Cocaine addiction is characterised by the withdrawal symptoms experienced when an individual ceases cocaine use.
What is Cocaine, and where does it come from?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. For thousands of years, people in South America have chewed and ingested coca leaves, the source of cocaine, for their stimulant effects.
Cocaine hydrochloride, the purified chemical, was isolated from the plant more than a century ago.
During the early 1900s, purified cocaine was the main ingredient in many medicinal tonics used to treat various illnesses.
What is Cocaine Addiction?
The initial appeal of the cocaine drug typically lies in how the substance works in the brain and body and the unique effects that set it apart from other substances.
Cocaine usage increases brain and nervous system activity. As it does, the brain floods with natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals at unusually high levels, producing an intense sense of pleasure and reward, high energy and motivation, and a sense of confidence and mastery.
You will be particularly vulnerable to addiction or the use of other similar stimulants.
How do I know if I’m addicted to cocaine?
People often find it difficult to determine whether they have become dependent on cocaine.
If you find yourself trying to source coke every time you have a night out, that may not mean you have a problem, as it all depends on how often you go out. For instance, if you have a night out every month and find yourself snorting coke because it’s easily accessible through friends, then you may not have an issue at the moment.
If you go out every weekend and find yourself planning and sourcing your coke supply before you go out, you may have a cocaine addiction or are on your way to getting one.
Heavy cocaine use could be described as taking cocaine every day.
If you are wondering if you are addicted to using cocaine, ask yourself the following questions.
- have built up a tolerance to it, which means you don’t get the same high you used to get.
- constantly thinking about the next time you’ll get to use it again.
- spend a considerable amount of your time and money getting cocaine that you don’t take care of essential things in your life, such as school, work or family.
- keep using cocaine despite the problems it causes in your life.
The good news is that people can and do stop using cocaine.
How Is Cocaine Used?
For those in the throes of cocaine addiction, it comes in many forms.
It can be administered orally, intranasally (snorted or sniffed), intravenously (injected) or by inhalation (smoked).
When someone administers cocaine intranasally, the cocaine powder is inhaled through the nostrils and absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Some users may also rub the substance onto their gums.
Cocaine can be dissolved in water and then injected, releasing the drug directly into the bloodstream and heightening its effects.
Smoking cocaine involves inhaling its vapour into the lungs, usually via a pipe, where the drug is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream via the lung tissue.
Short And Long-Term Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction
You’re probably wondering why cocaine is so addictive.
One of the reasons many individuals become addicted to cocaine is that they believe that it is not a harmful drug. Not fully aware of the short-term effects of taking the drug can partly lead to becoming cocaine addicted.
For instance, the substance creates a fleeting, intense high, instantly leading to a comedown, the classic drawback of addiction. It can bring on negative moods, edginess, anxiety, insomnia and loss of appetite. They may also invariably crave more of the drug, resulting in addiction.
Users must also be aware of the long-term symptoms of taking the drug. It can affect a person’s sleep pattern and cause them to lose weight by not eating, leading to malnutrition. 
Those living with cocaine addiction can suffer from various psychiatric problems;
- Poor decision-making skills
- A brief state of euphoria
- Confused exhaustion
- A sudden excess of confidence
- Mood fluctuations
Addicts may experience tactile and auditory hallucinations, culminating in severe depression. When this occurs, ongoing psychiatric treatment may be needed.
Users may also display the physical signs of cocaine addiction.
The cocaine drug affects the body in many ways, short-term and long-term.
- Liver, kidney and lung damage
- Damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain
- Increased heart rate,
- Persistent nosebleeds
- Excessive perspiration
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Bursts of energy
- Reduced need for sleep
- Enlarged pupils.
- Blood infections
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Sudden death.
Statistics and Trends
Official figures in the UK reveal that cocaine deaths have reached their highest numbers since records began. Last year reportedly, cocaine abuse levels in the UK saw drug poisoning deaths reach record figures.
It had seen cocaine fatalities in parts of the country rise by 16%, considered the highest since 1993. Records state most deaths occurred in young people, particularly men between the ages of 30 and 49.
