Cocaine Abuse Addiction

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Cocaine is a powerful drug that can lead to dependency, overdose, and death. Because people feel an intense high immediately, it creates a desire to have more. In 2020, 5.2 million people aged 12 and older reported using cocaine in the past 12 months.

Cocaine use has significant short and long-term effects. Taking small amounts of cocaine makes the user feel alert, awake, more talkative, and confident. They might experience a reduced appetite and need for sleep.

The long-term effects of chronic cocaine use can be severe. Adverse effects include anxiety, panic attacks, reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, significant weight loss, malnourishment, permanent damage to the heart and cardiovascular system, increased risk of stroke, permanent damage to the nasal passageways, and a sharp decline in cognitive functioning.

If you or someone you love has a substance use disorder, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We are dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and individualized medically monitored detox program. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.

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What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant leaves native to South America. It is a white, crystalline powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

Cocaine works by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for regulating mood, motivation, and pleasure, and the surge in their levels caused by cocaine use leads to the intense feelings of euphoria and energy that are associated with the drug.

However, cocaine use has numerous adverse effects on the body and brain. These include increased heart rate and blood pressure, respiratory problems, anxiety, paranoia, and addiction. Chronic use of cocaine can also lead to damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs, as well as mental health problems such as depression and psychosis.

Causes & Risk Factors for Cocaine Abuse & Addiction

There are several causes and risk factors that can contribute to the development of cocaine abuse and addiction:

  • Genetics – Studies have shown that genetics may play a role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to cocaine addiction.
  • Environmental Factors – Examples include stress, trauma, and peer pressure.
  • Psychological Factors – Some people may use cocaine to cope with underlying psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.
  • Social Factors – Examples include a lack of social support or a poor home environment.
  • Early Cocaine Use – Starting cocaine use at a young age can increase the likelihood of addiction.
  • Polydrug Use – Cocaine is often used with other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids. This can increase the risk of addiction and overdose.
  • Chronic Use – Regular and chronic use of cocaine can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system, making it more difficult for an individual to quit the drug.

It’s important to note that addiction is a complex disease with multiple contributing factors. While these risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing cocaine addiction, there is no single cause of addiction, and anyone can become addicted regardless of their background or circumstances.

The Relationship Between Cocaine Abuse, Mental Illness, & Disorders

Unfortunately, because cocaine impacts dopamine, GABA, and the structural components of the brain, there are psychological effects that occur from cocaine use. Psychiatric symptoms include agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, violence, and suicidal and homicidal ideation. Additionally, if a person is already diagnosed with a comorbid mental health disorder, cocaine can exacerbate the symptoms of the co-occurring mood disorder.

Research has found paranoia in 68-84% of patients using cocaine. 55% of people were found to have engaged in violent behaviors, and homicide occurred in 31% of patients who used cocaine. Suicide has appeared in 18-22% of cases. Finally, many people diagnosed with a comorbid psychological disorder were found to have cocaine dependence.

How Addictive Is Cocaine to Users?

Cocaine is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. The drug has a powerful effect on the brain’s reward system, which regulates feelings of pleasure and motivation. When someone uses cocaine, it causes a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, leading to intense euphoria and energy.

Over time, the brain’s reward system can become desensitized to the effects of cocaine, and the individual will need to use more significant amounts of the drug to achieve the same high. This can lead to the development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Withdrawal from cocaine can be difficult and uncomfortable, with symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and intense cravings. These symptoms can make it challenging for individuals to quit using the drug, even if they want to.

Are Certain Methods of Use More Addictive Than Others?

Some evidence suggests that specific methods of cocaine use can be more addictive than others. For example:

  • Smoking Crack Cocaine – This can be more addictive than other methods. Smoking crack delivers the drug to the brain faster than other methods, leading to a more intense and immediate high.
  • Injecting Cocaine – This can also be highly addictive. Injecting cocaine can lead to a rapid and intense high, increasing the risk of overdose and addiction.
  • Snorting cocaine – This may produce a less intense high than other methods of ingestion, but snorting cocaine can still lead to drug dependence.

Can You Become Addicted to Cocaine After First Use?

While it is possible to become addicted to cocaine after the first use, it is relatively uncommon. Addiction is a complex disease that develops over time due to repeated drug use, changes in brain chemistry, and environmental and social factors.

However, even one-time use of cocaine can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Cocaine use can cause various physical and psychological effects, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, seizures, anxiety, paranoia, and sudden death.

