threatening drug problem.

The most addictive form of cocaine is crack cocaine. Taking only eight seconds to reach the brain, crack stimulates the brain’s pleasure and reward center to release a flood of dopamine that causes euphoria and increased energy. This same effect occurs with cocaine, but less intensely. No matter the form of the drug taken, tolerance soon develops, so that the user has to take more of the drug to experience the same high.

Repeated use of cocaine changes the way the brain’s reward and pleasure center works, so that the user prioritizes drug use over other people and pursuits in their life, as well as over survival basics like eating and sleeping. Cocaine quickly leads to addiction, and crack cocaine does so even faster—even after the first use.

However, snorting the drug still causes an intense and rapidly-developing addiction. The high from cocaine is short-lived and makes an individual feel extremely good before it wears off, at which point intense drug cravings begin, as does depression and an increasing inability to experience pleasure without drugs. This is why a person will abuse cocaine over and over, despite the terrible consequences they suffer as a result of their drug use.

Binge Abuse of Cocaine

Most cocaine abusers take the drug in what is called a binge-crash cycle, taking repeated doses of the drug in a short period, usually increasing the dose with each use. This is done to try and extend the brief period of the drug’s high, and to combat the growing tolerance that makes it increasingly difficult for the user to feel cocaine’s pleasurable effects. When the user finally stops, they will often sleep for an abnormally long time, and become irritable, anxious, and depressed, which will drive them to repeat this behavior.

Chronic use of this kind will inevitably lead to cocaine addiction, as the individual becomes compulsive about their drug use and feels unable to stop taking it, even if they very much want to.

What is Cocaine Withdrawal?

Cocaine withdrawal occurs when someone has become physically dependent on the drug, and the levels of cocaine in their system begin to decline.

Cocaine withdrawal causes symptoms such as:

  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Depressed moods that are so severe that users can become suicidal
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Slowing of activity
  • Intense cravings

Some of these withdrawal symptoms will subside after the first week or so that the individual goes without cocaine, but others tend to linger much longer than that, with depression and cravings that can potentially last for months. These issues make it very difficult for a person to stay away from the drug, as they may experience drug use triggers years after they’ve stopped using cocaine. This is why professional treatment followed by long term counseling and attendance at 12-step or peer support meetings is crucial for continued recovery from cocaine addiction.

Am I Addicted to Cocaine?

How addictive is cocaine? Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance that easily stimulates a compulsive desire to continue using the drug despite negative consequences—this is the core of what addiction is. If you are beginning to wonder about whether or not you have become addicted to cocaine, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I using cocaine chronically (in large amounts and often or every day)?
  • Do I need to take cocaine to feel happy, like myself, or normal?
  • Do I crave cocaine when I’m not currently on it?
  • Do I think about cocaine all the time?
  • Have I stopped spending time and money on other things to spend them on doing or obtaining more cocaine?
  • Have I ever put myself in a dangerous position to get more cocaine?
  • Do I only like to hang out with others who do cocaine?
  • Has the euphoric high of the drug become harder to obtain with the same dose?

This final question, when answered in the affirmative, is a sign of tolerance. Tolerance builds up in a person when he or she uses the drug often, making the same dosage less and less effective, and leading the user to take more cocaine to feel its effects. The more cocaine someone takes, the more at risk they are of doing something terrible they regret, or of having a fatal overdose.

Am I In Danger of Cocaine Addiction?

Any time you abuse cocaine, especially chronically, you are putting yourself in danger of becoming addicted. The drug itself is highly potent, and cravings become strong when you have been doing it for a while. You are in real danger of becoming addicted to cocaine if you:

  • Use cocaine every day
  • Become irritable when someone asks you about your cocaine use
  • Have become dependent on the drug to the point where you feel as if you need it

Even individuals with a mild cocaine problem should seek professional help to avoid developing a life-threatening addiction to the drug.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

The brain of someone addicted to cocaine begins craving the drug shortly after use begins, and it doesn’t take long for them to need to use cocaine just to feel normal. Coming down from use causes an intense depression and an inability to enjoy a life that further intensifies the desire to use cocaine.

The initial pleasure felt by people using cocaine is strong enough for them to ignore negative short-term effects such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
  • Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
  • Tactile hallucination that creates the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time)

How Do I Seek Help for Cocaine Addiction?

If you believe you are addicted or may be addicted to cocaine, seek treatment immediately. Cocaine withdrawal is not an easy process and can sometimes leave people with cravings and depression for several months. Speak to an addiction expert today about your treatment options. Addiction to cocaine is hard to fight alone, but detox centers, rehab centers, and groups like Cocaine Anonymous are available to help you achieve recovery.