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Cocaine Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Woman laughing while smoking a cigarette

There is a wide range of side effects that cocaine addiction can cause. For a small sample: selling of property for extra money, stealing, mood swings, rapid weight loss, change in friendship groups, cardiac issues, avoiding family responsibilities, underperforming at work, isolation, neglecting your health, damage to the mucous membrane, septum collapse, changes of routine, appetite loss and more.

How Cocaine Addiction Starts

The sensation caused by cocaine is brief and immediately pleasurable. Cocaine creates an intense but short-lived feeling of euphoria and gives users a sudden burst of energy. Similarly to caffeine and other stimulants, cocaine also makes it difficult to sleep and causes loss of appetite.

Some of the more psychological effects include an overpowering sense of health and vitality and an almost grandiose sense of ability and self-worth, mixed with anxiety and twitchiness. As the drug slowly wears off, these temporary sensations of mastery are replaced by a serious comedown and feelings of depression. The cocaine user will then “crash”, becoming lazy, sickly and typically staying in bed for a day or more.

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How does cocaine work in your brain & body?

A large quantity of academic study has been dedicated to comprehending the way cocaine produces such addictive and pleasurable effects. One way this works is through the drug’s effects on brain chemistry. Scientists have found that certain areas within the brain, when stimulated, can produce pleasurable sensations.

One system of the brain that appears to be most affected by cocaine is the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Nerve cells from the VTA stretch to another brain area known as the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is one of the most important pleasure centres of the brain. In some animal studies, a wide range of mental pleasurable stimuli, including sex, food, and some commonly abused drugs, was shown to increase activity in the nucleus accumbens by a significant amount. In the healthy, expected communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron and then absorbed into the synapse, where it is able to bind with dopamine receptors on other neurons.

Dopamine is typically then absorbed back into the transmitting neuron by a protein is known as the dopamine transporter. If cocaine is used, it attaches itself to the dopamine transporter and prevents the normal recycling process from occurring, which typically results in dopamine collecting in the synapse which can only add to the pleasurable effects of cocaine.

Scientists have also found that, when a particularly pleasurable or enjoyable event is happening, it is usually accompanied by an increase of the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons in the VTA.  In the expected communication process, dopamine is usually released by a neuron into the synapse, where it then binds with dopamine receptors.

Drugs, and especially cocaine, cause chaos with this interaction. For example, researchers have discovered that cocaine prevents the removal of dopamine from the synapse, which as you’d expect, causes a build-up of dopamine. This build-up causes continuous stimulation of the receiving neurons, which is the most likely cause of the euphoria commonly experienced during cocaine abuse.

As cocaine use continues over time, most addicts tend to develop a tolerance. This means that higher quantities and more and more regular use are needed to achieve the same level of pleasure.

More recent studies and experiments have suggested that during longer times of abstinence from cocaine, the recollection of the feeling of euphoria experienced with cocaine use can cause extreme desire and cravings to use, which can be a major cause of relapse or struggles with addiction, even when the person in question has been abstinent for a long time.

What are the side effects of cocaine abuse?

Medical and scientific evidence of cocaine’s side effects continue to build, and thanks to the widespread and growing abuse of the drug, the general public and government agencies alike are learning how serious this issue can be.

Most healthcare and social workers will agree that cocaine addiction is by far the worst kind of drug addiction, due partly to the extremely long-term difficulties involved in quitting the drug, but also due to the personal, social and financial devastation cocaine causes in a user’s life.

Cocaine also drastically increases the risk of sudden heart attacks and has been suggested to trigger strokes. These problems are caused by the narrowing of blood vessels caused by cocaine use along with increases in blood pressure and heart rate due to the drugs stimulant effects.

Some further side effects include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, blood pressure changes, inconsistent heart rates, vomiting, anxiety, convulsions, insomnia, restlessness, cold sweats, nasal damage and more. All side effects that are typically associated with drug addiction.

What are the short term cocaine addiction symptoms?

Cocaine’s effects and the associated sensations become evident immediately after a first dose and can wear off within a few minutes or hours depending on the quantity taken and the person’s tolerance.

When used in smaller amounts, cocaine usually makes the user feel extremely alert, energetic, chatty and euphoric. It can also decrease or completely remove the desire for food and sleep.

