Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

Signs of cocaine addiction include hiding cocaine use, spending a great deal of time seeking cocaine, and cravings for cocaine, which can be debilitating. More on what to look for in a cocaine addict here.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine produced in the brain. Regular use of cocaine leads to intense drug cravings, especially during cocaine withdrawal syndrome. But are cravings evidence of an addiction, or a symptom of withdrawal?

If you suspect that someone close to you is struggling with cocaine addiction, the time to act is now. We explore the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction here and then invite your questions about getting help for cocaine addiction at the end.

Suspect that a loved one is a cocaine addict?

Cocaine is a strong and addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, produced in the brain. But dealing with cocaine addiction is incredibly difficult, especially when it is happening to a close family member or friend and you are powerless to stop it. The person you care about can slowly be consumed by the powerful drug until all traces of who they once were seem extinguished. This happens because cocaine is one of the most addictive stimulants and use or abuse can literally take over a person’s life. Attempting to help someone down the road to recovery will not be an easy task, but fortunately you are not alone in the struggle and there are many options available to you.

Symptoms of cocaine addiction

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), cases of cocaine addiction meet certain clinical criteria. Some of these include:

1. Tolerance: With increased usage, a person gains a tolerance to the cocaine ‘high’ and will have to continually up the dosage to achieve the same initial feeling of euphoria.

2. Withdrawal: When off cocaine, the addict experienceswithdrawal symptoms like agitation, restlessness and depression.

3. Dosage: Cocaine addicts use cocaine in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than originally intended.

4. Loss of control: Cocaine addicts will feel the desire to cut down or control substance abuse but will usually fail to do so

5. Obsessive thinking: The majority of their time will be spent thinking about and trying to obtain cocaine

6. Changes in priorities: Past social, occupational and recreational activities will be abandoned.

7. Continued use: Addicts will continue to use cocaine even when aware of the harm that it is doing to their body and their loved ones.

Additionally, look for these signs and symptoms if you suspect someone close to you might be struggling with cocaine addiction.  As hard as it may be, do not enable the toxic behavior by providing money, car rides, or a place to stay, it will only worsen the situation and feed the addiction.  Other signs of cocaine addiction include:

  • behavioral changes like frequent restlessness, nervousness, depression or violent mood swings
  • cocaine decreases appetite so watch for drastic weight loss and signs of anemia
  • isolation from friends and family when the addiction begins to take precedence over their lives
  • problems with money
  • surrounding themselves with new people such as fellow addicts or drug dealers
  • take note of poor personal hygiene
  • when off the drug, addicts will appear fatigued

How to help cocaine addiction symptoms

There are many ways to help, but confronting a loved one about their addiction will most likely be the hardest step. They may get angry and defensive and refuse to seek treatment.  So how can you treat cocaine addiction?  Ultimately, the decision to get help lies with the addict and the addict alone, all you can do is voice your concern and hope they are ready to help themselves. Here are some practical ways that you can get involved.

Plan an intervention – Gather close friends and family and host an informal intervention in a safe environment. Letters describing how the addiction has negatively affected their personal relationships can be read aloud during the intervention. If you seek further guidance, invite a mental health care professional like a drug addiction councillor or a psychiatrist to attend the intervention

Inpatient Residential Treatment – Everyone is different and some addicts will be unable to get clean without the help of a rehabilitation center or detox clinic. Unlike outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment involves taking an addict out of their environment, typically for a 3 to 6 month duration, and bringing them to a private facility staffed with addiction professionals

Outpatient Treatment – In these settings, psychologists lead cognitive behavioral therapy, a technique designed to teach addicts to recognize, avoid and cope with situations that will tempt them to use cocaine again. Group therapy is also common to this treatment setting.

Support groups – There are many support programs available for cocaine addicts. Cocaine Anonymous uses a twelve step program to help keep addiction in remission through education and community support services.

Signs of cocaine addiction questions

If you have further questions concerning the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction, don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments section at the end of this article. We try and make it a priority to answer each question as swiftly and professionally as possible.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Appendix C DSM IV TR Material: Criteria for Substance Dependence
NCBI: Chapter 8. Intensive Outpatient Treatment Approaches
NIDA: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?