Additionally, even occasional or recreational cocaine use can lead to increased tolerance, leading to the use of more significant amounts of the drug to achieve the same high. This can increase the risk of addiction over time.

The Stigma That Exists Surrounding Cocaine Addiction

Unfortunately, there is still much stigma surrounding cocaine and addiction. This stigma can prevent individuals from seeking help and contribute to feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation.

One reason for the stigma surrounding cocaine addiction is the perception that addiction is a moral failing or a lack of willpower. Addiction is a complex disease that affects the brain and behavior and is influenced by genetic, environmental, and social factors.

Another reason for the stigma surrounding cocaine addiction is the association of drug addiction with criminal behavior. Individuals who struggle with addiction may be unfairly judged or punished by society and seen as dangerous to themselves or others.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a treatable disease and that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, not weakness. With the proper treatment and support, individuals can recover from cocaine addiction through detox and treatment and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Visible Signs Someone May Be Addicted to Cocaine

You may not be able to notice the signs of a cocaine use disorder right away.  Over time, there may be some signals that the person needs help. Here are some visible signs that someone you love may be addicted to cocaine.

Visible Signs of Cocaine Addiction: 

  • Changes in physical appearance.
  • Increased agitation, restlessness, and anxiety.
  • Financial problems.
  • Social isolation.
  • Increased risk-taking behavior.

It’s important to remember that not everyone who uses cocaine will display all these signs and that addiction can manifest differently for different individuals. However, if you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, it may be a sign of cocaine addiction, and it’s essential to seek professional help.

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Symptoms & Side Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction can cause a range of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms and side effects, including:

  • Physical Symptoms – Increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, respiratory problems, chest pain, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • Psychological Symptoms – Anxiety, paranoia, irritability, mood swings, and depression.
  • Behavioral Symptoms – Lying, stealing, and engaging in dangerous behaviors.
  • Tolerance & Withdrawal – Over time, individuals who are addicted to cocaine may develop a tolerance to the drug, which can lead to increased use and larger doses. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using, including fatigue, depression, anxiety, and intense cravings.
  • Health Consequences – Long-term cocaine addiction can have serious health consequences, including heart disease, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal problems. It can also increase the risk of stroke, seizure, and overdose.

Can Cocaine Addiction Result in Permanent Physical or Psychological Damage?

Yes, cocaine addiction can result in permanent, physical, and psychological damage.

Repeated use of cocaine can lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function, leading to long-term neurological and psychological problems. Cocaine can damage blood vessels in the brain, leading to strokes or seizures. It can also cause heart disease, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems, and other health issues.

Cocaine addiction can also have long-term psychological consequences, including anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. It can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, and other neurological problems.

Additionally, cocaine addiction can harm social and personal relationships, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and emotional distress.

What to Do If Someone Overdoses on Cocaine

If someone overdoses on cocaine, it is important to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Here are some additional steps to take if a loved one appears to have a cocaine overdose.

How to Help During Overdose:

  • Call 911.
  • Stay with the person and monitor their breathing and heart rate. If the person stops breathing or their heart stops, perform CPR.
  • Keep the person calm and prevent them from engaging in physical activity that could further elevate their heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Do not leave the person alone; keep them in a cool, quiet, and well-ventilated area.
  • If the person is conscious, try to keep them awake and talking.
  • Provide any information about the person’s drug use, including how much cocaine they used to medical professionals.

It is important to note that cocaine overdose can be life-threatening, and immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent serious harm or death. Overdose can cause seizures, stroke, heart attack, and other life-threatening complications.

Cocaine Use, Addiction, & Overdose Statistics

Cocaine use, addiction, and overdose statistics vary depending on the region and population.

Cocaine Use Statistics:

  • According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 1.6 million people aged 12 or older in the United States had used cocaine in the past year.
  • The same survey found that approximately 570,000 people aged 12 or older had a cocaine use disorder in the past year.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cocaine was involved in 16% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019.
  • Men are more likely than women to use cocaine and experience cocaine-related problems.
  • Cocaine use is highest among young adults aged 18-25.
  • Cocaine is frequently used with other substances, such as alcohol and opioids, which can increase the risk of overdose and other adverse health outcomes.
  • The potency of cocaine has increased in recent years, increasing the risk of overdose and other complications.

