Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Rehab

Cocaine is a widely used recreational drug in the United States. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 5.2 million people aged 12 or older (1.9%) used cocaine in the past year, with the highest use rates among young adults ages 18-25.1 Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug, and it is important to know that treatment for cocaine addiction is available and long-term recovery is possible.2

Continue reading to learn about the signs of cocaine use, the criteria used to diagnose cocaine addiction, the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, and the rehab options that are available to help you or your loved one.
Did you know most health insurance plans cover addiction treatment?
What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug with a high potential for addiction that people use illegally for recreational purposes.2 Derived from the coca plant that is grown in South America, cocaine is generally found as a white, powdery substance but is sometimes turned into crack cocaine, which looks like small, irregularly shaped white rocks.3

Cocaine is often mixed with things like cornstarch or flour by street dealers to make the amount of cocaine go further. Additionally, other drugs such as synthetic opioids like fentanyl are added to cocaine. This can be especially dangerous for a person who does not realize this has been added to the cocaine.2

Cocaine can be administered in the following ways:2

  • Snorted through the nose as a powder.
  • Consumed orally by rubbing into the gums.
  • Injected into the veins after being dissolved and mixed with water.
  • Smoked after cocaine is made into a crystal-like substance or rock called crack.

Signs of Cocaine Use

Woman with chest pain after using cocaine and runningSome of the signs of cocaine use include:2

  • High levels of energy.
  • Extreme happiness (i.e., euphoria).
  • Alertness.
  • Showing sensitivity to light and/or sounds.
  • Irritable mood.
  • Paranoia.
  • Restlessness.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Tremors.
  • Constricted blood vessels.
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure.
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat.

Cocaine has toxic effects on the body’s heart and cardiovascular system, and it is possible for a life-threatening or even fatal cocaine overdose to occur the first time a person uses cocaine or at another point during cocaine use.2,4

A cocaine overdose can result in life-threatening symptoms, including:2

  • Irregular heart rhythms (i.e., arrhythmias).
  • Heart attacks.
  • Strokes.
  • Seizures.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

While the symptoms of cocaine addiction may be helpful when deciding whether you or a loved one needs treatment, only a licensed professional can diagnose a substance use disorder.

For someone to be diagnosed with a cocaine or stimulant use disorder, a person needs to display a pattern of compulsive use of cocaine, despite knowing cocaine leads to negative outcomes that affect their daily functioning.5

The following diagnostic criteria from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) may indicate a stimulant use disorder, the diagnostic term for a cocaine addiction:6

  • Using more cocaine than originally intended.
  • Cocaine use leads to increased conflict with loved ones.
  • Using cocaine in risky situations, like while driving.
  • A lot of money, time, and resources are spent obtaining it, using it, and getting over the use of cocaine.
  • Numerous unsuccessful attempts to cut back on the use of cocaine, or to stop using it completely.
  • Use of cocaine causes one to give up things they used to enjoy and value, such as hobbies, sports, or other leisure pursuits.
  • Unable to fulfill responsibilities at home, school, and/or work due to cocaine use.
  • Experiencing strong urges, or cravings, to use cocaine.
  • Continued use of cocaine, despite knowing it makes mental health or physical condition worse.
  • A developed tolerance for cocaine, which means the body has adapted to the effects of cocaine and needs more and more of it to get the initial feelings it used to provide.
  • Withdrawal occurs when cocaine use is stopped or lessened.
Risk Factors for Cocaine Addiction

While anyone who uses cocaine is at risk of addiction, various risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing a cocaine addiction.

These risk factors include biological, environmental, and other factors including:5,7

  • Genetics: A person’s genes are estimated to account for around half of the risk of developing a substance use disorder. Having a parent or direct family member with addiction can increase a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Mental health disorders: Having certain mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, also increases the risk of addiction.
  • Exposure to drugs: Being exposed to drugs by family members or friends or experiencing peer pressure can create an increased risk for the development of addiction.
  • Stress: Not only a risk factor for substance use disorder, but stress is also a major risk factor for a drug use relapse.
  • Experiencing a traumatic event: Both physical and emotional trauma increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Using drugs at an early age: When an adolescent uses drugs, particularly when their brain is not fully developed, they are more likely to develop an addiction than someone who starts using drugs at a later age.

