Cocaine Addiction Causes & Effects

Learn About Cocaine Abuse

Learn About Cocaine Abuse & Treatment at Life Healing Center

As a drug that works by increasing the amount of dopamine that is released in the brain while simultaneously blocking pain receptors, cocaine is an illicit substance that is used for recreational purposes in many societies throughout the world. Also referred to as coke or blow, this drug is one that is known to elicit profound feelings of euphoria and exhilaration almost instantaneously after it has been ingested. While the high that users feel after consuming this substance occurs with rapid onset, that high only lasts for a short period of time. This, along with the fact that the high that users experience is one that is intense and extremely pleasurable, is what leads many people to continue to consume more of the substance, and in increasing quantities, in order to continuously achieve that desired high. As an individual uses cocaine, changes start to occur within the reward system in his or her brain, ultimately resulting in the development of tolerance, dependency, and addiction. This chemical change makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to overcome this deadly habit.


Cocaine Abuse Statistics

The office of the National Drug Control Policy has provided estimates that state that nearly 3.6 million people in America use cocaine on a regular, ongoing basis and, sadly, additional research has demonstrated that approximately 75% of individuals who experiment with the use of cocaine end up developing an addiction to this dangerous substance.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Cocaine Abuse

When coming to understand why some people are more susceptible to developing an addiction to substances like cocaine than other people are, it is important to look at a number of different contributing factors. These factors are discussed briefly in the following:

Genetic: Years of research have provided conclusive evidence that there is a strong hereditary link to the onset of addiction. Individuals who have family members who are struggling with chemical dependency concerns, such as an addiction to cocaine, have a higher likelihood of experiencing similar concerns at some point in their lives as well. In fact, studies have identified that individuals who are born to parents who struggle with addiction are eight times more likely to struggle with addiction than are individuals who do not have the same genetic background.

Environment: The environments in which individuals are immersed can greatly impact their vulnerability to experimenting with the use of drugs like cocaine. For example, when individuals are exposed to the use of cocaine, they are more likely to experiment with the use of this substance as well. Additionally, individuals who are exposed to home or work environments that are ripe with stress or chaos are more likely to turn to substances as a means of coping. Furthermore, individuals who have gone through a traumatic experience and lack the skills necessary for appropriately coping with that trauma are at an extremely heightened risk for abusing substances, such as cocaine, in an attempt to numb the emotional turmoil that has resulted from that experience.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family or personal history of mental illness
  • Experiencing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events
  • Being the victim of abuse or neglect
  • Being exposed to cocaine while in utero
  • Being subjected to stress or chaos in one’s home and/or work environment
  • Ease of access with which one can obtain cocaine

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

The signs and symptoms that will be displayed by an individual who is struggling with an addiction to cocaine will vary from person to person. Examples of possible behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may displayed by a person who is abusing cocaine can include, but are not limited to, the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Displaying sudden bursts of extreme hyperactivity
  • Engaging in aggressive, and sometimes violent, outbursts
  • Rapid, excited, and often excessive, speech
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Demonstrating a change in peer relationships
  • Lying
  • Stealing

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Drastically decreased need for sleep
  • Extreme, rapid, or sudden weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Profuse sweating
  • Racing heart rate
  • Frequent nose bleeds

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Increased ability to hyperfocus
  • Decreased ability to use sound judgment
  • Decreased ability to use appropriate reasoning skills

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Excessive feelings of agitation
  • Excessive feelings of irritability
  • Heightened feelings of anxiety
  • Heightened feelings of unwarranted anger
  • Periods of mania
  • False sense of grandiosity


Effects of Cocaine Abuse

When cocaine abuse is allowed to persist in an individual’s life, he or she becomes vulnerable to experiencing any number of negative effects as a result. Not only will all areas of a person’s life be negatively impacted, but the lives of those around that person will likely be negatively affected as well. Examples of effects that are known to occur as a result of chronic cocaine use can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Inability to adhere to work responsibilities, potentially resulting in job loss
  • Financial strife
  • Development of discord within interpersonal relationships
  • Family conflict
  • Divorce
  • Interaction with law enforcement and the legal system

Additionally, a number of negative physical health effects are known to occur from prolonged cocaine use, of which may include the following:

  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Malnutrition
  • Damage to the heart
  • Damage to the blood vessels
  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Damage to the liver
  • Damage to the lungs
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Loss of the sense of smell
  • Respiratory failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Sudden death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals who are battling cocaine use disorder frequently find themselves plagued by symptoms of other mental health conditions as well. More specifically, individuals who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another type of trauma-related disorder often turn to the abuse of substances, such as cocaine, as a means of coping with the distressing emotional turmoil that has resulted from the experiences that elicited the onset of these disorders. In addition to PTSD or other trauma-related disorders, the following mental health conditions have been known to arise in individuals who are struggling with an addiction to cocaine:

  • Additional substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Cocaine Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: When the use of cocaine is suddenly ceased, users of this substance may experience a period of withdrawal as their bodies become rid of this toxic drug. Examples of effects that are known to occur as the result of cocaine withdrawal can include the following:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Increased feelings of paranoia
  • Elevated feelings of agitation and irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of unwarranted aggression
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares

Effects of cocaine overdose: When such an immense amount of cocaine is ingested that a person’s body is incapable of metabolizing it, the risk of overdose becomes imminent. Overdosing on any substance, including cocaine, should be viewed as a medical emergency and treatment should be received right away in order to prevent a grave outcome from occurring. Signs that may indicate that someone has overdosed on cocaine can include the following:

  • Losing consciousness / blacking out
  • Hyperthermia
  • Irregular breathing patterns
  • Extreme chest pains
  • Profuse vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Entering a state of delirium
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
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Life Healing Center saved my life from my cocaine addiction. The staff is amazing and extremely in tune with what is needed for healing. After years of suffering the endless cycle of addiction, I've walked away with a new life and a positive outlook on life. Celebrating my first year of sobriety now.

– Katie T.
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