The amount of time these effects will last depends upon the method of taking the drug, not just the quantity. The quicker the method of absorption, the more intense and lasting the high. The high from sniffing lines of cocaine is relatively slow in onset and usually lasts roughly 15 to 30 minutes, while the feeling from smoking crack cocaine may only linger for 5 to 10 minutes.

Larger quantities (100-200mg or more) increases the user’s high feeling, but can also lead to unpredictable behaviour, bizarre thought processes and even violence.
Such users of larger amounts can experience much more serious side effects including paranoia, the shakes, vertigo, twitching muscles, paranoia and anxiety, and worse.

In even more rare situations, instant death can occur when a person first tries cocaine. Deaths by the drug are usually caused by cardiac arrest or seizures leading to time in hospital, however, it can also cause a range of other risky effects including lack of coordination, dizziness, headaches, hallucinations and more.

What are the long-term cocaine addiction symptoms?

Cocaine is one of if not the most addictive substances on earth. Once having used it, there is a chance a person can lose complete control, and it’s extremely difficult to predict how often somebody will use the drug early on. The stimulating and addictive properties of cocaine are thought to be mainly a result of the manner in which it inhibits the absorption of dopamine.

Dopamine is released as part of the brain’s “reward” system, for example during or after sex or exercise, and is in some way involved in the addictive properties of every habit-forming drug. Binge use of cocaine leads to even more serious cases of irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This can lead to full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the user can experience auditory hallucinations and other more immediately urgent side effects.

Are there medical complications with cocaine use?

Absolutely. Here are just a few:

  • Gastrointestinal effects: Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite.
  • Cardiovascular effects: Inconsistent heart rates, cardiac arrest and heart attacks
  • Neurological effects: Headaches, strokes, seizures and more.
  • Respiratory effects: Respiratory failure, severe chest pain.

Cocaine use also has links to heart disease that can’t be ignored. Cocaine has been found to cause changes in heart rhythms and increase blood pressure.

Regularly taking cocaine through the nose can lead to; nosebleeds, decreased sensitivity to smell, trouble swallowing, hoarseness and more. Injecting cocaine has its own telltale side effects including obvious injection marks, most commonly in the forearms.

Intravenous cocaine users also drastically increase their chances of sudden death due to other substances added by street dealers.  Research has also discovered a dangerous interaction that happens between cocaine and alcohol. When used together, the two drugs combine in the body to become a substance known as cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is much more toxic than either cocaine or alcohol alone, and the effects of it last much longer too.

If you think you have a cocaine addiction you should seriously consider drug rehab. Finding yourself in a rehabilitation environment can help you overcome your condition and lead you on the road to recovery to get your life back on track.

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Cocaine Addiction Help UK

If you, or someone you know, are suffering from an addiction to cocaine, finding this webpage could be the first step on your road to recovery. At Serenity Addiction Centres we offer help for cocaine addiction by assessing the needs of the individual, using the 12-step Minnesota Model programme, and offering psychotherapy, group work, and support work too.

Of course, there are free NHS options however the benefits of residential rehab and detox is immediate support and higher quality.

Our programme is comprehensive, tailored to suit you, and designed to get you back on the road to recovery and living a life without addiction to cocaine. If you’re ready to find out how we can help you, please call us today – one of our expert team will be pleased to speak to you and talk you through your options and provide you with the best information.

Cocaine Rehab

Cocaine is a powerful drug in the stimulant family. It can be referred to as ‘coke’, ‘dust’, ‘white’, and ‘snow’ – amongst many other names. It is highly addictive and very dangerous – especially when in its freebase version (known as ‘crack’) – as this is when it hasn’t been chemically neutralised. Taking cocaine produces a feeling of being ‘high’. This feeling is extremely pleasurable, and users often feel the need to get the high again, and again. Over time, the user will need to increase the amount of cocaine they take in order to achieve the same high – because (just like other drugs) the body develops a tolerance to it.

If you are worried about a cocaine addiction, you can look out for a few signs –
  • Do they seem hyper/full of energy/and/or excited whilst having issues with their nose (for instance a nose bleed or runny nose)
  • Have they lost weight?
  • Do they seem to suffer from anxiety/mood swings/nervousness?
  • Do they have trouble sleeping?
  • Has their ability to concentrate altered?
  • Have they displayed any signs of paranoia or experienced hallucinations?

If you or a friend are experiencing the above symptoms, and you’d like to make a positive change to your life and get help for your addiction, please get in touch with us today. We offer free help and advice for addictive disorders and our team will be happy to talk to you about how we can help you start turning your life around.

