Cocaine Addiction: Symptoms, Signs, & Side Effects
By The Orlando Recovery Center
Last Updated: January 31, 2024
Cocaine addiction is caused by the changes in the structure and function of the brain when the drug is used. Cocaine affects the central nervous system and increases the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Eventually, cocaine stops the natural process of dopamine production in the brain. The individual will require more and more cocaine in order to experience the good feelings they initially had, this is when addiction typically occurs.
Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine’s initial effects appear harmless. A euphoric feeling, an energy boost and hypersensitivity to light and sound rank among the most common immediate effects of the stimulant. Nevertheless, cocaine use also comes with incredibly dangerous side effects, including:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure
As cocaine use continues, a person’s body may develop a tolerance that increases the risk for serious long-term effects. This can damage their body in various ways.
People who become addicted to cocaine tend to suffer from psychological and neurological damage. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that prolonged cocaine use can lead to panic attacks, hallucinations and psychosis. People who struggle with cocaine abuse also risk ingesting dangerous chemicals from the street drug or contracting HIV or hepatitis C from sharing needles with other people.
Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse
The first signs of cocaine abuse are usually minor compared to cocaine addiction behavior. Continued use causes physical and psychological symptoms to intensify along with the behavioral signs and consequences. Symptom intensity depends on the size, weight and health of the person using cocaine. It also depends on how often they use cocaine, the amount they use and whether other drugs are present in their body or mixed with cocaine. However, there is no safe amount of cocaine use, as even a small dosage can cause addiction to form. Some signals that your loved one is abusing cocaine include:
- Strange and unusual behavior
- Keeping secrets or giving suspicious answers to questions
- Leaving early, showing up late or missing obligations entirely
- Increased impulsivity
- Financial troubles
- White stains on clothes, belongings or skin
Cocaine is not cheap. In order to fund a cocaine habit or addiction, many go to extreme financial measures. A person in this situation may repeatedly ask for money from friends or family members, steal from others, have multiple jobs, sell their possessions or begin selling drugs to others.
Physical Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse
The physical effects of cocaine misuse are wide-ranging. Side effects may be mild for some people while others suffer from severely uncontrollable symptoms. Some common physical symptoms of cocaine abuse are:
- Dilated pupils
- Twitching or shaking
- Runny or bloody nose
- Darkened circles around the eyes
- Stomach pain or nausea
- Increased body temperature
- Headaches and migraines
In the most severe cases, cocaine withdrawal can cause heart issues and seizures. Cocaine is extremely potent, and the physical side effects can vary based on the amount taken and the size and body chemistry of the person using it.
Side Effects of Long-Term Cocaine Abuse
The longer someone is exposed to cocaine, the greater the chance of severe impact on brain functions and physical health. A serious addiction is just one hazard associated with cocaine abuse. For a number of people who misuse cocaine, health effects caused by the drug are irreversible. Long-term use of cocaine can cause brain damage due to:
- Cerebral atrophy or brain shrinking
- Cerebral vasculitis or swelling of the blood vessels in the brain
- Changes to prefrontal and temporal lobe functioning, which hurts problem-solving, decision-making, vocabulary, attention, and memory
- Changes to neurotransmitter production and absorption, which can lead to mood disorders
- Changes to movements that causes tremors and muscle weakness
Intense psychological grief can occur after long-term cocaine abuse, including paranoia and hallucinations. General cognitive abilities, such as memory and motor tasks, are impaired with prolonged use of cocaine. Drug effects can end in heart failure or death at any point during abuse.
A tolerance to cocaine usually develops in the early period of use and builds. Those who abuse cocaine regularly will feel a need to take larger amounts in order to experience the same familiar effects. The drug is more dangerous in larger doses. Someone can easily consume a large amount just trying to feel their “high” again, which could result in death.
Chronic cocaine use can not only ruin personal and professional relationships, but it can also drastically change the lives of those around you. Long-term cocaine use can affect your performance at school employment. This could lead to job loss and financial ruin. Supplementary financial issues may also result from wasting money on finding more drugs.
Long-Term Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse
Using cocaine can cause long-term effects to a person’s health. Permanent damage to sinus cavities and senses, such as smell and taste, is often a result of cocaine use. The use of cocaine also affects a person’s sexual health, making erections for males or orgasms for females difficult. Other long-term side effects include:
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Lung damage and disease
- Seizures and convulsions
- Damage to the septum, nose and airways
- Extreme weight loss and malnourishment
- Chronic nosebleeds
- Gastronomical problems and bowel decay
- Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
Continued use of cocaine can result in risky lifestyle choices and lead to health issues, including:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Prenatal cocaine exposure in unborn babies
- HIV or hepatitis C due to sharing needles
Signs of Cocaine Overdose
When a person abuses cocaine, their body experiences sensations and physiologic changes that are connected to the drug’s strong stimulant effects. These effects can spiral out of control when a person uses too much, leading to an overdose. During a cocaine overdose, the brain and body become dangerously overstimulated while the heart rate is elevated to lethal levels.
A few signs and symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Elevated heart rate
- Extreme Anxiety
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
Overdose can be difficult to predict because of the purity of the drug, the method of use and the overall health of the person abusing the substance all factor into the dosage amount that causes an overdose. It is possible for a person’s first experience using cocaine result in death.
Recovery is about no longer being dependent on a powerfully addictive substance. If you are currently using cocaine and need help in the Orlando, Florida area, the Orlando Recovery Center can help. Even if you do not live in Central Florida, there are benefits to leaving your hometown or state for rehabilitation. The Orlando Recovery Center could provide the distance between you and negative influences, which can help you concentrate on your recovery. To learn more about wide-ranging treatment for cocaine addiction, call Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative.