Do you think someone you know is using cocaine? If so, it’s important to know more about the signs of cocaine dependence and addiction. Having this knowledge will give you the information you need 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.
At Discovery Institute in Marlboro, New Jersey, we offer drug abuse treatment programs for various substances including cocaine, in conjunction with various levels of care such as medical detox to help people successfully recover.
Cocaine Addiction in New Jersey: By the Numbers
Cocaine addiction is a significant issue in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were an estimated 1.9 million current cocaine users aged 12 and up, accounting for approximately 0.8% of the population aged 12 and above. Approximately 509,000 of these individuals were diagnosed with cocaine use disorders (CUDs).
According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.3 million Americans met the criteria for cocaine addiction as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
- According to the CDC, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021 in New Jersey.
- In 2021, the Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions report for New Jersey indicated that 5,385 people were admitted to drug treatment facilities for cocaine addiction. 5% only received treatment.
- Sadly, of 94,050 individuals who were affected by drug abuse, only 59.9% received treatment for drugs and alcohol.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant substance derived from the coca plant’s leaves. When consumed, it causes tremendous emotions of energy, alertness, and exhilaration. Cocaine is usually snorted or injected, although it can also be smoked in a pipe or mixed with marijuana to make a smokable substance known as “crack.”
Cocaine’s effects are brief, lasting only a few minutes to an hour depending on the method utilized. However, these extreme highs are fraught with hazards and dangers that can result in long-term physical and mental health problems. Increased heart rate, sleeplessness, paranoia, anxiety, sadness, and an increased risk of stroke are all possible side effects.
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.
Why is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine is one of the world’s most widely abused substances, and its addictive propensity is well known. Cocaine is highly addictive due to its potential to produce a robust, overwhelming sense of exhilaration when consumed. Furthermore, cocaine has a very quick start of action; users might feel its effects within minutes of consuming it.
This quick-acting, strong pleasure can be extremely reinforcing for users, leading to obsessive use. To treat cocaine addiction recognizing the signs is important. If drug use is left untreated for too long, it can be detrimental, resulting in mental disorders, cocaine overdose, coma, and even death.
What Does Cocaine Do to the Brain and Body?
Drug abuse affects the brain and central nervous system. Cocaine enters the bloodstream and immediately gets to the brain when smoked, snorted, or injected. Cocaine binds to dopamine transporters in the brain, blocking them from returning dopamine to neurons where it can be reabsorbed.
This increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, resulting in a sense of happiness and greater energy. Drug abuse also raises the levels of other neurotransmitters including serotonin and norepinephrine, which can cause sensations of alertness, pleasure, and excitement. Cocaine, in addition to its energizing effects, can produce appetite suppression and sleeplessness.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine dependence and addiction can result in physical and psychological symptoms that vary depending on how frequently and how much the substance is used. But opioids aren’t the only drugs that kill. Of all illicit drugs, cocaine overdose is the second-leading cause of death. So, it is certainly vital to know the signs of drug addiction, 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 addiction 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 substance abuse.
Physical Effects of Cocaine Abuse
The following are common physical indications of cocaine misuse:
- Pupils that are dilated
- Accelerated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Snorting causes nosebleeds
- Marks from needles (if injected)
- Weight reduction
- Agitation or restlessness
- Sleeping patterns shifts
Psychological Effects of Cocaine Abuse
- Cocaine misuse causes psychological effects as well. The following are some psychological signs:
- Cocaine-induced euphoria
- Appetite and sex drive changes
- Problems with concentration
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Intense cravings
Be on the lookout for the following signs of a substance use disorder (SUD), as a family member or friend can exhibit many or all of these, including:
Many snort cocaine 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.
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.
During drug use, euphoria can present itself in the form of extreme excitement or exaggerated happiness. 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.
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 chronic cocaine users misjudging their abilities and skills. They may believe that their abilities are much better than they 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. 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 they get help right away.
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. That’s why they may choose to wear sunglasses, even indoors.
A recent study found that people who use cocaine don’t like social interaction. One reason is that the drug makes them feel that interacting with others isn’t rewarding.
Also, drug abuse 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. Isolation is very common, as many people using drugs start to withdraw from things, as they feel guilty or ashamed because they struggle with addiction.
Studies have found that “crack” cocaine leads to paranoia in up to 84% of users. It also found that almost half of the cocaine users displayed violent behaviors.
When paranoia hits, they may feel irrational fear of something. 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, hallucinations that 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, such as suicidal tendencies. To outsiders, it may seem violent behavior, but to the users, it may be a form of self-defense from these imagined dangers.
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 not explain and just “disappear” several times a day.
Although using cocaine 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 so quickly, stopping its use can give rise to depression.
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 weight change 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 abuse. If you see any of them in addition to weight loss, your loved one may be dealing with drug addiction.