Many attribute the rise in mortality rates to a heightened purity of the drug, making it far more dangerous. The Office for National Statistics state that there were 432 deaths related to the Class A drug in 2017. 
There was a time when some thought only the rich or famous could fall prey to coke addiction. However, thousands of people across the UK may partake on the weekend or a night out. They may misguidedly believe alcohol and cocaine go together to make for an enjoyable evening. But alcohol and coke can be a dangerous combination.
Cocaine and Alcohol
Statistics show you have twenty times more chance of sudden death if you take cocaine and alcohol together rather than use coke on its own.
One of the most serious problems with mixing alcohol and cocaine occurs when the two metabolise through the liver. The organ produces cocaethylene, which can build up in the body and stress major organ systems, particularly the cardiovascular system and the liver.
Cocaethylene temporarily enhances the high associated with both cocaine and alcohol, but this euphoria also increases blood pressure, aggressive and violent thoughts, and poor judgment.  It will build up to toxic levels in the liver. An increase in cocaethylene can also be linked to sudden death.
How do You Know if Someone is Using cocaine?
You can help someone you know get the help they need by recognising the signs of cocaine addiction. This will allow you to make a better assessment.
There are many signs associated with an addiction to cocaine that can be observed in a person’s appearance and general behaviour. It’s also essential to consider the long-term behavioural symptoms of addiction.
Cocaine typically causes the person using it to be very talkative, energetic and confident. It also creates a sense of improved well-being, making them social, excitable and even more sexual. A cocaine user may seem “pumped up” for no reason. In many instances, they may also have a diminished appetite, dilated pupils, and disrupted sleep.
Behavioural signs of cocaine addiction include paranoia, excessive aggression, lack of judgement, delusional thoughts and hallucinations.
One of the main tell-tale signs of addiction is the presence of small, trace amounts of white powder around their nose. Sometimes a person on the drug will also get a runny nose. If someone has a coke habit for an extended period, they may get nosebleeds frequently.
If someone injects the drug rather than snorting it, there may be physical signs of use, such as needle marks on various body parts, including the arms, legs, hands, feet, and neck. Someone who smokes cocaine may show physical signs of cocaine use, such as burned fingers or lips.
What are the Dangers of Cocaine Addiction?
There are risks in even administering the drug. Some choose to snort powder cocaine, often called nasal insufflation. The drug, in powdered form, is regularly cut into lines and can be sniffed through a straw, a rolled-up banknote or a scrap of paper.
However, for those either experimenting with cocaine or have an addiction, snorting can be hazardous. It can cause bleeding and widespread damage to the tissue around the nose and nostrils. The effects of snorting the drug can begin rapidly but may only last for up to half an hour. They can lead to physical conditions such as sinusitis, hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, and swallowing problems.
Injecting the drug, otherwise known as “shooting”, is considered the most dangerous method of administering the drug.
Converting it into a solution creates the greatest levels in the bloodstream in the shortest time.
Injecting can result in numerous health problems, such as vein collapse, vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of the blood vessels. It can bring ear ringing, audio distortion, and tinnitus commonly called a bell ringer. Those battling cocaine addiction also face the danger of blood-based infections and a high risk of overdose.
Crack cocaine is a free base; the smokable version is often called crack. It is created by “cooking” cocaine in baking soda and water, forming crystals or tiny rocks.
Cocaine addicts smoke through a crack pipe. Usually, a bong or an improvised item like a ripped-open cola can. The rush from smk=oking crack usually lasts for about five to 10 minutes.
- Even in healthy people, crack use can lead to a stroke, heart attack or seizures.
- When using crack, people can become paranoid, angry and aggressive. Some may even hallucinate or have delusional thoughts. These effects generally go away when they stop using crack.
- Crack cocaine may be contaminated with the drug ‘Levamisole’. This drug may be present in the crack (and powder cocaine), but there is no way to tell. Levamisole affects people differently but may cause serious health problems such as infections (fever, chills) or black patches on your skin. 
Cocaine’s Effect On The Brain
Cocaine is the second most addictive drug in the world. It can lead to addiction because of its effect on the brain and reward pathway. It is the site of the chemical called dopamine. Neurons in the brain communicate by releasing dopamine when they feel pleasure. Dopamine then recycles back into the neuron. However, cocaine stops the dopamine from being recycled, and it begins to build up.