We offer residential cocaine rehab services, a comprehensive treatment plan to tackle your cocaine addiction, and expert support from a team of highly skilled professionals.

Cocaine addiction is serious. If it is left untreated it can lead to changes in your blood pressure and heart rate. It has also been linked to breathing difficulties, vomiting, damage to the nasal region, lungs, anxiety, as well as stroke, heart attack, and/or convulsions.

These are, quite clearly, severe medical conditions, so it is important that when you choose to detox from cocaine you choose a clinic that is reputable and experienced in dealing with cocaine addiction. During withdrawal some people may experience anger, depression, shaking, disrupted sleep, and cravings for cocaine, but we will be there for you throughout your experience and we will work with you to get you through to the other side.

If you are seeking help and are looking for a cocaine detox programme, you have made the first big step on your path to recovery. Right now, you may be feeling anxious, worried, and alone. Your addiction may have alienated you from your friends and loved ones and caused major chaos and disruption in your life. Seeking help is a turning point and we are glad you have found us.

When you make an appointment to meet with us, you will be assessed prior to your admission so that we can understand your situation. Once a full assessment has been completed, and a treatment plan has been agreed on, you will work with our dedicated team to rid your body of any traces of cocaine.

You will undergo a cocaine detox programme and this will all be done under the careful supervision of our highly trained, and skilled staff, in the safety of our relaxing detox environment. You will follow a personalised recovery programme which could include psychotherapy work, group sessions, and talking therapy such as CBT and counselling to ensure it’s not just the addiction that is faced – but the root cause of it, too.

If you are ready to live a healthier, and happier life, and be free of your addiction to cocaine, then call us today to talk about the right step forward for you. Pick up the phone, and speak to our understanding, skilled team in confidence.

Make the first move to leave addiction – and all the destruction, troubles, worries, and anxiety that it brings – behind. We have rehab clinics all over the country, and further afield – in Scotland and internationally too so rest assured that we will be able to offer you a location that’s right for you. We hope to speak to you soon.

We understand that taking the decision to commit to rehab can be difficult, you can schedule a tour of one your local rehab centres to see the available facilities, resources and environment. This can help you with taking the first steps towards your rehabilitation


How do I know I have an addiction to drugs?

  • Continuously taking drugs that are no longer needed for a health problem
  • Building up a tolerance against them
  • Feel shaky, depressed, stomachaches, intense sweating, headaches and more intense symptoms when the drugs wear off
  • Even when drug addiction is hurting your loved ones, you still can’t stop
  • You spend time thinking about how to get drugs, when to take it, how good it feels.
  • Having a hard time giving yourself limitations to drug use
  • Losing interest in extracurricular or social activities that don’t involve drugs
  • Losing priority over personal & professional responsibilities
  • You borrow or steal money to pay for drugs
  • Having trouble to get along with loved ones and colleagues. They complain about your actions or how you’ve changed.
  • Sleeping and eating too much or too little
  • Drug addiction reflects on your physical appearance. Bloodshot eyes, bad breath, tremors, blood nose, or you may have gained or lost weight.
  • You have a new set of friends with whom you do drugs and go to different places to use the drugs.

What treatments are available for drug addiction?

  • Drug inpatient detox
  • Drug home detox
  • Drug rehab
  • Intervention
  • Counselling
  • Group Therapy
  • Rehab facilities

Where is cocaine addiction treatment available?

We have clinics all across the UK to help you on your journey to recovery. Click here to find rehab centres & facilities near you.

How much does cocaine addiction treatment cost?

For more information on how much drug addiction treatment costs, please click here.

How can I get started with drug addiction treatment?

The best way to get started is to give us a call at 0800 118 2892 for free advice and assessment. Let us help you or your loved one figure out the best treatment plan, so you can get started on your journey to recovery.

Self-help tips for dealing with the initial stages of drug addiction

  • Keep track of the volume of your drug use to have a better understanding of the role of drug addiction in your life.
  • Consider the impact of your drug use to the things that matter most to you, such as your partner, your children, your career and your health.
  • Consider getting advice from a person you trust about your drug use.
  • Remind yourself of the reasons why you want to change for the better.
  • Analyse your attempts at recovery. What worked and what didn’t?
  • Set specific, measurable goals, such as time and limitations you’ve made to recover from drug addiction.
  • Consider to open up to your loved ones that you’re committing to recovery and seek for their support.