Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a common problem in America. Each year, millions struggle with the lasting impacts of cocaine use.

What is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is considered a substance with a high potential for misuse and severe psychological or physical dependence. For this reason, cocaine remains classified as a Schedule II controlled substance illegal throughout the United States. One-time cocaine use or experimentation can quickly turn into a pattern of misuse, leading to cocaine addiction.

As the effects of cocaine are very intense yet short-lived, people often take more of the drug to achieve the high they remember from the first time they used. This type of use inevitable spiral causes the body and mind to build up a tolerance making stopping difficult, if not impossible, without help.


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What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is made from coca plant leaves. These plants are native to South America. Once extracted from the cocoa plant, cocaine appears as a white powdery substance that can be ingested in various ways. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 15% of Americans have tried cocaine at least once.

Street Names

Cocaine goes by several other names, including coke, crack, and blow, among others. Cocaine is classified as a stimulant, meaning it increases alertness and energy. The drug affects the brain’s neural pathways, making one feel talkative, euphoric, and often overly energetic.

How Is Cocaine Used?

Cocaine addiction can be physical, meaning that your body craves the drug, but it can also be mental, which means one develops intense cravings for its effects. As previously noted, cocaine can be consumed in a variety of ways. Due to its powdery nature, it can be inhaled through the nose or liquefied and injected into a vein. It can also be injected via genital or rectal roots.

In addition, cocaine can be processed into a form called crack cocaine and smoked. Crack cocaine is a combination of powdered cocaine, water, and (usually) baking soda. When the mixture is boiled, it crystallizes into a solid form that is sold as crack. The name is derived from the sound the material makes when heated and smoked.1

The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse

Via any of these methods, cocaine addiction or crack cocaine addiction can occur quickly, in some cases, after just one use. Another way people use cocaine is by combining heroin and cocaine. This practice is called speedballing and is said to create a more powerful, longer-lasting high.2 This practice significantly increases the risk for overdose or significant vital organ damage.

Cocaine is a commonly abused drug in the United States. In 2018, cocaine was the second most common illicit drug linked to overdose fatalities across the nation. Cocaine addiction statistics provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) showed more than six million Americans used it or began using cocaine in 2018.3

Cocaine Addiction Causes and Effects

There is no singular cause that leads to cocaine addiction. Researchers believe a range of factors contributes to someone becoming addicted to cocaine. Potential risk factors include genetics, physical predisposition, environmental factors (stress, early experimentation, poverty, family history of use, etc.), and social factors (peer pressure, availability, etc.).

Without early access to adequate, comprehensive cocaine addiction treatment, the long-term symptoms of cocaine use can lead to permanent, sometimes fatal consequences. For many, addiction, legal problems, new or worsening medical and mental health conditions, acute medical emergencies, and failing relationships are all effects of cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Use During Pregnancy

Some research estimates suggest approximately 5% of pregnant women abuse substances. Moreover, hospital data shows there are about 750,000 cocaine-exposed pregnancies annually.4 Cocaine use during pregnancy is frequently linked to several medical issues for the mom and her unborn baby.

Pregnant women who use cocaine are at an increased risk for migraines, seizures, premature membrane rupture (premature delivery), and placental separation. Cocaine use during pregnancy can also cause abnormally high blood pressure, spontaneous miscarriage, complicated delivery, and preterm labor.

Infants born to cocaine-addicted moms often have lower birth weights, smaller heads, and body measurements and are delivered prematurely. Because cocaine is found in breastmilk, breastfeeding mothers who use cocaine must seek cocaine addiction to help to overcome their addiction to avoid the risk of exposing their infant to cocaine while breastfeeding.5

Cocaine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

cocaine addiction

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Despite the difficult symptoms cocaine addiction can produce, it can be challenging to recognize cocaine addiction signs in a friend or loved one if you are unsure what to look for. The signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction occur in three forms: physical, psychological, and behavioral. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of cocaine use can help you ensure a friend or loved one receives the help they need to learn how to stop cocaine addiction.

Physical Signs

The first and easiest to spot cocaine use side effects are generally physical. These include:

Psychological Signs

Psychological symptoms that can occur soon after use include paranoia and improved concentration. Often, these early cocaine use effects begin to subside approximately thirty minutes after use. Someone struggling with a cocaine addiction will likely use more frequent doses to maintain the effects of cocaine on their body and brain.

Severe Effects

With long-term cocaine use, the impacts of cocaine use can turn deadly. When someone struggles with a long-term drug addiction like cocaine addiction, the drug’s effects on their body can be permanent. These include:

In addition, ongoing cocaine use can cause ongoing medical challenges that can require life-long treatment to manage. With prolonged use, cocaine addiction will inevitably affect most vital organs and body systems, including the stomach, digestive system, respiratory system, heart, lungs, and brain.

Cocaine Addiction Diagnosis and Warnings

Cocaine addiction is diagnosed when someone struggling with cocaine use seeks help at a cocaine rehab to address and overcome their addiction. When someone begins withdrawing from cocaine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. The presence of these symptoms when reducing or stopping cocaine use is another indicator of cocaine addiction.

When experiencing withdrawal, it is essential to seek professional help at a cocaine rehab to ensure someone is available to help reduce the potential for significant medical complications. One may experience several possible symptoms during withdrawal, including:

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Cocaine withdrawal does not usually lead to intense physical symptoms often experienced when detoxing from opioids or alcohol. It can, however, produce intense and overwhelming psychological symptoms that can be difficult to manage without treatment support. For this reason, detoxing from heroin at home may not be the safest or most effective way to overcome a cocaine addiction.


A rehab center specializing in treatment for cocaine addiction treatment generally focuses on teaching behavioral change through evidence-based addiction therapies. The most widely used behavioral therapy for cocaine addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT encourages participants to examine their harmful thoughts and behaviors to learn about the roots of their addiction and the safest and most effective ways to manage those behaviors. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for cocaine addiction; however, research is ongoing.6

Successfully overcoming cocaine addiction requires seeking help at a cocaine rehab specializing in cocaine addiction treatment and recovery. With the proper treatment, it is possible to put struggles with cocaine in the past and move forward on a healthy, sober path. If you (or a loved one) are ready to start your journey towards sobriety, contact a cocaine rehab near you to learn more about how their programs can help you.