Taking the drug causes huge levels of the chemical to be released, which makes a person euphoric. Repeating the process too often can alter the brain’s reward system, making someone a cocaine addict.
A new scientific study suggests that the drug’s effects go beyond the dopamine system and that cocaine use significantly impacts brain metabolism. 
What happens when someone takes cocaine:
- As normal, dopamine is released by a neuron into the small gap between two neurons (the synapse), where it binds to dopamine receptors on the neighbouring neuron.
- Another specialized protein, a transporter, removes dopamine from the synapse to be recycled for further use.
- Once a person takes cocaine, the drug binds to the dopamine transporter and blocks the transporter from removing the dopamine from the synapse.
- Dopamine then builds up in the synapse. This is what causes the euphoria commonly experienced immediately after taking the drug. 
Harm reduction for cocaine users
- Start with a small amount and see how you feel, as purity and strength may vary.
- Don’t share blood-snorting equipment like banknotes, as blood from another’s nose could be snorting directly into your nasal tissue, putting you at risk of viral hepatitis or HIV.
- Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol.
- If your heart rate is going too fast, you have a high temperature, have chest pains, or are feeling sick; you may be having an overdose.
- Don’t use plastic bottles or cans; switch to glass or metal pipes to avoid inhaling ash, dust or water.
- Use your pipe to avoid virus transmission, i.e. Tuberculosis or hepatitis. Individualise your pipe by marking it with your name.
- Always carry and use your insulated mouthpiece (rubber tube) to prevent exposure to broken or hot pipes.
- Let the pipe cool down before taking your next hit.
Injecting cocaine is probably the most high-risk activity for overdose.
- Don’t inject cocaine alone; try and use it in a group so others can watch for signs of overdose.
- Ensure you have sufficient amounts of injecting equipment. You can acquire needles at your local ‘needle exchange’ unit.
- Never share needles or any other drug equipment, even mouthpieces.
- Rotate your injecting sites to allow your veins a chance to heal.
- Use as little citric acid as possible, as too much will damage veins
- Return your syringes, barrels and spikes to your local needle exchange.
- Go to the hospital if you have a painful, swollen or dead leg, as it may be deep vein thrombosis.
- Chew gum to stop chewing the insides of the mouth or grinding teeth.
- Bring condoms, as crack cocaine use can reduce inhibitions.
Treatment For Cocaine Addiction
As the abuse of cocaine increases, the detrimental effects on your body inevitably become apparent. Your home and work life may also suffer. The sooner you recognise the symptoms and their outcomes, the better. The cycle of addiction can take your life downwards into the vortex of full-blown cocaine addiction, resulting in what health care professionals call a ‘cocaine use disorder’—leading to complex mental health problems of paranoia, dissociation, anxiety and panic attacks.
Are you living under the shadow of being a coke addict and require assistance? Detox Plus UK is on the cutting edge of rehabilitation treatment, helping you find rehab treatment, turn away from addiction, and start a new life.
We at Detox Plus UK offer a wide selection of rehabilitation programmes throughout the UK and are here to support and help you overcome your cocaine dependence. Our cocaine addiction treatment programmes provide fast, individualised substance abuse intervention. We cover treatment from detox to primary rehab treatment. When you first contact our trained staff, we will be working on getting you into treatment within the next 24 hours. Our treatment clinics are available to you almost immediately, and our professional staff at Detox Plus UK are here 24 hrs a day to help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does cocaine stay in your system?
What are the Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse?
What Can I Do To Help Someone Addicted to Cocaine?
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- Office for National Statistics, Ellie Osborn, 2018, Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales: 2017 registrations. Found at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsrelatedtodrugpoisoninginenglandandwales/2017registrations [Accessed: 05/02/2023]
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- National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016, How does cocaine produce its effects? Found at: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/how-does-cocaine-produce-its-effects [Accessed: 05/02/2023]
- Health Research Board, Chrysalis CDP, Dublin, Harm reduction for crack cocaine users, 2009, Found at: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/15565/1/Chrysalis_crack_booklet.pdf [Accessed: 06/02/2023]