This article was written and published by RCA.
You’ve started noticing signs that your loved one might be up to something. At first, you weren’t sure what it was. They were being a bit more secretive about some things and their behavior was changing slightly. Sure, they were happier and more energetic at times, but other times they were more aggressive or depressed. It seemed to come out of nowhere, too.
You were concerned about them, of course you were, so you started trying to figure out what was going on. You tried asking them about it, but they either got upset or changed the topic. Now they’re hiding from you even more.
Finally, you find a white powder hidden in their side of the dresser. Your heart drops. You start asking yourself how you didn’t know before, or if there was something you could’ve done differently. You just want to know why and how you can help. Is there a way out of this?
It’s not always easy to wrap your head around why someone might turn to substances if you’ve never done so yourself. Sometimes it can come from peer pressure or loneliness, other times they hear from someone that it helps with things like anxiety or stress.
We understand the factors behind substance use here at Recovery Centers of America and we help our clients and their families understand, too. Substance use disorders don’t just impact the individual, they impact those around them too. Knowing more about addiction, its causes, and how to recover from it can help more people access recovery. Today we’re going to look at the signs of cocaine addiction and answer some of the most common questions we get about it.
Statistics About Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a stimulant substance that is derived from a plant native to South America known as the coca plant. It primarily comes in a powdered form and is consumed via snorting, rubbing it on the gums, or injection.
Here in Indiana, 1.8% of Hoosiers reported cocaine use in 2020. This included 4.2% of all young adults aged 18 to 25. In 2021, over 10% of all admissions to substance use treatment facilities had cocaine listed as one of the primary, secondary, or tertiary substances of concern for patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 4.8 million people aged 12 and older have reported using cocaine in the United States within the past year. Additionally, over 24,000 overdose deaths involved cocaine in 2021.
The Timeline of a Cocaine Use Disorder
How does cocaine use turn into a cocaine use disorder? Does anyone who tries cocaine develop one?
While there is no safe level of substance use, a cocaine use disorder goes beyond trying it one time. Let’s look at some of the symptoms, signs, and side effects that can go along with a cocaine use disorder.
Early Signs of Cocaine Addiction
There is no set path that leads someone to try illicit substances, but there are some things you can look out for that are common sources of substance use.
One of the most common reasons people try cocaine is due to some of the social ideas around it. This can include things like trying to fit in with others, hearing positive things about it from peers, or even utilizing it for other health methods like weight loss. It’s also often seen being taken alongside other substances, so if they’re at a party where it’s available and they were already trying out other things, they might try it there as well.
Another reason people try substances like cocaine is to manage something that is going on in their life. This can range from stress to depression and loneliness. It could also be an escape from things like abuse or trauma. Mental health and substance use can often go hand in hand.
During the early days of substance use, a person might start to show behavioral changes. These could include appearing chipper and seeming happier, or it could appear as if someone is becoming more reclusive and secretive. Each person’s behavioral reactions will be unique to them.
It’s important to note that if you notice a loved one showcasing any of these signs, no matter the cause, you should always remind them that you’re there for them if they need to talk. Don’t come at them with judgment if you’re concerned about them; it will only negatively affect them.
Signs of Long-term Cocaine Use
The longer someone partakes in a substance like cocaine, the more likely they are to develop side effects. Some of these are much more visible than others, but all of them are indicators of long-term cocaine use.
Here are some of the most common long-term side effects:
- Respiratory distress
- Loss of smell
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bowel decay
- Collapsed veins
- Increased risk of bloodborne diseases
- Frequent nosebleeds/runny nose
Cocaine Use Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Whenever someone regularly consumes a substance, it can start to alter their body and mind over time. Just like many medications, substances also have side effects. Not everyone will experience every potential side effect, and some might not appear as quickly as they might for others. Not only can a person’s physiology impact what side effects they experience, but so can a combination of history and frequency of use.
Knowing the signs and side effects of a cocaine use disorder can help you keep an eye out for someone who might be needing help.
Physical Signs of Cocaine Use
The physical signs of a cocaine use disorder will differ depending on how a person ingests cocaine. The four most common methods are snorting, rubbing on the gums, smoking, or injecting. These each come with their own potential side effects.
For those who snort cocaine, the powder can start to make the nasal lining permanently damaged. This can lead to more frequent nose bleeds and runny nose, as well as the potential for loss of smell.
If a person orally ingests cocaine, they can run the risk of bowel decay.
For those who regularly smoke cocaine, damage to the lungs over time is likely. This can increase the risk of developing things such as pneumonia and asthma. They will be more prone to coughing fits and respiratory distress, as well.
Finally, for those who inject cocaine, scarring and collapsed veins are very common with long-term use. Additionally, needles carry the risk of developing bloodborne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C.
Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a stimulant, which means it impacts the dopamine systems in the body. Dopamine is a reward chemical in the brain that we receive after doing things like eating or having sex. During usage, people might experience things like high energy, euphoria, and alertness. In the same vein, however, they might also experience irritability and paranoia.
With continued, regular consumption of cocaine, paranoia has the chance to persist, and mental conditions like anxiety or temper could develop or worsen.
Social Signs of Cocaine Use
Substance use disorders don’t just impact people in the long run. They have short-term consequences, as well. It can start to impact relationships with friends, family members, and even coworkers.
If someone is trying to manage cocaine use, they might start to withdraw from activities they used to enjoy. It could cause them to miss work or other important family events. It might cause arguments due to behavioral changes. The person might also start to withdraw from loved ones or become more defensive. All of these are common signs of substance use.
FAQ About The Signs Of Cocaine Addiction
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug from the coca plant that impacts the dopamine receptors in the brain.
What is the timeline for cocaine withdrawal?
Cocaine withdrawal doesn’t last as long as withdrawal from other things like alcohol or opioids. For some, it may only last a day after the last consumption.
What are signs a loved one is using cocaine?
If you notice changes in behavior, such as increased energy levels, paranoia, or anxiety, combined with things like bloody noses, increased coughing, or withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy – these can all be signs of a cocaine use disorder.