Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant made from the coca plant that is native to South America. It is most often sold as a fine white powder that is snorted into the nose, rubbed into the gums, or dissolved in water and injected with a needle. The drug can also be found as a solid rock crystal that can be heated up so users can breathe the smoke into their lungs.
More About Cocaine
Cocaine users find that the drug drastically increases the brain’s levels of dopamine, a natural chemical messenger in the body. This creates intense feelings of energy and alertness. Users may also experience an extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and sight.
Slang terms for cocaine include coke, snow, blow, rock, and crack.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
One study found that the risk of someone becoming addicted to cocaine is 5% after the first use but continues to increase every time the individual uses the drug. Some signs that your loved one might be addicted to cocaine include:
- Experiencing cravings for the drug
- Suffering from withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, concentration problems, and fatigue when unable to use
- Believing cocaine is required to feel normal or to complete daily activities
- Combining cocaine with alcohol or other addictive substances in search of a stronger high
- Financial problems due to the amount of money spent on cocaine
- Declining performance at work or school
- Trouble maintaining relationships with friends and family
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene
- Sudden weight loss
- Seeming to require very little sleep
- Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather to cover needle marks
- Increased risk-taking behavior
- Lack of interest in past hobbies or previously enjoyed activities
Long-Term Risks Associated with Cocaine Use
Prolonged use of cocaine includes a number of serious health problems. Users have an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Cocaine use can also provoke seizures or exacerbate a preexisting seizure disorder.
Some risks are specific to the way in which cocaine is being used. If the drug is being snorted, it carries the risk of chronic nosebleeds, trouble swallowing, and loss of smell. If it’s being injected, there is an increased risk of HIV or hepatitis. If it’s being swallowed, there’s an increased risk of bowel decay.
Since cocaine is an illegal drug, it’s impossible to accurately determine its potency and purity. The drug can be cut with a wide range of substances, including caffeine, creatine, powdered laundry detergent, laxatives, or boric acid. This can result in accidental poisoning or permanent organ damage.
An overdose of cocaine can occur when a user with an increased tolerance to the drug takes more than what the body can handle. This causes the brain and body to become dangerously overstimulated and can lead to fatal cardiac complications. Profuse sweating, nausea, confusion, agitation, anxiety, and tremors are all common signs of an overdose. If you think a loved one has overdosed on cocaine, this is a medical emergency. Call 911 for assistance and provide as much information as you can about their symptoms and what substances you think they have taken.
Convincing Your Loved One to Get Help
Convincing someone with an addiction to seek treatment can be difficult. People with substance use disorders are often deeply in denial—especially if they have yet to experience a “rock bottom” moment such as a job loss, divorce, bankruptcy, or arrest.
If your loved one isn’t responding to your efforts to convince them to seek treatment, don’t give up. An intervention may be more effective than a one-on-one conversation. This is a structured meeting that allows a larger group of concerned individuals to share what behaviors they’ve witnessed, stress the need for treatment, and outline collectively agreed-upon consequences for refusing to get help. Refer to our How to Plan an Intervention article for tips.
How We Can Help
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s Pennsylvania substance abuse treatment center, we provide a full continuum of care designed to fit each client’s unique needs.
- Medically assisted detox helps remove abused substances from the body, manage the symptoms of the withdrawal, and establish a sober baseline.
- Individual, group, and family therapy helps clients learn to process past trauma, cope with unpleasant emotions without addictive substances, and build stronger relationships with others.
- Holistic services support the value of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and other elements of a wellness-focused lifestyle.
- 12-Step support promotes a deeper connection to the recovery community.
- Referrals to community-based resources help with the transition back to independent living.
No matter what’s happened in the past, there’s always hope for recovery. With our help, your loved one can begin working towards a future free from the burdens of addiction.