Cocaine Addiction: Common Signs, Side Effects, & Treatment

Written By: Facility Staff

Published Date:

Edited By: Editorial Team

Last Updated: May 13, 2024

While cocaine is not known for being as addictive as other illicit drugs or street drugs, it still has a high possibility of causing addiction in those who use it. 

This is largely due to the euphoria that results from using cocaine, as it causes a rush of dopamine within the central nervous system.

Because of its addictive nature, it can be helpful to know the signs and side effects of cocaine addiction, so you can get timely help and support for those who need it. 

Read on to learn more about the different therapies and treatments available at Hope’s Destiny for cocaine abuse and other substance use disorders. 

What to Know About Cocaine Addiction 

Cocaine is a powerful natural stimulant that is known for its short-lived high and highly addictive nature. 

The more a person uses cocaine, the more the risk for addiction increases, with cocaine addiction being a condition that can truly happen to anyone. 

Not only can cocaine addiction put someone at risk for a life-threatening overdose and other serious issues, but it can take hold over their daily functioning and make relationships and responsibilities incredibly challenging. 

Fortunately, cocaine use disorder is treatable in several ways and people can and do recover from cocaine addiction every day. 

Top Facts on Cocaine Use Disorder

  • Prevalence: Approximately 2% of American adults report using cocaine in the past 12 months.
  • Treatment admissions: Cocaine use disorders account for about 6% of all admissions to substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Overdose: In 2021, nearly 25,000 people died from overdoses related to cocaine use.
  • Gender differences: Cocaine use is roughly three times more common in men than women.
  • Age groups affected: Cocaine use is highest in the 18-25 age group.

How Cocaine Abuse Turns to Addiction

Cocaine use does not always turn into addiction, but can lead to addiction if certain factors are in place and care is not followed. 

Steps from cocaine use to cocaine addiction:

  • First cocaine use — upon first using cocaine, a person might find that they enjoy its effects and want to try more of it. At this point, they are likely to believe that they can control their use and are not worried about addiction. 
  • Continued cocaine abuse — as a person uses more and more cocaine, they may start engaging in risky behavior, like IV use, in order to obtain their desired high. 
  • Cocaine addiction and dependence — the more that a person uses cocaine, the more tolerant they become to its effects, needing more of it in order to get the same high. They may also start to experience cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when they have to go without. 

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

The warning signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction are not always easy to spot, but can be important to be aware of if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one. 

If you notice any of the following signs in a friend or family member, consider taking steps to get them professional help. Early intervention is crucial when it comes to dangerous drug use. 

Signs of cocaine addiction include:

  • Frequently thinking about or talking about cocaine
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Financial problems or strange financial behaviors, such as stealing
  • Lack of personal hygiene and not caring about appearance
  • Weight loss 
  • Problems in relationships or at work or school
  • Not being able to stop using cocaine, even if they want to

Does Cocaine Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Cocaine does cause withdrawal symptoms, although they are not the harrowing or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that other drugs like heroin or alcohol are known for. 

Still, the withdrawal symptoms for cocaine can be uncomfortable and are often enough to keep a person from being able to quit comfortably on their own. 

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability 
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Strong cravings for cocaine
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Paranoia
  • Increased appetite 

Causes of Cocaine Addiction

There is no single or definitive cause of cocaine addiction, as the reasons a person starts using cocaine are usually very unique to them. 

There are a few common reasons, however, why people start using cocaine that can eventually lead them to become addicted. 

Causes of cocaine use could include: 

  • Wanting to fit in or feeling pressure to use drugs around certain people or friends
  • Boredom
  • Attempting to self-medicate and find relief from co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Wanting to avoid the negative side effects of withdrawal
  • Wanting to stay awake or be more alert
  • Trying to escape reality 

Who Is at Risk for Cocaine Addiction?

While virtually anyone has the potential to be exposed to cocaine at some point in their lives, a relatively small amount will actually become addicted to it. 

People who become addicted to cocaine often have various risk factors present in their lives that make them more prone to its abuse.

Risk factors for cocaine addiction include:

  • Having a family history of cocaine use or addiction
  • Having easy access to cocaine
  • Using other drugs or substances at the same time
  • Having a co-occurring mental illness, such as depression
  • Experiencing abuse or neglect in childhood

Ways People Abuse Cocaine

Cocaine can be used and abused in a number of different ways, and is commonly found and sold in its powder form. 

Cocaine can be abused in four main ways:

  • By snorting the drug in its powdered form through the nostrils
  • By ingesting the drug orally by rubbing its powdered form on the gums
  • By smoking the drug in its crack cocaine form and then inhaling it
  • By dissolving the drug in water and then injecting it intravenously into a vein or muscle

The method of use will depend on a person’s preference, the drug’s availability, and how fast and intense of a high they are looking for. 

For example, while snorting cocaine is the most common method, someone looking for the most intense and fast-delivered high might try injecting it instead. 

What Are the Effects of Cocaine Abuse?

While the effects of cocaine can be pleasurable at first, and are often one of the biggest reasons for continued use, there are also negative side effects that can occur in both the short term and long term. 

Short Term Effects of Cocaine

As a powerful stimulant, cocaine is known to cause bursts of energy and pleasant feelings of euphoria. 

