Cocaine Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Addiction

Learn about young adult cocaine addiction

Cocaine is a powerful and extremely addictive stimulant drug that directly affects a person’s brain. This illicit substance is extracted from the coca plant and is usually sold on the streets as a fine white powder or as a crystalized rock. Typical forms of cocaine abuse include snorting it up one’s nose or dissolving it in water and injecting it directly into the veins. When used, cocaine quickly affects the brain by preventing certain neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, from being properly absorbed, resulting in a high. The high associated with cocaine creates a euphoric feeling, increased energy, and an elevated mood in the user, while also decreasing the need for sleep and food. These almost instantaneous effects are what cause so many individuals to continue to abuse cocaine, which can quickly lead to the development of a cocaine addiction.

A cocaine addiction can lead to the development of many physical and psychological problems that will only get worse the longer the abuse is allowed to continue. Some of the consequences can leave lasting effects on the users and those around them. However, there is help available. Multiple treatment programs provide recovery solutions for those in need of cocaine treatment.

Statistics

Statistics of cocaine abuse

It is estimated that, in the United States, approximately 14% of adults have tried cocaine at least once in their lifetime. According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, an estimated 3.6 million individuals use cocaine on a regular basis. Unfortunately, about 75% of individuals who experiment with cocaine go on to develop a cocaine addiction.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine abuse

Professionals in the field of mental health and addiction agree that a combination of factors can make some individuals more susceptible to developing an addiction to substances like cocaine. Such factors are described briefly in the following paragraphs:

Genetic: Several researchers have demonstrated that some individuals are at an increased genetic risk for the development of a cocaine addiction. Some studies have shown that 25% of cocaine addicts carry a particular gene variation that is considered to be a cause for addiction. Additionally, other research studies have indicated that children who are born to parents who are addicted to substances are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves.

Environmental: The environments in which individuals are immersed can play a significant role in their vulnerability for developing a cocaine use problem. One prominent environmental factor is the amount of exposure an individual has had to the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Those who have been exposed to drug abuse are more likely to abuse substances, such as cocaine, themselves because they view this as acceptable behavior. This makes them more prone to the development of a cocaine addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal or family history of mental health conditions
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of abusing alcohol and/or other drugs
  • Being male
  • Being exposed to the presence of cocaine while in utero
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Lower education level
  • Easy access to cocaine
  • Being subjected to high levels of stress
  • Being exposed to crime and/or violence

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse in young adults

Professionals in the field of mental health and addiction agree that a combination of factors can make some individuals more susceptible to developing an addiction to substances like cocaine. Such factors are described briefly in the following paragraphs:

Genetic: Several researchers have demonstrated that some individuals are at an increased genetic risk for the development of a cocaine addiction. Some studies have shown that 25% of cocaine addicts carry a particular gene variation that is considered to be a cause for addiction. Additionally, other research studies have indicated that children who are born to parents who are addicted to substances are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves.

Environmental: The environments in which individuals are immersed can play a significant role in their vulnerability for developing a cocaine use problem. One prominent environmental factor is the amount of exposure an individual has had to the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Those who have been exposed to drug abuse are more likely to abuse substances, such as cocaine, themselves because they view this as acceptable behavior. This makes them more prone to the development of a cocaine addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal or family history of mental health conditions
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of abusing alcohol and/or other drugs
  • Being male
  • Being exposed to the presence of cocaine while in utero
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Lower education level
  • Easy access to cocaine
  • Being subjected to high levels of stress
  • Being exposed to crime and/or violence

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Effects of cocaine abuse on young adults

The long-term abuse of cocaine can result in a wide range of negative effects on an individual’s body, including death. The longer a person abuses cocaine, the higher his or her risk is for experiencing permanent damage. Examples of adverse cocaine-related health effects include:

  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Digestive problems
  • Serious skin infections
  • Scarring at injection sites
  • Chronically inflamed, runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Increased risk for developing infectious diseases
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Paranoia
  • Development of mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung, throat, or mouth cancer
  • Stroke
  • Death

In addition to the negative health consequence listed above, there are many negative social and behavioral effects associated with cocaine abuse or addiction. Additional long-term effects may include:

  • Problems within relationships
  • Money difficulties
  • Inability to find work or hold down a job
  • Increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors which can lead to accidents and injuries
  • Constant interaction with law enforcement, including possible incarceration
  • Deterioration of family

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders we treat

Cocaine abuse and addiction often co-occur with other substance use disorders, which may be caused by attempts to reduce the insomnia, nervousness, and other side effects associated with cocaine abuse. It is also common for someone who is abusing cocaine to be struggling with a mental health disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal:  Many individuals who have been abusing cocaine for a prolonged period of time will experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using. Everyone’s cocaine withdrawal experience is different, but some of the most common withdrawal symptoms experienced may include:

  • Strong desire for cocaine
  • Changes in mood
  • Heightened levels of anxiety
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling physically slowed down

Effects of cocaine overdose: Even a small amount of cocaine can lead to a cocaine overdose because of the effects that this drug has on the body. For example, when cocaine is abused it reduces the flow of oxygen to the heart, resulting in the heart having to work harder, which can potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke. Just like any other type of overdose, a cocaine overdose should be viewed as a medical emergency and treatment should be sought immediately in order to prevent a fatal outcome. Examples of signs that may indicate that a person may be overdoing on cocaine include:

  • High pulse rate
  • Symptoms of paranoia
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Choking and vomiting
  • Hypothermia
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Heart attack
  • Losing consciousness

We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality behavioral health and addiction treatment.
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council
  • The Jason Foundation