How a person uses cocaine can also increase the risk of developing an addiction. For example, smoking or injecting it is associated with a higher risk of addiction.5

Regardless of how cocaine is used, it is an addictive substance due to how cocaine affects the brain. Cocaine increases levels of dopamine, a neurochemical that is associated with pleasure and reward. This not only makes a person feel a great deal of pleasure when using cocaine but also reinforces continued use of the drug.2

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine use can have many long-term effects, both physical and psychological. Some of the long-term effects of cocaine can include:2

  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations, which means seeing or hearing things that are not real.
  • Nosebleeds, loss of smell, runny nose, or swallowing disorders if someone snorts cocaine.
  • Asthma, cough, increased risk of infections, and other respiratory diseases from smoking crack cocaine.
  • Severe bowel decay if someone uses cocaine orally.
  • An increased risk of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne infections if injecting cocaine, but also increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, as cocaine can impair judgment and result in risky and unsafe behavior.
  • Skin and tissue infections, as well as vein disorders if injecting cocaine.
  • Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Malnourishment.
Cocaine Comedown & Withdrawal

When someone uses cocaine in a binge use pattern (where escalating doses are taken regularly over a period of several hours or even days at a time), the acute withdrawal phase that follows is sometimes referred to as a “crash.”

“Coming down” or “crashing” from cocaine after binging for 2-3 days often results in a crash that begins with exhaustion, where a person may sleep for 24-48 hours, followed by feeling dysphoric (i.e., dissatisfied, uneasy, and unhappy) and other withdrawal symptoms.8

Acute withdrawal for someone who used cocaine chronically may or may not begin with a period of excessive sleep, and withdrawal symptoms may manifest themselves differently than in a binge user. They may experience severe withdrawal symptoms for several days and less severe symptoms for 1-3 weeks.8

How long cocaine stays in the body varies from one person to another, but oftentimes, the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal start 24 hours after the last use and can last for several days. Mood-related symptoms may wax and wane or persist for a period of several days or weeks following acute withdrawal.8

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may include:2,9

  • Depressed mood.
  • Anxiety.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia, and/or hypersomnia.
  • Nightmares.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Sluggish thinking.
  • Strong appetite.
  • Urges and cravings to use cocaine again.
  • Paranoia.

Thankfully, there is help for cocaine addiction and withdrawal.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment & Rehab Options

man standing and talking to a group in therapySeveral behavioral therapies are used to treat cocaine addiction. During addiction treatment, you may participate in any number of the following forms of therapy:10

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Patients develop skills that support long-term recovery by recognizing maladaptive thoughts and emotions that lead to using substances and then changing their behavior patterns. They also learn to recognize triggers and alternative coping skills that don’t include substance use.
  • Contingency management (CM): Also called motivational incentives, this type of therapy rewards patients for remaining abstinent from drugs. Clinical trials of contingency management have shown it to be particularly effective in treating stimulant use disorders.11
  • Community-based mutual-help or recovery groups: 12-Step groups, like Cocaine Anonymous, and other mutual-help groups offer support from others going through similar challenges and situations.

At River Oaks Treatment Center—an inpatient rehab near Tampa—we offer a full continuum of care, including:

  • Medical detox: For many, this is an important first step in treating addiction. During an inpatient detox program, you’ll be supported by a medical team 24/7 to help you safely withdraw from a substance and get it out of your system. Detoxing from cocaine and other drugs of dependence is often the first step in a person’s journey to recovery and it prepares them for more formal inpatient or outpatient rehab treatment.9
  • Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab: During inpatient rehab, you’ll reside 24/7 in a supervised environment and receive individual and group therapy, and participate in structured activities throughout the day.
  • Outpatient addiction treatment: River Oaks offers multiple levels of outpatient treatment, ranging from a few hours, a couple of days each week, to as much as 20 hours per week. Outpatient treatment offers the same interventions as inpatient treatment but allows you the opportunity to attend school or work, as you can go home after treatment is completed each day.

How to Get Into Rehab for Cocaine Addiction

At River Oaks, we make getting into rehab for cocaine addiction a simple process. Just call one of our caring admissions navigators at to start the admissions process. You can also begin the treatment admissions process by .

Our admissions team will go over various ways to pay for rehab, and can also walk you through the process of using insurance to pay for rehab.

Prior to starting treatment, each patient is evaluated by our clinical team. This information is used to develop an individualized treatment plan to treat your substance use disorder. Recovery is possible. Reach out for help today.

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