Symptoms of Cocaine Use

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Recognizing the symptoms of cocaine abuse and addiction could help you or a loved one connect with professional treatment at the right level of intensity.

Today’s guide highlights the diagnostic criteria for cocaine addiction and explores the most common signs of cocaine addiction and symptoms of substance use disorders apparent to others.

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Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is a stimulant narcotic derived from the coca plant and classified as a schedule II controlled substance. Like all schedule II drugs, cocaine has some medical utility partnered with a high potential for abuse and addiction. 

Ingesting cocaine delivers an intense and exhilarating high with NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reporting that cocaine fiercely addictive. 

While data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) shows that past-month cocaine use and past-year cocaine use are on the decline in the United States, cocaine addiction in the form of stimulant use disorder increased from 1 million U.S. adults (NSDUH 2019) to 1.3 million (NSDUH 2020). Among these, almost 500,000 engaged with inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Cocaine addiction often develops rapidly, whether the drug is smoked, snorted, or injected. Crack cocaine – a freebase form of the drug smoked in glass pipes – delivers even more intense effects than powdered cocaine. Crack is especially addictive. 

Chronic cocaine use will cause tolerance to form. When this occurs, the effects of the drug will be diminished, prompting many people to use more cocaine or to use the drug more frequently. These abusive patterns of consumption cause physical dependence to develop. Dependence on cocaine is characterized by cravings for cocaine, withdrawal symptoms in its absence, and the need to use the drug to function normally. 

Abusing cocaine long-term triggers changes to the structure and function of the brain, and can also lead to a cocaine overdose

Addiction to cocaine can involve physical dependence, psychological addiction, or both. It is the psychological component of cocaine addiction that is most troublesome for many attempting to detox and withdraw from this powerful narcotic stimulant. 

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction?

Many signs and symptoms indicate the possibility of a cocaine addiction. 

The clinical term for cocaine addiction is substance use disorder, specifically stimulant use disorder. The diagnostic criteria for stimulant use disorder are outlined in DSM-5-TR, the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by APA (American Psychiatric Association). 

For a diagnosis of stimulant use disorder, a physician or mental health professional will ask you variations on these questions concerning your use of cocaine over the past year: 

  1. Control: Do you often use more cocaine than planned or use cocaine for longer than intended?
  2. Tolerance: Do you now need more cocaine to achieve the same effects?
  3. Moderation: Have you tried and failed to moderate or discontinue your use of cocaine?
  4. Time: Are you spending lots of time obtaining and using cocaine?
  5. Neglected interests: Do you spend less time doing things you once enjoyed in favor of using cocaine?
  6. Dangerous behaviors: Do you frequently use cocaine in potentially hazardous situations?
  7. Cravings: Have you ever experienced intense cravings for cocaine?
  8. Personal and professional problems: Is your use of cocaine causing problems in your personal and professional life?
  9. Withdrawal: Do withdrawal symptoms manifest when the effects of cocaine wear off?
  10. Physical and mental health: Are you still using cocaine even though it is causing or inflaming a physical or mental health condition.
  11. Relationships: Are you continuing to use cocaine despite your substance use causing problems in your closest relationships?

Cocaine addiction (stimulant use disorder) is diagnosed as: 

  • Mild stimulant use disorder if 2 or 3 symptoms present.
  • Moderate stimulant use disorder if 4 or 5 symptoms present.
  • Severe stimulant use disorder if 6 or more symptoms present.
An image of a man experiencing the adverse symptoms of cocaine use

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

All addictions to cocaine are unique, but there are many telltale indicators of substance use disorder. These can be categorized as: 

  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Psychological symptoms
  • Physical symptoms

Behavioral symptoms

  • Stealing money
  • Trying to borrow money
  • Neglecting personal or professional obligations
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Talking excessively
  • Dishonesty regarding activities
  • Prioritizing friends who use addictive substances
  • Impulsive, reckless behaviors
  • Spending large chunks of time using cocaine
  • Inability to control cocaine use
  • Combining other substances with cocaine
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities
  • Using cocaine despite adverse outcomes

Psychological symptoms 

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Excessive confidence
  • Impaired decision making
  • Psychosis

Physical symptoms

  • Restlessness
  • High energy levels
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Persistent nosebleeds
  • Breathing problems
  • Diminished appetite
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Raised body temperature
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Tolerance
  • Blackouts
  • Heart attack

How to Stop Cocaine Addiction

In almost all cases of cocaine addiction and withdrawal, symptoms can be best managed in a licensed medical detox center. 

