Tolerance to cocaine

Tolerance to cocaine develops rapidly, especially with continual heavy use. More on how people develop tolerance to cocaine and whether or not you can lower cocaine tolerance here.

minute read

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug of abuse. After even a single use, an appreciable initial tolerance to the euphoric high caused by cocaine may develop. In fact, many cocaine users report that they have never been able to achieve the same level of euphoria and pleasure that was achieved during their first cocaine exposure.  Yes, you cocaine can be addictive the first time you use it.

However, cocaine is psychologically habit forming, particularly with heavy or frequent use. In fact, people who use cocaine regularly can develop dependence and tolerance to it, which means they need to take larger amounts of cocaine to get the same effect.

So, when do people become tolerant to cocaine, exactly? What are symptoms of developing tolerance to cocaine and is it possible to lower your tolerance? We explore here. And invite your questions about cocaine at the end.

Developing tolerance to cocaine

What is drug tolerance? Tolerance is defined as an attenuation of a drug’s effects, most often following repeated or prolonged exposure. When you become tolerant to a drug, you require higher doses to experience the original drug effect.

Initial tolerance to cocaine develops rapidly with continual heavy use. But after this initial level of tolerance is reached, people who use cocaine don’t appear to develop tolerance for increasing amounts. Regular users may in fact develop a ‘reverse tolerance’, whereby they experience the effects of the drug more intensely. This is also known as cocaine sensitization. Cocaine sensitization can lead to life-threatening effects such as:

  • cardiac arrest
  • cocaine overdose at very low dosages
  • respiratory failure

Cocaine tolerance symptoms

Cocaine tolerance can manifest as the need for more cocaine to achieve euphoric effect.  In fact, cocaine is a very compulsive and dangerous drug, and intense cravings for cocaine can indicate problems. The insidious nature of cocaine abuse is that the more cocaine you use, the more cocaine you want.

In the course of a cocaine binge, it takes more and more cocaine to squeeze out less and less dopamine, the chemical responsible for cocaine euphoria. Eventually, there is no dopamine left, and the user has to wait several days before there is enough to get high again.  However, tolerance to cocaine may not be obvious due to the tendency to mix cocaine with other drugs such as heroin and alcohol.

Cocaine tolerance: How long?

Not all cocaine users build tolerance in the same way or during the same timeline. While some cocaine users build up a classic tolerance to the drug, requiring an increased dosage to achieve the same high, other cocaine users become more sensitive to the substance. The short duration of effects is one reason leading to probability of increased tolerance to cocaine. Relative to other drugs of abuse, cocaine does not stay in the system a long time. As effects wear off, more drugs are frequently administered and a pattern of repeated use occurs.

High tolerance to cocaine

Often, users increase the frequency and amount of cocaine consumption due to a quickly developed tolerance to the drug’s effects. With extensive use of cocaine, the brain adapts, becoming less sensitive to the drug and natural dopamine production. Many cocaine abusers report constantly seeking but failing to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their initial experience on the drug.

Over time, an individual can build up a high tolerance to cocaine, and require a larger dosage of the substance to experience the same initial high.  Individuals affected by a build-up of cocaine tolerance may seek to increase their dosage, as well as frequency of use, in an effort to attain the perceived desired effect. This desire leads to the use of extremely high dosages of cocaine, significantly increasing one’s risk of serious health consequences, and/or sudden death.

How to lower tolerance to cocaine?

Many users are initially drawn to cocaine because of the drug’s potential “high” – the euphoric feeling associated with the illegal substance. Each person’s “high” has a different longevity, and is based not only on the quantity of cocaine absorbed, but also on the route of absorption (i.e., injected, smoked, snorted). For example, the high produced after smoking cocaine is often very intense, but also short lived. The high from smoking cocaine may only last five or ten minutes, which is a very short period of time considering cocaine’s potentially fatal risks.

However, there is some debate to whether or not original euphoric effect can be achieved if cocaine consumption is slowed down or stopped for a period of time.  The risk of lowering and then increasing doses of cocaine is overdose.  Some signals that cocaine overdose has occurred include:

  • abdominal pain
  • agitation, extreme excitability, hostility, or delusions
  • chills
  • convulsions
  • hallucinations
  • headache
  • increase in heart rate
  • irregular respiration
  • nausea
  • rise in body temperature
  • vomiting

Let’s verify your coverage for treatment at an American Addiction Centers location. Your information is always confidential.


Building up tolerance to cocaine questions

Please let us know if you still have questions about tolerance to cocaine. If you want to know more, contact us in the comments section below. We will be happy to help and try to respond to all legitimate concerns personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: ADF Drug Facts: Cocaine Tolerance
The University of Rochester: Health Topics on Cocaine
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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?