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’s the second year that drug overdoses have killed over 60,000 people — in 2016, its death toll was 63,632.

But opioids aren’t the only drugs that kill. Of all illicit drugs, cocaine is the second-leading cause of drug overdose deaths. In fact, more African-Americans have died because of it compared to heroin.

The bottom line is, cocaine is deadly, with cardiotoxicity only being one of its effects. That’s why it’s vital to know the signs of cocaine use, as it can help you save the life of a loved one you suspect uses it.

Cocaine use can be easy to spot, as it leads to noticeable physical and mental changes in a person. Be on the lookout for the following signs, as a family member or friend on this drug will exhibit many or all 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 they use these terms when talking with others — especially people you don’t know — they may be buying or using coke.

2. Traces of White Powder Left around the Nose

Many cocaine users snort the drug in its powder form. As such, one way on how 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 and abuse coke.

3. High Levels of Unexplained Happiness or Excitement

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 it 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.

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, coke can even make one feel 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 they’re misjudging their driving ability. So, it’s no wonder that fatal car accidents are second to drug overdoses when it comes to accidental deaths. And 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.

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.

As a result, they 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 Even 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.

Delusion can make them believe that they’re another person, say like the Queen of England. Hallucinations are perceptions of things that aren’t there. For example, hallucinating coke 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 violence. 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. Sniffing it can take up to 10 minutes before users feel their effects. But within five to 20 minutes of feeling euphoric, the high goes away and may even cause discomfort.

This short-lived effect often drives them to get more of the drugs. Which 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 fast, stopping its use can give rise to depression.

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

Keep in mind that 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.

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.

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 it’s too late.

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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