Engaging with a supervised medical detox will make the cocaine withdrawal process as safe and comfortable as possible. 

Some people with mild or moderate cocaine addictions find that most withdrawal symptoms dissipate within a day or two. The symptoms experienced during more severe cocaine withdrawal can persist for four or five days, seldom lasting for more than a week. 

Although you cannot benefit from medications to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, you will have emotional care on hand, helping you to resist cravings for cocaine without succumbing to temptation and relapsing. 

If you are concerned about cocaine addiction, you should first consult your healthcare provider. Voice your concerns and ask for a referral to a mental health professional or addiction specialist. Inquire about the most effective forms of treatment for cocaine withdrawal and recovery. 

You should also share your struggle with trusted loved ones. Asking for help and support can strengthen your chances of getting back on track rather than slipping back into active cocaine addiction. 

Ask friends and family if they can recommend an addiction treatment facility. With 40 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with substance use disorder, there is a strong chance that someone in your social network may suggest suitable rehab centers. 

You could consider joining a peer-support group like Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Attending local group meetings allows you to share your experiences with others battling addiction to cocaine or other drugs. 

Research indicates that the majority of mild and moderate cocaine addictions respond just as well to intensive outpatient therapy as inpatient treatment. Both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) should provide a robust framework with sufficient structure and support to initiate your recovery. 

The absence of approved medications for the treatment of cocaine addiction means that behavioral interventions are typically the primary therapies. 

According to SAMHSA, the following treatments are advisable for cocaine addiction treatment: 

  • Psychotherapies: Psychotherapy is the clinical descriptor for talk therapies. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is proven effective for the treatment of addictions and mental health disorders. When applied to the treatment of cocaine use disorder, you’ll discover how to identify and avoid the people, places, and things that trigger you to use cocaine. Your therapist will also help you to develop and implement healthier coping mechanisms to cope with stressors in your everyday life without resorting to substance abuse or alcohol abuse.
  • Contingency management: Abusing a stimulant like cocaine interferes with the reward circuitry in your brain. Contingency management is a behavioral intervention that incentivizes positive and healthy behaviors with small rewards. Researchers have found that contingency management can be effective for the treatment of substance use disorders like cocaine addiction.
  • Community reinforcement: Community reinforcement is an intervention that will guide you toward building a supportive social network of sober friends to help you streamline your ongoing recovery from cocaine addiction.
  • Motivational interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a type of behavioral intervention often beneficial in the early phase recovery from cocaine use disorder. A therapist will help you to conquer feelings of uncertainty concerning your recovery. This should help you to create a more optimistic and positive outlook.

If you feel you require cocaine addiction rehab to help kickstart your recovery, finding the right facility can be overwhelming. 

Here at California’s drug rehab, you can benefit from treatment at all levels on ASAM’s continuum of care, including residential rehab. 

view from california detox 30 day inpatient rehab

Help with Cocaine Addiction at California Detox

The scope and severity of your cocaine addiction, as well as any co-occurring mental health conditions, will dictate the most appropriate level of care. We provide all types of outpatient programs, including IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). Additionally, we offer inpatient programs for those requiring more structured residential treatment. 

Anyone with cocaine addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder like depression or anxiety can engage with integrated dual diagnosis treatment at our luxury California rehab center. 

You can build the strongest foundation for ongoing recovery from cocaine addiction by engaging with our medical detox program before transitioning into the main phase of treatment. Here, you’ll have access to a personalized array of these research-backed therapies

  • Psychotherapies
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Contingency management
  • Community reinforcement
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Family therapy

Our programs are designed to offer you support all the way from detox to discharge and into sustained sobriety. Fight back against cocaine addiction by calling admissions today at 949.567.8790.


Some of the most common symptoms of cocaine use include agitation, excessive confidence, restlessness, high energy, raise body temperature, breathing problems, and more.
If you notice your or a loved one are dealing with cocaine withdrawal symptoms, seek out professional help as soon as possible.


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