The following are some of the most hazardous short-term effects of cocaine misuse:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Hypertension (Increased blood pressure)
- Vomiting and nausea
- Excessive hyperactivity
- Irritation or paranoia
Cocaine also inhibits appetite and sleep. It can cause insomnia and despair. Severe paranoia, hallucinations, strokes, and seizures may occur in chronic users. Panic attacks, impatience, restlessness, and anxiety are some of the other immediate adverse effects of cocaine use.
Furthermore, because cocaine is frequently mixed with other chemicals such as baking soda or amphetamines, users may have more severe side effects as a result of these additives.
If you think someone you know may be using this powerfully addictive drug, it’s important to act quickly. If left untreated, major complications can occur as a result.
Cocaine misuse can have long-term consequences for a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Long-term cocaine usage can harm the organs of the body, including the heart, lungs, and kidneys. It can also increase the risk of stroke or heart attack by interfering with blood vessel function.
Furthermore, long-term cocaine usage can increase the risk of mental problems such as anxiety and depression. Long-term drug addiction can also create brain alterations that might lead to cognitive impairment, such as trouble concentrating and memory problems. It’s also been connected to more violent conduct and suicide ideation.
Long-term cocaine users may get addicted to the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. The following are some of the most hazardous long-term effects of cocaine abuse:
- Heart attack (The leading cause of death among people who abuse cocaine. Accounts for 25% of deaths among people ages 18-45).
- Blood clots
- Pulmonary embolism
- A stroke
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Angina, or chest pain caused by vascular constriction
- Myocardial infarction due to a lack of oxygen caused by inadequate blood flow
- Permanently high blood pressure
- Arrhythmia (Irregular heartbeat)
Addiction treatment, especially for drug use is necessary to break the cycle and recover successfully. We can help mitigate cocaine withdrawal symptoms, and prevent the risk of a cocaine overdose, as well as, relapse.
Why is Cocaine Addiction Dangerous?
Cocaine addiction is a major health problem, and the risks of drug use are extensive. Cocaine usage has an impact on both physical and mental health, and it can result in long-term difficulties such as brain damage and heart problems. A substance use disorder increases the likelihood of acquiring other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
Furthermore, cocaine addiction can lead to financial troubles because addicts frequently spend enormous sums of money on the substance. This can cause undue stress on individuals and their families, leading to additional problems. Other dangers of cocaine usage include an increased risk of developing infectious diseases such as HIV or AIDS as a result of sharing needles, as well as the risk of overdosing.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options
Cocaine addiction is a serious and hazardous disease that must be treated by a professional addiction specialist. Luckily, there are various treatment alternatives available. The first step in treating a substance use disorder is detoxification, which entails managing physical cocaine withdrawal symptoms and refraining from using the substance. Therapy is commonly used after detoxification to address any underlying psychological disorders and to provide help in maintaining long-term abstinence.
One of our comprehensive drug abuse treatment programs for clients battling a substance use disorder includes residential treatment programs for cocaine addiction. It entails residing in a facility where the individual can be closely watched and assisted during their rehabilitation process. Individual therapy, group therapy, 12-step programs, life skills training, relapse prevention measures, medication assistance, and other services are frequently used during inpatient treatment.
People struggling with severe levels of cocaine addiction can find a secure and supportive environment in a residential treatment setting. This level of care allows people to concentrate on their recovery without the distractions of daily life, which can be critical for long-term sobriety.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for cocaine usage entails the use of certain drugs to aid in the reduction of cravings and withdrawal symptoms throughout recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) supports this sort of treatment, which can be utilized in conjunction with behavioral therapies or as a standalone treatment option.
Buprenorphine and naltrexone are the most widely utilized MAT drugs in cocaine abuse. Buprenorphine is an opioid prescription that helps to lower cocaine cravings, whereas naltrexone works by blocking the drug’s effects on the brain’s reward system. Other drugs may be recommended to treat anxiety or sadness caused by cocaine addiction.
MAT can also be used in conjunction with behavioral therapies to assist individuals in learning how to manage cravings and cope with stress. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and contingency management are examples of behavioral treatments.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on modifying drug-related attitudes and behaviors, whereas motivational interviewing assists in uncovering the underlying causes of drug use and assisting a person in making beneficial adjustments.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment is Available in New Jersey
Abusing cocaine is a serious matter. Those who suffer from a substance use disorder can experience some very severe physical health complications. Some may even develop mental illnesses as a result of drug abuse.
If addiction is present in the life of someone you love, it’s time to reach out for help. You may need to stage an intervention to encourage them, that the journey to recovery will change their life for the better.
At Discovery Institute in NJ, we have designed our program to provide the safe place you need to break your dependency and address the root causes of your addiction. Our treatment programs can help you and your family to overcome the effects of addiction.
Despite what the situation might look like, there is hope, and you’re not alone! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to find out how we can help.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.