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Cocaine addiction: signs and symptoms

Posted by Martin Preston
on 17 Oct 2019


Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction will vary between different people and dependent on how long they have been misusing.

It can be difficult to spot the early signs as the indicators can be similar to those for other problems. The person who is addicted may also be trying to hide their addiction or convince themselves they are not cocaine dependent.

If you are concerned about your own cocaine use, or that of someone else, the best thing to do is to talk about it, ideally to a professional. That may be a GP or a confidential helpline – there are lots of places to go for support. If your concern is for someone else, it is useful to educate yourself a little about cocaine and addiction and then to let them know you are worried about them and want to help.

Signs of cocaine addiction

Signs of an addiction to cocaine – beyond very regular use of the drug – may include:

  • Taking cocaine even when they have said they’re not going to, are trying to cut down or stop using it
  • Dishonesty about using cocaine, how much or how often they use
  • Continuing to take cocaine in spite of it causing harm, for example, to themselves, their relationships or their finances
  • Taking cocaine alone or seeking out people to spend time with primarily because they know they will agree to take it with them
  • Going to extremes to get hold of cocaine such as lying or stealing
  • Losing interest in other things that don’t involve cocaine use
  • Using cocaine at all times of the day and outside of social situations

Heightened signs of cocaine addiction

Someone who has been dependent on cocaine for a long time or who has taken a large amount of cocaine may show other signs of addiction too.

These may include:

  • Damage to the nose’s septum (the cartilage that separates the nostrils). This can be completely destroyed by too much cocaine use.
  • In pregnancy, cocaine use can lead to premature labour, low birth weight, cause other damage to the baby or even miscarriage (this can be the case whether the users is addicted or not)
  • Breathing problems and pains in the chest may arise from repeated smoking of crack cocaine
  • Some people inject cocaine and this can cause damaged veins, ulcers or gangrene (where body tissue dies due to lack of blood circulation)
  • Mental health may be very poor showing as depression, anxiety or paranoia
  • Financial difficulties
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Continuing to use even if cocaine use has caused a serious problem such as the loss of a driving licence or job
  • Use of crack cocaine may indicate higher chances of dependence. Crack cocaine, which is usually smoked, is likely to be even more addictive. It is often cheaper than powder forms of cocaine.
Young businessman is shaking after getting high on cocaine

Denial of cocaine addiction

It is true that not all cocaine users are addicted. There are people who will use cocaine for a period of their lives and then stop without support.

However, cocaine does have the potential to be very addictive. This is because cocaine changes the way the brain releases the feel good chemical dopamine, which is a feeling users begin to crave.

Addiction risk is heightened by the fact that coming down from cocaine can lead to anxiety, depression and low mood and users may turn to it to relieve those feelings.

As with all addictions, there is a big risk of denial. People may honestly not think they have a problem and even believe what they are doing is normal or acceptable. Or they may just not want to face it.

Most people do not want to feel they have lost control of their cocaine use. There is also a risk of shame, embarrassment and fear even when someone has come to realise they may have an addiction.

How to help someone with cocaine addiction

You can help someone who you fear is addicted to cocaine by letting them know you care for them, are concerned for them and want to help. 

Try to avoid getting angry or blaming the person for their addiction. Usually addiction is a coping mechanism that someone has formed to deal with stresses in their lives or to escape some form of physical or emotional pain. While their behaviour may be deeply hurtful and damaging, the addiction isn’t intentional and is something they need support to deal with.

You may have to raise the topic numerous times before you begin to be heard. In the meantime it is important that you take whatever action is necessary to keep yourself safe from harm – including emotional pain. 

You can let someone know you love them and want to help but can’t live with them until they deal with their addiction, for example. A crisis point such as losing a job or a loved one moving out may feel disastrous but can actually motivate an addict to seek the help they need.

Can someone recover from cocaine addiction?

It is vital to know, and to let the person with a dependency know, that they can get better and live a full and happy life after cocaine addiction. Even those who have relapsed before can achieve sustained recovery.

There is effective support out there for cocaine addiction and there are very many people who have left their dependency behind.

People who are focused and motivated to recover from cocaine addiction can achieve that goal, especially where they are able to access highly effective residential treatment.

Even in NHS alcohol and drug addiction treatment, which is not always residential, recent figures showed almost 50 per cent of people achieved recovery. Another report in 2014, focused solely on NHS drug treatment recovery rates and said between 2005 and 2014, 33% who had successfully completed treatment and not returned. 

Considering that NHS treatment can be difficult to secure due to limited resources and therefore may represent some of the worst cases of entrenched addiction and that it is not always residential treatment – the most effective kind of treatment, those figures are encouraging.

In residential treatment people have access to round-the-clock intensive support to withdraw from substances, uncover what led to addiction and put in place coping mechanisms to avoid relapse and lay the foundations for sustained recovery. 

If you are worried that you or someone you know is addicted to cocaine, we’re happy to discuss your concerns and outline how we could help: Contact Delamere.  

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Call us confidentially at any time to speak to a member of our team.

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Cocaine addiction: signs and symptoms
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Cocaine addiction: signs and symptoms
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What are the signs & symptoms of cocaine addiction? Find out about cocaine addiction & how you can help someone at Delamere Rehab.
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Delamere Rehab
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