Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction symptoms and signs, as well as cocaine’s effects on the body and mental health.

Table of Contents

Am I Addicted to Cocaine?

Cocaine is one of the most widely abused drugs in the world. As of 2020, over five million Americans reported using cocaine in the past year. While not everyone who uses cocaine will develop a cocaine use disorder, many people do. 1

Common cocaine addiction symptoms include cravings, restlessness, an inability to stop using the substance, a negative impact on life quality, and increased anxiety. Knowing the signs of cocaine addiction is immensely beneficial in knowing when to seek help.2

cocaine addiction

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Cocaine Cravings

Cocaine cravings are one of the tell-tale symptoms of cocaine addiction. Cocaine is often used casually as a “party drug,” but individuals with cocaine addiction suffer from persistent cravings. This is due to the structural changes in the brain involving the pleasure and reward chemical dopamine.


Restlessness is one of the more common cocaine addiction symptoms. Individuals who have a cocaine substance abuse disorder may feel restless even when they are not using the drug. They may also expend large amounts of energy trying to acquire cocaine to calm their restlessness.

Inability to Stop

Another major cocaine addiction symptom is the inability to cut back or stop using cocaine. Individuals may continue to use cocaine despite being aware of the negative side effects and mental symptoms. Additionally, individuals who are addicted may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop.

Negative Impact on Quality of Life

Cocaine addiction can very quickly take control of a person’s life, impacting their home, work, and social life. Additionally, cocaine addiction can cause tension in relationships with others as it begins to take priority in a person’s life.


Because cocaine affects the level of dopamine in the brain, its use can be damaging and lead to symptoms of anxiety over time. Sustained cocaine use can lead to the development of cocaine-induced mental health disorders, with anxiety being common.

"Am I an Addict?" Quiz

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse

The effects of cocaine can be felt almost immediately after taking the drug. Individuals may snort the substance, smoke it, or turn it into liquid cocaine that can be injected. Depending on the method of use, the sensation of the high may last anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. In the short term, cocaine affects behavior, the skin, breathing, can induce panic, and lead to abnormal behaviors. 3


After taking cocaine, most individuals will experience changes to their behavior. Cocaine can have a euphoric effect and can lead to hyperactivity and hypersexual behaviors. Additionally, symptoms of cocaine use include feeling more talkative and excitable than usual or behaving erratically.


Another side effect of cocaine use is flushing of the skin and sensations of bugs crawling on the body. The skin may also become hypersensitive after cocaine use.


Cocaine use can lead to changes in breathing, resulting in rapid or uneven breaths. Additionally, coughing and wheezing are common effects of cocaine use. Individuals who smoke crack cocaine are more likely to have an injury to the respiratory system and can lead to fatal conditions such as pulmonary edema. 4


Panic, paranoia, and anxiety are some of the most common signs of cocaine addiction. Individuals may also experience distressing delusions and hallucinations, leading to further panic. Psychotic cocaine abuse symptoms can be frightening and are often a part of withdrawal. Seeking cocaine withdrawal treatment can be beneficial in managing psychotic symptoms.

Abnormal Behavior

Cocaine abuse can lead to abnormal behavior due to its effects on impulse control and logical thinking. Cocaine also releases norepinephrine in the brain, which is involved in “fight or flight” behaviors. This can lead individuals who are using cocaine to become aggressive or even violent. Additionally, individuals may act abnormally due to cocaine-induced delusions and hallucinations.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine addiction effects can linger long after the high passes. Cocaine use causes changes in the brain that can lead to symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and seizures. Additionally, cocaine addiction affects many of the body’s systems, creating physiological effects.


Both mental and physical fatigue are common cocaine addiction symptoms. Cocaine affects brain function, and it can leave individuals feeling slow after the high wears off. Additionally, cocaine use can cause muscle injury, leaving individuals physically sore. 5


Prolonged cocaine use can lead to cocaine-induced anxiety disorder. Individuals who use cocaine may experience periods of generalized anxiety as well as panic attacks. This is especially true when an individual is experiencing cocaine withdrawal, as anxiety is one of the first cocaine withdrawal symptoms.


Depression is another long-term sign of cocaine addiction. Cocaine essentially burns up the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, leaving individuals feeling depleted and empty. In the long term, this causes structural changes in the brain that can lead to cocaine-induced depression.


Individuals who use cocaine may have trouble sleeping or getting good rest. Cocaine is a stimulant that can produce feelings of wakefulness, but its prolonged use can lead to insomnia. Additionally, individuals who use cocaine often may neglect sleeping in favor of using more of the substance.

Delayed Thinking

Cocaine affects the parts of the brain responsible for decision making, attention span, impulse control, and memory. Individuals who use cocaine may struggle with thinking logically, planning, and self-control. These effects can linger up to a year after stopping cocaine use.


