Do you think someone you know is using cocaine? If so, it’s important to know more about the signs of cocaine use. Having this knowledge will give you the information you need in order to identify your loved one’s struggle. As a result, you can begin looking for options to help your friend or family member overcome addiction for good.

Drug Misuse in New Jersey

In 2017, drug overdoses claimed 70,237 lives in the United States. Of these deaths, over two-thirds (67.8%) were due to opioid overdose. It was the second year that drug overdoses killed over 60,000 people — in 2016, its death toll was 63,632.

In New Jersey alone, drug overdoses claimed at least 3,163 lives in 2018. It’s the fourth year that the drug death toll has risen in the state.

But opioids aren’t the only drugs that kill. Of all illicit drugs, cocaine is the second-leading cause of drug overdose deaths. So, it is certainly vital to know the signs of cocaine use, as it can help you save the life of a loved one you suspect uses it.

The bottom line is, cocaine is deadly, with cardiotoxicity only being one of its effects. In some cases, cocaine use can be easy to spot, as it leads to noticeable physical and mental changes in a person. But, there are also some less-than-noticeable or subtle signs of cocaine use.

If you think someone you know may be using this powerfully addictive drug, it’s important to act quickly. Be on the lookout for the following signs, as a family member or friend on this drug will exhibit many or all of them.

1. You Overhear them Say “Snow” or “Blow”

Aside from “coke”, cocaine has many street names, including “C”, “snow”, “blow”, and “powder”. That’s because, in street drug form, cocaine is white, and comes in a fine, crystalline powder.

If you hear your loved one use these terms when talking with others — especially people you don’t know — they may be buying or using cocaine.

2. Traces of White Powder Left around the Nose

Many cocaine users snort the drug in its powder form. As such, one way to tell if someone is sniffing coke is if you see white, powdery traces around their nose. A “runny nose” is also common among those who snort cocaine.

Prolonged “sniffing” of cocaine can also damage the very sensitive lining of the nose. As one snorts the crystalline powder, it can rupture the lining of the nasal passages. This is why nosebleeds are also common among those who use cocaine.

3. High Levels of Unexplained Happiness or Excitement (Euphoria)

One of the main reasons behind cocaine addiction is its powerful “euphoric” effects. This “high” brings such an intense pleasure akin to what one feels after a huge accomplishment. This “rewarding” feeling is one of the things that drive people to get high on cocaine over and over again.

In cocaine users, euphoria can show as extreme excitement or exaggerated happiness. Those on the drug may also “believe” that they’re doing so great in life.

If you notice that your loved one is uncharacteristically excited fairly often, this may be a sign of drug use. This is especially the case if the individual has no true explanation for their excitability.

4. Increased Self-Confidence to the Point of Overconfidence

Since cocaine exaggerates one’s feelings of well-being, it can lead to increased confidence. Much like the effects of methamphetamine, cocaine can even make one feel dangerously overconfident.

This overconfidence can result in cocaine users misjudging their abilities and skills. They may believe that their abilities are much better than they actually are.

These cocaine symptoms can be deadly, especially if individuals are misjudging their abilities. For example, some people who are under the influence of drugs like cocaine may attempt to drive, believing that they are capable of properly doing so. It’s no wonder that fatal car accidents are second to drug overdoses when it comes to accidental deaths. Unfortunately, many of these accidents involved drivers under the influence of drugs.

As you can see, overdosing isn’t the only risk when it comes to using stimulant drugs, like cocaine. So, if you notice that a loved one is struggling with drug dependence, it’s important to make sure he or she gets help right away. 

5. Pupil Dilation and Sensitivity to Light

As cocaine stimulates the brain, it responds by releasing adrenaline and endorphins. The release of these hormones then dilates or widens the pupils. Sometimes, the pupils can become so large that it also causes light sensitivity. In cocaine users, even normal lighting conditions can already cause this sensitivity. That’s why they may choose to wear sunglasses, even indoors.

6. Withdrawal and Isolation

A recent study found that cocaine users don’t like social interaction. One reason is that the drug makes them feel that interacting with others isn’t rewarding. 

Also, substance dependence tends to cause people to feel alone. This might come as a result of several things. In some cases, family members may misunderstand their loved one’s addiction, believing that the individual’s substance use is a choice. On the other hand, some family members or friends may try to help their struggling loved one. But, if they do not know exactly how to help, they may end up driving the suffering individual farther away.

Yet another reason why some people may isolate themselves while dealing with substance use is guilt. Many individuals feel guilty or ashamed because of their struggle with addiction.

As a result of these challenges, substance users may begin to withdraw from social settings. They may start to avoid being in the company of people they otherwise loved to hang out with. All these can lead to isolation, which is in fact, common in many other drug users.

7. Paranoia and/or Violence

Studies have found that “crack” cocaine leads to paranoia in up to 84% of users. It also found that almost half of crack users displayed violent behaviors.

When paranoia hits cocaine users, they may feel irrational fear for something unreal. They may think that people are “out to get” them. Sometimes, they may even feel they’re in danger. From here, delusions and hallucinations can occur.

Delusions can make people believe that they are another person. Hallucinations are perceptions of things that aren’t there. For example, hallucinating cocaine users may say bugs are crawling on their skin even if there aren’t any.

These delusions and hallucinations can be what drives them to commit violent actions. To outsiders, it may seem violent behavior, but to the users, it may be a form of “self-defense”. But they may be defending themselves from imagined dangers.

8. Frequent Disappearances

People who use crack cocaine feel the results almost right away. It can take up to 10 minutes before users who sniff the drug feel the effects of crack cocaine. But within 5 to 20 minutes of experiencing euphoria, the high goes away and may even cause discomfort.

This short-lived effect often drives people to want to get more of the drugs that they are using. This can explain why they often excuse themselves from family events. Some may even offer no explanation and just “disappear” several times a day.

9. Depression

Although cocaine use triggers the brain to produce endorphins, it also depletes serotonin. Serotonin is also a “happy” hormone that contributes to one’s feelings of well-being. Because cocaine depletes it so quickly, stopping its use can give rise to depression.

10. Lack of Appetite and Weight Loss

Perhaps your loved one is showing little to no interest in eating. This is not uncommon among those who struggle with substance misuse. Firstly, cocaine has appetite-suppressing qualities, making individuals less interested in eating food. Also, people who suffer from drug dependence often experience a decrease in self-care. They may not feel much like eating as drugs tend to take priority in their lives. 

As a result of appetite loss, individuals who suffer from cocaine dependence often show signs of weight loss. This change in weight can occur fairly quickly. So, if you have noticed that someone you know is losing weight somewhat rapidly, check for the other signs of cocaine use. If you see any of them in addition to weight loss, it’s possible that your loved one is dealing with a cocaine use disorder.

Getting Help for a Loved One Showing Signs of Cocaine Use in New Jersey

Cocaine misuse is a serious matter. Those who suffer from addiction can experience some very severe physical health complications. Some may even develop mental illnesses as a result of substance misuse.

This should be enough for you to encourage your loved one to get help as soon as you notice signs of cocaine use in them. Do what you can to make them realize they need help before this drug leaves you with no one to help. You may need to stage an intervention in order to encourage the individual to get treatment.

Need help discussing cocaine recovery and treatment in New Jersey with a loved one? Then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help a family member or friend you suspect to be using cocaine before the addiction worsens. 

If addiction is present in the life of someone you love, it’s time to reach out for help. Here at Discovery Institute, we offer treatment programs that can help you and your family to overcome the effects of addiction. Despite what the situation might look like, there is hope for your friend or family member. Just call us today to find out how we can help!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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