Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Rehab

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. 1 Approximately 5 million individuals in the United States misused cocaine in 2020.2 In addition to cocaine being a powerfully addictive drug, cocaine use can be dangerous. Those who struggle with an addiction to cocaine may put themselves at risk for serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.
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What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which is grown in certain regions of South America.1 Illicitly manufactured cocaine is often found in a white powder form, and is commonly used by snorting, smoking, or injection.1 It is also common for people to mix cocaine with other substances, including heroin, which is a combination known as a speedball.1 Many people misuse cocaine for its reinforcing or rewarding effects, including euphoria and temporarily increased energy which can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.1

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Repeated misuse of cocaine, regardless of how it is consumed, can result in changes within our brain’s reward circuitry and, ultimately, addiction development.1 Part of the reason that cocaine can be so addictive is that its use is associated with a surge in dopamine activity. Dopamine is a neurochemical that is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward; when cocaine leads to increased levels of active dopamine in the brain, it serves to reinforce the continued use of the drug.1

Over time, our reward circuitry may adapt to being artificially stimulated by cocaine. As our bodies adapt to the presence of the drug, we may find ourselves needing to use an increasing amount of cocaine with more frequent doses to keep experiencing its pleasurable effects and to avoid experiencing withdrawal.1

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

While some people may begin to use cocaine only occasionally, with continued use many will begin to develop more compulsive patterns of use characteristic of a cocaine addiction.  While doctors or other healthcare professionals are best qualified to diagnose someone with a cocaine use disorder, there are signs that you might recognize in yourself or others that could indicate the need for further evaluation. As official diagnostic criteria, the potential signs of a cocaine use disorder include:3

  • Using larger amounts of cocaine than was originally planned and/or continuing to use it longer than intended.
  • Continued, unsuccessful efforts to stop or cut down on cocaine misuse.
  • Spending a lot of time, money, or other resources to obtain cocaine, use it, and recover from its use.
  • Cravings to use cocaine.
  • Failing to uphold responsibilities at home, work, or school as a result of cocaine use.
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite it causing social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up other important social or recreational activities to use cocaine instead.
  • Using cocaine in physically hazardous situations, such as while driving.
  • Continuing to use cocaine even though it is causing and/or making a medical or mental health issue worse.
  • Developing cocaine tolerance, which means more of the substance is needed to keep experiencing its effects.
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when unable to use.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction?

In the long-term, repeated cocaine use can have a major effect on an individual’s well being. Some of these effects can include:1,4

  • Chronic irritability, anxiety, and panic.
  • A temporary psychosis, which can include a loss of touch with reality, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, etc.
  • Malnourishment of the body and unhealthy weight loss, due to chronic loss of appetite from cocaine use.
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular problems (such as endocarditis, chronically elevated blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke, aortic ruptures, and heart attack).
  • Chronically inflamed nasal tissue, nosebleeds, and loss of smell from snorting cocaine.
  • Asthma, chronic cough, respiratory distress, and increased pneumonia risks from smoking cocaine.
  • HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections from sharing needles while injecting cocaine.

No matter how cocaine is used, ingesting toxic amounts of the drug into the system can lead to devastating events such as heart attacks, strokes, and seizures—which may all lead to sudden death, even with just a single use.1,4 A person can experience a cocaine overdose, which can result in these and other severe and sometimes life-threatening symptoms, including:1

  • Heart arrhythmias.
  • Dangerously elevated blood pressure.
  • Hyperthermia.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Extreme psychomotor agitation.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Acute hallucinations.

Cocaine-related overdoses may be increasingly likely in situations where a person uses it in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, amphetamine stimulants, or opioids like fentanyl.1,4

Cocaine Detox & Withdrawal

When a person uses cocaine over time, their brain gradually adapts to the presence of the drug, and they develop physical dependence. At this point, if cocaine use stops, the person can experience withdrawal.5 Withdrawal symptoms manifest as a maladaptive response—often with both unpleasant physiological and cognitive effects—to the reduction or cessation of previously heavy or prolonged cocaine use.

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?

Man who is depressed and sad looking out the window

While cocaine withdrawal is often relatively less intense and presents fewer immediate medical risks than some other types of substance withdrawal (such as that associated with alcohol and opioids), studies support clinical management in cases where stimulant withdrawal might otherwise lead to poor outcomes.6

Someone who is experiencing cocaine withdrawal can develop the following symptoms:1,6

  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Problems sleeping (either too much or not enough).
  • Increased appetite.
  • Slowed movements and thinking.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Paranoia.
  • Cravings.

Though physically, cocaine withdrawal symptoms are often relatively mild, certain withdrawal dangers exist—such as that of an individual experiencing a profound withdrawal depression, which could include suicidal thoughts or attempts, in some cases.6

Other withdrawal complications may arise in association with some of the more severe potential health issues to develop in association with chronic cocaine use, including certain cardiac problems, seizures, and brain hemorrhaging.6 In such instances, seeking help from a professional treatment center can help mitigate and offer treatment for these and other effects should they occur during detox.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment & Rehab Options

two people holding hands, supporting each other during addiction rehabIf you have a loved one who is struggling with the use of cocaine or other drugs, there are resources available to help you effectively intervene and help a loved one get into rehab for cocaine addiction. You can also gather more information about the types of treatments best suited for cocaine addiction, as well as how to get in touch with Greenhouse Treatment today.

What Kinds of Treatments are Effective for Cocaine Addiction?

There isn’t one sole treatment that is appropriate for everyone who has an addiction, as treatment will vary based on factors specific to the individual.5 However, there are varying levels of care offered so that everyone struggling with substance use disorders can get the tailored care they need. These levels of addiction treatment include:

  • Inpatient treatment. An inpatient program allows patients to reside at the facility for the duration of their care. Depending on the needs of the patient, they may stay for a weekend, 30 days, or even 60 days. During this time, they will participate in evidence-based therapies such as contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy with relapse prevention, and community reinforcement with voucher-based reinforcement.5,7
  • Outpatient treatment. Patients in an outpatient program may experience a range of treatment interventions similar to those received through inpatient or residential programming, while being able to reside at home or in a sober living environment. There are different levels of intensity of outpatient treatment, including intensive outpatient programming and partial hospitalization programs. The services provided across all outpatient programs vary, but can include group counseling and drug education.5

At Greenhouse Treatment, we offer these types of treatment programs and much more. If you or someone you love is in need of help for a cocaine addiction, reaching out to one or more treatment centers right now can change your lives.

How to Get into Rehab for Cocaine Addiction

If you are ready to start treatment, you may wonder what your next step should be. The first step to getting treatment is to ask for help. You can and call our admission navigators at to figure out your treatment options, ask questions, and learn more about the types of addiction treatment that we offer, including our inpatient rehab programs. In addition, the admissions navigators can help you verify your insurance coverage and determine what benefits you have available to help pay for rehab. They can also help you learn more about other types of ways to pay for rehab.

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