Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine is a powerful, illegal stimulant drug used by more than five million Americans. The dangers of cocaine abuse include the ever-present possibility of an overdose. They also include the possibility of developing an addiction to the drug. In the U.S., roughly a million people have diagnosable cocaine problems.
People addicted to cocaine undergo a number of physical and behavioral changes. Some of these changes may catch your eye immediately. However, others may be much more subtle and difficult to detect. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s possible to spot these signs of cocaine addiction.
It’s also important to know what to do if you suspect that a problem exists. With the right kind of information, you can take steps that make the situation better, not worse. The ultimate goal is maximizing the odds that your loved one will get help.
What Is Cocaine Addiction
When you use cocaine, the drug alters the way your brain normally functions. It does so by changing the brain’s chemical balance. One of the most important changes takes place in an area called the reward pathway or pleasure center. Under everyday circumstances this center is responsible for making you feel good when you do things such as:
- Take part in your favorite activities
- Eat tasty foods
- Have sex
Cocaine essentially puts your pleasure center in a turbocharged state. This heightened level of activity creates a sensation known as euphoria. Euphoria far outstrips the amount of pleasure you can get from doing other things. The feeling is so powerful that many cocaine users try to recreate it over and over.
Eventually, this repeated action will lead your brain to expect the presence of cocaine. That expectation is known as physical dependence. Cocaine addiction occurs when you also develop an emotional or psychological need for the drug.
How to Tell If Someone Is on Cocaine
Only a doctor or addiction specialist can definitively say if some is addicted to cocaine. However, you can look for a number of potential signs of cocaine addiction Some of these signs apply generally to all people affected by substance addiction. Others are more specific to people addicted to cocaine or other stimulants.
General Signs of Addiction
The general signs of a possible drug or alcohol addiction fall into several different categories, including:
- Changes in normal physical health or appearance
- Compulsive, substance-seeking behavior
- Other behavioral changes
- A sudden or unusual lack of concern for personal appearance
- Unexplained work or school problems
- Sudden or unexplained financial problems
Potential changes in normal physical health include a sudden increase or decrease in weight. You may also notice unusual changes in a person’s normal energy levels. Unexplained skin, nose or eye issues may also occur.
A classic sign of addiction is compulsive, substance-seeking behavior. This behavior is focused on the desire for more drugs or alcohol. That desire takes priority over other needs or motivations. It often results in reckless actions and disregard for any possible consequences.
The list of potential behavioral changes includes other significant alterations of a person’s daily routine. That may include such things as staying out late and avoiding friends and loved ones. It may also include acting in secretive ways, lying and spending time with new or unfamiliar people.
Lack of concern for personal appearance can take a number of forms. For example, you may notice a disinterest in grooming. or the condition of clothing. Your loved one may also stop caring about makeup or other face-related routines.
At work or school, people suffering from addiction may experience a notable drop in performance. Affected people may also stop following accepted rules or procedures. In addition, they may be reprimanded or penalized for their conduct or attitude.
Potential financial problems associated with addiction include an unexplained lack of money. You may also notice that your own money may go missing for no clear reason. In addition, you may notice missing belongings or other signs of theft.
Physical Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Some of the specific potential signs of cocaine addiction are physical. They may include things such as:
- An unexplained increase in energy levels
- Sleeplessness or a reduced need for sleep
- A bloody, runny or congested nose (indicating nasal use)
- Burn marks on the fingers (indicating smoking of the drug)
- Needle marks (indicating cocaine injection)
- High sweat output
- Vomiting and/or nausea
- Trembling muscles
Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Other signs of cocaine addiction are behavioral. Specific things you may notice in a friend or loved one include:
- Bouts of an elated mood
- A sense of invincibility
- Loss of the ability to think clearly
- Poor decision-making
- A confused mental state
- Incoherent or rapid speech
- Outbursts of aggression or hostility
- Episodes of violent behavior
- Auditory or visual hallucinations
- Bouts of paranoia
- A decreasing appetite and weight loss
- Unusual bouts of depression
- Thoughts of dying or suicide
None of the physical or behavioral signs are definite indicators of addiction. Still, if you notice them, you have clear cause for concern. The best thing to do if you’re worried is to ask your loved one to see a doctor or addiction specialist.
How Doctors and Addiction Specialists Diagnose Addiction
Cocaine addiction is a type of stimulant use disorder. The official definition of this disorder also includes serious, non-addicted abuse of cocaine. In addition, the disorder’s definition includes all other forms of stimulant addiction or abuse.
There are a total of 11 possible symptoms of a stimulant use disorder. Some of these symptoms point to an addiction, including:
- Increasing tolerance to the effects of cocaine
- Using the drug in larger amounts or more often than you planned
- Not being able to stop using cocaine despite multiple attempts
- Having a daily routine dominated by cocaine-related activities
- Replacing once-favored activities with cocaine use
- Continuing to use the drug when you see how it harms your health
- Intense cravings for more cocaine
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if your cocaine use slows or stops
Doctors and addiction specialists take non-addicted abuse as seriously as addiction. That’s true because the two problems overlap to a large degree. Symptoms of non-addicted cocaine abuse include:
- A level of cocaine use that interferes with your work, school or home life
- Continuing to use cocaine despite negative impacts on key relationships
- Repeatedly doing dangerous things while under the influence of cocaine
You can have a mild, moderate or severe stimulant use disorder. Your doctor will diagnose you if you have at least two symptoms within a year’s time.
Staging an Intervention
Ideally, a person affected by cocaine addiction will seek help voluntarily. However, this is not always the case. In fact, many addicted people resist seeking help. If you’re in this situation, you may consider staging an intervention for some struggling with cocaine addiction.
What is an intervention? It’s a coordinated attempt to get your loved one to seek help. During this attempt, you and other concerned people:
- Outline the negative impact of addiction
- Give examples that illustrate this impact
- Suggest a clear plan for seeking treatment
- List actions you will take if your loved one won’t get help
An effective intervention is well-designed and thought out. The first step is gathering a group of friends or loved ones to plan the occasion. If at all possible, this group should consult a trained expert. Professionals to seek out may include:
- Intervention specialists
- Addiction specialists
- Social workers
- Mental health counselors
These specialists can help you decide if the signs of cocaine addiction point to an actual problem. They can also help you clarify the goals of an intervention. In some cases, the expert you choose may participate in the intervention.
Next, gather as much detail as you can on the affected person’s current state. You should also gather information on the nature of cocaine addiction. In addition, check into the types of programs available for treatment. Additional steps in staging a well-designed intervention include:
- Deciding who will take part in the intervention
- Planning out what you will say to your affected loved one
- Determining the consequences of not seeking help
- Holding the intervention itself
- Helping your loved one find and stay in treatment
A badly designed intervention can make things worse, not better. This often happens when the affected person feels antagonized or attacked. Take your time and don’t skip any steps in your preparation. No one can say for sure whether or not an intervention will work. Still, proper planning will maximize your odds for success.
Learn More About the Possible Signs of Addiction
Have any additional questions about the possible signs of cocaine addiction? Contact The Discovery House today. We’ll help you understand what the things you notice may mean. Our staff of specialists also has the expertise needed to formally diagnose cases of addiction.
If addiction treatment is needed, you can turn to The Discovery House for a range of crucial services. That includes help stopping your cocaine consumption. It also includes help learning how to establish ongoing sobriety and avoid a relapse. In addition, The Discovery House offers options for long-term support when you complete your addiction program. For more information, fill out our online form or give us a call.