The effects of cocaine are short-lived, however, ranging from only a few minutes to about 90 minutes depending on the method of administration. 

Short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Energy and alertness
  • Euphoria 
  • Increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
  • Constricted blood vessels 
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Headaches 
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound 

Long Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine can also have several negative effects when it is abused over an extended period of time. 

These effects can be especially amplified in people who had previous health problems, and especially heart and cardiovascular issues, before using cocaine. 

Long-term effects of cocaine abuse include:

  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Oral problems, including tooth decay and gum disease
  • Nasal problems, including nosebleeds 
  • Tolerance, dependency, and drug addiction 
  • Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and sudden death
  • Increased risk of cocaine overdose
  • Increased risk of drug-induced psychosis 
  • Increased risk of infection with IV use, including hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
  • Damage to kidneys and other organs
  • Loss of pleasure in activities 

Top Treatments for Cocaine Use Disorder

Cocaine use disorder is highly treatable as there are several different types of evidence-based treatments that are effective when treating it. 

Cocaine Detox

Cocaine detox is the process of removing all traces of cocaine from the body, and is best done under medical supervision. It usually takes between 7 and 10 days. 

Cocaine is not necessarily unsafe to detox from on your own, as withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, but there is a much better chance for success and less risk of relapse when detox is held under observation. 

Residential Cocaine Rehab

Residential programs for substance abuse are consistently one of the more successful forms of substance use treatment, where people live onsite with others who are attending treatment. 

The length of an inpatient stay will vary depending on the person, but are usually at least 30 days in length. 

During this time residents attend individual therapy and group therapy, while also using services like detox or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed. 

Outpatient Treatment 

Residential treatment is not always an option due to cost or convenience, but outpatient treatment can be beneficial to people as well. 

Outpatient treatment is often offered in multiple levels of care, such as intensive outpatient programs (IOP) or partial hospitalization programs (PHP), depending on the severity of a person’s addiction. 

Dual Diagnosis Programs

It is not uncommon for cocaine addiction to co-occur with other types of mental health disorders, as many times it is used as a way to escape or self-medicate.

Dual diagnosis programs seek to treat both the cocaine use disorder and any co-occurring disorders at the same time, so there is less risk of relapse in the future. 

Mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with cocaine addiction include:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Eating disorders 


Therapy is one of the most effective evidence-based treatments that are available for treating all kinds of mental health disorders, including substance abuse. 

Therapies that are used with cocaine addiction include:

  • Individual therapy — individual talk therapy or psychotherapy can help people with cocaine addiction to discuss their problems and address any root causes of their addiction. 
  • Group therapy — group therapy and peer support allow people to share their stories and find a sense of understanding and community with others through shared experiences. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — a type of therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) — a type of therapy that focuses on emotion regulation, distress intolerance, and mindfulness. 
  • Motivational interviewing — a type of counseling that focuses on helping people to find their inner motivation in order to make needed changes in their lives. 

Continuing Care for Cocaine Recovery

Anyone who has completed a cocaine recovery program should also seek out a continuing care program for additional support after their addiction program has ended. 

There is no shame in seeking additional support, and many people who have successfully completed a recovery program find that aftercare helps them stay focused on their sobriety goals. 

Types of aftercare for cocaine addiction include:

  • Outpatient therapy
  • Support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Relapse prevention support
  • Medication management 
  • Transitional living or sober living homes

Find Lasting Cocaine Recovery at Hope’s Destiny

If you or someone that you love is living with an addiction to cocaine or another substance, remember that recovery is always possible and it is never too late to start. 

Our outpatient and partial hospitalization programs are flexible and personalized, with services designed to address each person as an individual and get them on track toward a healthier, substance-free life. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one heal from a cocaine use disorder at Hope’s Destiny. 

Further Reading

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Further Reading

Frequently Asked Questions

How is cocaine addiction treated?

How cocaine addiction is treated will depend on the individual and what level of care they need.Possible cocaine addiction treatments are detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and therapy. 

What does cocaine addiction look like?

Cocaine addiction can look different on different people, but can present itself with changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or eating habits. In addition, someone struggling with cocaine addiction may have dilated pupils, appear restless and agitated, and may exhibit mood swings as well.

Can you overdose on cocaine?

Yes, you can overdose on cocaine, as well as suffer a variety of other life-threatening side effects. Cocaine most strongly affects a person’s heart, so most overdoses from cocaine involve a heart attack or stroke.

How long does it take to get over a cocaine addiction?

While it typically takes between 7 and 10 days to detox from cocaine, a person can continue to experience withdrawal from cocaine for up to several months.Essentially, there is no exact timeline for getting over cocaine addiction, and can take cocaine users different amounts of time depending on factors like the severity of their addiction and whether they seek professional help.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “How is cocaine addiction treated?” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 5, 2024. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “How is cocaine used?” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 5, 2024. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 5, 2024. 

Psychology Today. “Cocaine Use Disorder.” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 5, 2024. 

Cocaine Addiction: Common Signs, Side Effects, & Treatment

Written mBy: Written by Placeholder

Published Date: 03/11/24

Last Updated: 03/11/24