The Cost of Cocaine Use on Families & Society

It is difficult to estimate the exact financial cost of cocaine use on families and society, but it is clear that the cost is significant. For example, in the United States, the economic cost of illicit drug use, including cocaine use, was estimated to be over $193 billion in 2019, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This includes healthcare costs, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs.

Moreover, the cost of cocaine use extends beyond the financial and includes the physical, psychological, and social costs to individuals, families, and communities. Seeking professional help for cocaine addiction can help individuals and families address the full range of consequences of cocaine use and promote overall health and well-being.

Potential Solutions to Cocaine Abuse & Addiction

Solutions to minimize cocaine abuse and addiction involve a variety of approaches to prevent and resolve the current factors responsible for the drug crisis we currently face in the United States. The primary focus of prevention includes harm reduction strategies, increased access to treatment, and education and prevention efforts.

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Harm Reduction Strategies

Harm reduction is an approach that focuses on building connections with people who use drugs.

The harm reduction goals are to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve people’s physical, mental, and social well-being, and offer various substance use treatment options.

Harm reduction is essential to the comprehensive approach to addressing substance use disorders through prevention, treatment, and recovery, where individuals feel empowered to seek treatment.

Harm reduction organizations incorporate a spectrum of strategies that meet people “where they are” on their terms and may serve as a pathway to additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

Increased Access to Treatment

Increasing access to treatment for cocaine use disorders is an important step in addressing the issue of cocaine abuse and addiction. Here are some potential strategies for increasing access to treatment:

  • Improving Healthcare Access – Including mental health and substance abuse treatment.
  • Increasing Addiction Treatment Funding – Including outpatient and inpatient treatment options can help ensure that individuals with cocaine addiction can access the necessary care.
  • Integrating Addiction Treatment – Integrating addiction treatment into primary care can help improve access to care for individuals with cocaine addiction.
  • Utilizing Telemedicine – Can help increase access to addiction treatment services, particularly in rural or underserved areas.

Education & Prevention Efforts

Education and prevention efforts are critical in addressing cocaine use disorders. Here are some potential strategies for education and prevention:

– School-Based Education – Providing education about the risks and consequences of cocaine use in schools can help prevent individuals from drug use.

– Community-Based Education – Raise awareness about the risks and consequences of cocaine use and promote healthy behaviors.

– Parent Education – Educating parents about the risks of cocaine use and how to talk to their children about it can help prevent cocaine use in adolescents.

– Media Campaigns – Can help raise awareness about the risks and consequences of cocaine use and promote healthy behaviors.

– Policy Changes – Implementing policies to reduce access to cocaine, such as regulating the production and distribution of the drug, can help prevent cocaine use disorders.

Minimizing Risks & Exposure to Cocaine

Minimizing risks and exposure to cocaine can help prevent the negative consequences of cocaine use. Here are some potential strategies for reducing risks and exposure.

Ways to Reduce Cocaine Risks: 

  • Avoid cocaine use.
  • Be aware of the signs of cocaine use.
  • Avoid situations where cocaine may be present.
  • Practice harm reduction strategies.
  • Seek help for cocaine addiction.

What Treatment Is Available to Those Who Suffer From Cocaine Addiction?

At Guardian Recovery, we understand how difficult cocaine withdrawal can be. Someone detoxing from cocaine can experience extreme anxiety, depression, irritability, rage, fatigue, temperature irregularities, and overwhelming cravings. These symptoms make quitting hard, even when someone desperately wants to stop.

The key to overcoming this obstacle is a medically supervised detox where withdrawal symptoms can be identified and treated immediately. Guardian Recovery provides 24-hour medical supervision and comfort care for detox clients. Our medical and client support team’s goal is to make sure all clients have a safe and comfortable detox so they can begin the next phase of their recovery journey.

Guardian Recovery Cocaine Treatment Includes:

  • Medically Assisted Detox.
  • Dual Diagnosis Programs.
  • Inpatient addiction treatment programs.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs.

Call to Learn More

At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of cocaine detox — one that focuses on much more than physical stabilization. In addition to emphasizing physical recovery, we tackle mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. While prioritizing a safe and pain-free cocaine withdrawal, we offer individualgroup, and family therapy sessions, case management services, relapse prevention training, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today if you or your loved one is ready to begin an entirely new way of life and commit to long-term recovery. As soon as you call, we start developing a plan of action that begins with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine the most appropriate level of care for each unique case. We identify potential coverage options if our medically monitored detox program is a good fit. We work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation insurance benefit check.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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