Cocaine is an addictive and very powerful stimulant, leaving people to temporarily feel euphoria, excitement, energy, and, sometimes, omnipotence. Usually, this lasts for about half an hour, during which time people feel sexual, competent, and confident, and their pain receptors are also usually numbed. This drug is most commonly snorted if it is in powder form, although it can also be swallowed or even injected. It also comes in rock form, known as crack cocaine, in which case it is heated and the fumes it releases are then inhaled.

Because cocaine’s effects are very intense, but last for a very short time, users often want to go back to the substance again, and very quickly. However, if they continue to use it, they will become tolerant to the drug, meaning more is needed in order to still get similar effects. In many cases, people continuously increase their dosage in an attempt to relive the first time they tried the drug.

Unfortunately, cocaine can become addictive very quickly. Once someone is in its grips, they often can no longer properly function professionally, academically, or even personally. At this point, help is needed. Thankfully, with the right professional intervention, it is possible to beat this addiction. In fact, thousands of people have been successfully treated, now living a happy, healthy life that is free from the drug.

How Bad Is Cocaine Abuse?

The only illegal drug that is trafficked more than cocaine in the world is marijuana. In our country, it also ranks second after marijuana in terms of most commonly abused drug. It is believed that some 35 million people in this country have at some point used cocaine. On any given day, some 2 million people are active users, which means they have used the drug in the past month.

In 1999, there was a true explosion of teenagers and adolescents abusing the drug. Some 2.6% of all high school seniors were classed as active users. A lot of work was done, quite successfully, to reduce this occurrence and the figure dropped by 50% by 2012. However, 8.5% of young people continued to have tried cocaine at least once, even if they were no longer classed as active users. Today, 0.2% of those between the age of 12 and 17 are classed as active users, and just short of 1% have used it at least once in their life.

According to the DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network), the top reasons for emergency room and urgent care visits relating to drugs are caused by cocaine. In fact, the last time these statistics were compiled, some 450,000 emergency room and urgent care center visits were related directly to cocaine. This demonstrates that it continues to be a serious problem in the country.

How to Recognize Cocaine Abuse

Different people experience cocaine abuse in different ways. It all depends on how much they use, how long they have been using, whether they have co-occurring psychological problems, and whether or not they also abuse other substances. However, common signs and symptoms of abuse of or addiction to cocaine include:

  • Hyperactivity or increased energy
  • Speaking very rapidly all of the sudden
  • Suddenly becoming aggressive or angry
  • Engaging in risky, reckless behaviors
  • Trying to steal money, or borrowing money from friends
  • Lying about what they are doing or where they have been
  • Suddenly having new friends
  • Withdrawing from relationships with loved ones and previous friends

There are also a number of physical symptoms, including:

  • Runny nose or common cold symptoms
  • Dilated pupils
  • High blood pressure
  • Nosebleeds
  • Low grade fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia

Additionally, there are cognitive symptoms to be aware of:

  • Excessive confidence
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Poor ability to make decisions
  • Psychosis

Lastly, there are psychosocial symptoms to be aware of, including:

  • Depression
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Not being able to experience pleasure
  • Irritability and agitation

How Cocaine Abuse Affects People

When cocaine abuse or addiction is left untreated, it has a number of strong long term effects, and these can be devastating. Just how bad it is depends on the type of addiction someone has, and how strong it is. However, in the worst situations, people lose their social, financial, mental, emotional, and physical well being. People’s lives can be destroyed in a number of different ways, including respiratory distress, heart problems (up to full cardiac arrest), liver damage, hypertension, stroke, kidney damage, permanent cognitive impairment, malnutrition, losing personal relationship, financial ruin, unemployment or poor work performance.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Special attention needs to be paid to co-occurring disorders. Many people who have a problem with cocaine abuse often have a mental health disorder as well. It is often not clear whether the cocaine caused the mental health disorder, or whether people had a disorder and self-medicated by turning to cocaine. Importantly, however, it is of no matter to determine which of the two came first, rather that they must both be treated as part of a single continuum. Commonly, people with a cocaine addiction also suffer from persistent depressive disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and BPD (borderline personality disorder).

Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine is a drug on which somebody can overdose. In fact, because most people go on a cocaine binge, and because people who have become tolerant continuously need to increase their dosage, there is a constant risk of overdose. This is also because cocaine is often cut with other chemicals, so users never know just how potent the substance they are using actually is. An overdose is a life threatening situation and requires immediate medical attention. Some of the signs and symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Dangerously elevated blood pressure
  • Delirium
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke

Cocaine Withdrawal

Because cocaine is a physically addictive substance, people will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it. If not properly supported, these withdrawal symptoms can be significant, particularly if someone has a long standing addiction. Some of the symptoms commonly experienced include:

  • Anxiety
  • Intense craving for the drug
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Depression
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Nightmares