How to Identify Cocaine Abuse

Knowing the signs of cocaine use may enable you to recognize when someone needs help.

This page will go over signs and symptoms of cocaine use, signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction, what you can do if you suspect someone is using cocaine, and how to get into rehab for cocaine addiction.

Signs of Cocaine Use

Woman coming down from cocaine trying to sleepKnowing some of the observable signs of cocaine use may help you detect a problem in a loved one or friend; however, please note that the following signs and symptoms of cocaine use do not automatically indicate that someone has a cocaine addiction. Signs of cocaine use include:1,2

  • Increased energy.
  • Increased sensitivity to sound, light, or touch.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Unpredictable or aggressive behavior.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Only medical professionals can diagnose a stimulant use disorder, which is the medical term for someone who is addicted to cocaine or other stimulants.3 However, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the diagnostic criteria, so that you may recognize signs of cocaine addiction in a loved one and help them get treated if needed.

Addiction refers to the compulsive, uncontrollable use of a substance despite all the harm that it causes. Addiction may entail not only physiological changes (such as tolerance and dependence) but several harmful behavioral changes adversely impacting every aspect of an individual’s life. Addiction development is accompanied by functional changes within the brain that can impact an individual’s drive, motivation, thought processes, and behaviors so much that drug use becomes prioritized over all else. The development of addiction is influenced not only by repeated substance use itself, but also by genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors.3

The criteria for diagnosing stimulant use disorder are outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).” A person needs to meet at least 2 of the following criteria within a 12-month period to receive a positive diagnosis.3 Criteria include:3

  1. Using cocaine in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  2. Wanting or trying to cut down cocaine use but being unable to do so.
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of cocaine.
  4. Experiencing cravings, or strong urges to use cocaine.
  5. Repeatedly being unable to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school due to cocaine use.
  6. Continuing to use cocaine even though the person experiences difficulties in their social life or relationships because of cocaine use.
  7. Giving up or stopping activities they once enjoyed due to cocaine use.
  8. Using cocaine in situations where it’s physically dangerous to do so (such as driving or operating machinery).
  9. Continuing to use cocaine even though the person has developed a physical or psychological condition that they know is either caused or worsened by cocaine use.
  10. Experiencing tolerance, meaning they need to use more of the substance to experience previous highs, or they experience a significantly reduced effect with the previous dosage.
  11. Developing withdrawal symptoms when the person stops using cocaine.

Long-Term Signs & Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Long-term effects of cocaine use can vary by person and can also depend on the ways cocaine is used. Cocaine can be:1

  • Snorted.
  • Smoked (in its freebase or “crack” cocaine form).
  • Dissolved in liquid and injected intravenously.

Possible medical consequences of cocaine use can include:

  • Loss of sense of smell (from snorting cocaine).2
  • Nosebleeds, trouble swallowing, and nasal damage (if cocaine is snorted).2
  • Weight loss due to lack of appetite or poor nutrition.2
  • Infection and bowel tissue death due to decreased blood flow.2
  • Lung damage, cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and increased risk of infections like pneumonia (from smoking crack cocaine). 1
  • Cardiovascular problems, such as atherosclerosis (cholesterol buildup in the arteries) and cardiomyopathy (inability of the heart to pump blood effectively).4
  • Increased risk of blood-borne diseases including HIV and hepatitis C, skin or soft tissue infections, and scarring or collapsed veins caused by needle drug use. However, even people who use cocaine in other ways are also at risk of infectious diseases due to increased risky behavior.1

What to Do If You Suspect Someone Is Abusing Cocaine

Knowing how to help a loved one with cocaine addiction isn’t easy. You can’t force someone to admit to a problem or to seek help, but your encouragement and support may motivate them to enter treatment.

When you’re ready to have a conversation with your loved one or friend about their cocaine use, you might consider some of the following tips provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):5

  • Set aside a quiet, distraction-free time to talk about it.
  • Be direct but empathic. Explain why you’re concerned about them.
  • Listen to their feelings or concerns without judgment.
  • Tell them you want to assist them with seeking help when they’re ready. For example, you could encourage them to consult their doctor for an evaluation or help them research treatment centers.
  • Remain patient and realize that it could take a few tries at the conversation. Keep reaching out and being there for them.

How to Get into Rehab for Cocaine Addiction

doctor comforting patient while admitting them into rehab for cocaine addictionDue to federal mandates like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), most health insurers are required to provide at least partial coverage for addiction treatment.6,7

Even without insurance, there are other ways to pay for rehab, or ways to enroll in low or no-cost treatment.

Recovery First—an addiction treatment facility in the Miami-Ft Lauderdale area—allows prospective patients to verify their insurance coverage by submitting a confidential . Beginning the admissions process at Recovery First is as simple as calling to speak with an admissions navigator.

Recovery First several different levels of care, including:8

  • Medical detox, which allows patients to withdraw from cocaine and other drugs in a supervised, safe, and comfortable environment. While detox is valuable for many people, it’s important for patients who undergo detox to continue with treatment afterward to address the underlying issues that contributed to their stimulant use disorder.
  • Inpatient rehab, which means the patient lives onsite at our inpatient rehab for addiction. Patients receive round-the-clock care, monitoring, and support, and participate in different behavioral therapies on an individual and group basis.
  • Outpatient addiction treatment, which means patients continue to live at home but travel to our outpatient rehab to receive treatment on a fixed schedule.

Cocaine addiction is primarily treated through a combination of behavioral therapies, peer support, and psychoeducation, designed to develop positive coping strategies, learn to identify triggers, avoid relapse, and more.1,9

We also provide treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, and offer specialized treatment programs for veterans and first responders as well as healthcare professionals.

Other valuable tools for finding addiction treatment include:

  • The SAMHSA treatment locator, which allows one to filter treatment options by proximity, type of treatment, payment options, and more.
  • The network database of in-network providers, which can often be found on the health insurer’s website.
  • The phone number on the back of an insurance card, which will connect to a representative that can assist someone with finding covered treatment facilities.

Cocaine addiction can be devastating to both the individual afflicted with the disorder and their loved ones; fortunately, recovery is possible through evidence-based treatment. Please call to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment at Recovery First.

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