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Cocaine Addiction- Impact & Concerns

Written by Erica Weiman

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 602-7202 now.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that can quickly cause addiction to develop, even after a single use. The drug also creates a variety of life-threatening risks, such as heart attacks, seizures, coma and more.

Because cocaine is such a dangerous and addictive substance, it’s important to seek professional treatment immediately if you or someone you love is struggling with the drug. In Washington, rehab centers like The Recovery Village Ridgefield can safely and effectively treat cocaine addiction, putting you on the path toward a healthier, drug-free future.

Insurance May Cover the Cost of Rehab

Cost should not stop you from getting the help you need. See if your insurance is accepted at The Recovery Village.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the coca plant, which is grown in the tropical, humid climates of countries like Colombia. The leaves of these plants are processed and mixed with kerosene, gasoline or other chemicals, which eventually removes the cocaine from the leaves. This mixture is then heated and mixed with chemicals like sulfuric acid, bleach and ammonia.

Cocaine is usually “cut” with ingredients like detergents, silicon or amphetamines before distribution. This strategy helps improve profits by diluting the cocaine and creating a larger amount of the product to sell, but it also leads to deadly consequences. Since people do not know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cocaine, the risk of overdose is high — especially when dangerous opioids like fentanyl are mixed in.

Cocaine goes by many names, including coke, crack, flake, snow, blow, candy, bump or “C.” It also comes in several different forms that can be used in various ways. The powder form of cocaine can be inhaled, ingested or injected, while crack cocaine — a crystallized form — can be smoked. Some people may use cocaine in a “speedball,” a combination of cocaine and drugs like heroin.

Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, as it is dangerous and carries a high risk for abuse, dependence and addiction.

Information on Cocaine Adddiction

Cocaine can cause addiction after the very first use. This is because it stimulates the reward pathway in the human brain, triggering potential psychological and physical addiction. In particular, cocaine stimulates the release of dopamine — the chemical messenger that signals reward or pleasure. This causes overwhelming feelings of euphoria that lead a person to continue seeking out more of the drug.

Cocaine use has remained relatively consistent since around 2009, but millions of people struggle with the drug annually. In 2019, about 5.5 million Americans aged 12 or older used cocaine within the previous year. Health care data shows that there were 1.3 million drug-related visits to ERs around the country in 2011, and more than 505,000 of those visits were related to cocaine.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine is a fast-acting drug that starts working in as little as five minutes after being snorted. The effects typically last for one to two hours, and then the drug is quickly metabolized from the bloodstream. Metabolism is based on the half-life of cocaine, which is about 60 minutes. Since drugs leave the body in around five half-lives, cocaine is eliminated from the body after five hours.

Cocaine leaves the body too quickly to be detected by drug tests unless a person is actively high. Therefore, standard drugs tests look for the presence of metabolites — the chemicals that cocaine is converted into before being excreted from the body.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Urine?

Urine is the most cost-effective and least invasive method for testing for cocaine use. Since cocaine is quickly metabolized by the body, this test relies on the detection of metabolites. Cocaine and its metabolites are detectable in the urine for up to three days.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Saliva?

Cocaine can be detected in the saliva for approximately two hours. Snorting or smoking cocaine has been found to have a shorter half-life in the saliva than injecting the substance.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Hair?

Cocaine is detectable in hair for up to 90 days. The detection window is based on how long it takes the hair follicle to grow.

Symptoms and Signs of Cocaine Addiction

If you suspect that someone you love may be addicted to cocaine, there are several signs to be on the lookout for. Cocaine use symptoms and signs can include:

  • Extreme energy and enthusiasm
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased movement
  • Increased cold-like symptoms
  • Nosebleeds
  • Disinhibition
  • Changes in focus and concentration
  • Weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mood swings
  • Risky behaviors
  • Changes in sleep
  • White powder residue around the mouth and nose

If someone you love is regularly exhibiting these signs, there is a good chance that cocaine use is involved. There is a difference between cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction, however. If you have noticed two or more of the following signs of cocaine addiction, you will know that there is an issue:

  • Constant craving for cocaine
  • An obsession with getting more cocaine
  • Financial issues due to spending money on the substance
  • Social isolation
  • Problems with work or family
  • Changes in behavior
  • Lying or stealing to obtain more cocaine

The Effects of Cocaine Use

While the dopamine release stimulated by cocaine can create a short-lived euphoria, the damage to your body can last a lifetime. The short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated eyes
  • Higher temperature
  • Faster heart rate
  • Violent or erratic behavior
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Muscle twitches
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Heart attack
  • Severe weight loss and malnutrition
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Sudden death

When people snort cocaine, they often get nasal or sinus infections and nosebleeds. In extreme cases, cocaine can burn a hole right through the septum, which is the cartilage that separates both nostrils.

Smoking cocaine causes severe breathing complications. Chronic bronchitis and coughing up phlegm, along with chest pain and shortness of breath, can occur. For intravenous cocaine users, tissue infection, abscesses and an increased risk of HIV and other contagious viruses are caused by sharing needles.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Although cocaine withdrawal is not as dangerous or uncomfortable as withdrawal from opioids, alcohol or benzodiazepines, it still presents many challenges. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Inability to be sexually aroused
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Slow thinking
  • Unpleasant and vivid dreams
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • The inability to feel pleasure
  • Intense cravings for cocaine

While cocaine withdrawal does not typically require an intense detox period, some patients still need to be hospitalized when coming off cocaine. Cocaine addiction can cause loss of appetite and weight loss, which may cause malnourishment and result in hospitalization or a visit to a detox center. The most effective way to approach cocaine addiction is to enroll in a treatment program in a rehabilitation facility.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction?

Our Recovery Advocates are available 24/7 to help.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with cocaine addiction, there are many treatment options available to you. Cocaine addiction is often treated in inpatient, partial hospitalization or outpatient programs. Clients in these rehabilitation programs typically participate in individual and group therapy courses as well as a variety of holistic recovery activities.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield is a well-respected treatment center convenient to the cities of Seattle, Washington; Tacoma, Washington; Vancouver, Washington; Eugene, Oregon and Portland, Oregon. Our facility is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of experts who deliver a full continuum of evidence-based care that helps hundreds of clients find lasting recovery each year.

If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction, The Recovery Ridgefield is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.


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