Seizures are one of the main signs of cocaine overdose and toxicity. As an individual uses cocaine, their tolerance level builds, which then requires them to take more to achieve the same high. Unfortunately, this can lead to individuals taking extremely high doses resulting in seizures. Long-term cocaine use also puts individuals at risk for cocaine-related brain bleeds and stroke.


Not only does cocaine cause changes in mental health, but it also can lead to physiological changes as well. Cocaine affects many of the major organ systems in the body. Individuals who smoke crack cocaine are more likely to have lung damage and long-term breathing problems than those who don’t smoke the substance. Cocaine also affects the digestive organs, which can lead to ulcers and gut rot. The heart is also affected, putting individuals at higher risk for cardiac events.

How Does Cocaine Abuse Affect Mental Health?

Cocaine abuse affects mental health due to its actions on neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for pleasure and arousal. Cocaine results in a massive release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces the euphoric high sensation. However, after the high has worn off, dopamine levels also drop off, leaving individuals feeling low and depleted.

Central Nervous System

Cocaine affects the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. Cocaine rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier, producing sensations of increased energy, euphoria, and eventual mood swings:

Energy: Increased energy and hyperarousal are typical symptoms of cocaine use. Cocaine also increases norepinephrine in the brain, which is related to the fight-or-flight response. This causes individuals to feel overly energetic when they take cocaine.

Euphoria: Cocaine also increases the amount of dopamine available in the brain. When released, dopamine produces feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria.

Mood swings: Increased energy and euphoria will quickly wear off, however, leaving the brain depleted of its neurotransmitters. After the high wears off, individuals may feel extreme lows emotionally and experience mood swings.

Anti-Reward System

Cocaine affects and damages the body’s reward system. Normally, when dopamine is released, the body can reabsorb it so it can be reused. Cocaine blocks the body’s ability to reabsorb dopamine, and over time reduces the overall amount available to be used in the body.

Impact on Cocaine Withdrawal

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal have a direct relationship to cocaine’s effects on the central nervous system. Without the proper amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, individuals begin to experience sensations of withdrawal. Typically, cocaine withdrawal consists of feelings of depression, anxiety, restlessness, as well as other neurocognitive deficits.

How Long Does Cocaine Psychosis Last?

Psychosis related to cocaine use is experienced by up to half of individuals who use cocaine. Individuals may experience delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, and homicidal thinking while on and withdrawing from cocaine. Seeking cocaine withdrawal treatment can be beneficial, as these symptoms can be dangerous and are best managed by a professional.


Cocaine psychosis can be broken up into three stages:

Prodrome: Prior to experiencing psychotic symptoms, individuals may feel agitated, restless, anxious, and suspicious.  

Acute: Symptoms will begin to escalate and may include hallucinations, paranoia, and violence.

Recovery: Eventually, these symptoms subside as neurotransmitter levels in the brain begin to stabilize.


Symptoms of cocaine-induced psychosis look different for everyone. Some individuals may feel paranoid and have delusions of persecution, and they may begin acting erratically as a solution to the paranoia. Individuals may also experience auditory, visual, and physical hallucinations. For example, cocaine can lead to hallucinations of bugs crawling on or under the skin.


Cocaine-induced psychosis is caused by toxic levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Essentially the brain cannot handle and metabolize the amount of dopamine released, causing it to malfunction.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction at Profound Treatment

Wondering how to stop your cocaine addiction or have concerns for a loved one? Profound Treatment offers state-of-the-art cocaine addiction treatment options to help individuals recover safely and comfortably. Profound Treatment offers residential detox cocaine withdrawal treatment, inpatient treatment options, as well as professional and vocational skills training.

cocaine addiction symptoms

Seek Professional Help

Cocaine is an immensely addictive drug that can have serious withdrawal side effects. Seeking professional help is important as a professional can help you manage symptoms of withdrawal and maintain abstinence in the future. Seeking treatment can also allow individuals access to medication for cocaine addiction treatment that would otherwise not be available.

Integrated Treatment

Profound Treatment operated on a dual diagnosis model, offering integrated cocaine addiction treatment. Often, individuals who suffer from a substance use disorder also struggle with other mental health conditions. Our knowledgeable staff are here to help and can provide care for any additional underlying mental health conditions.

Post-Treatment Counseling

Post-treatment counseling is an important part of the continuum of care for individuals with substance abuse. Counseling helps individuals address their problem behaviors and thought patterns, as well as helps individuals develop new coping skills.

Support Groups

Peer support can be immensely helpful in recovery and cocaine addiction treatment. Having someone to talk to, as well as other examples of individuals overcoming addiction, can be empowering for individuals seeking recovery. Profound Treatment offers support groups, 12-step groups, and options for families of individuals in recovery.

Lifestyle Modifications

In order to prevent relapse and stay sober from cocaine, individuals may need to make major lifestyle changes. At Profound Treatment, we prioritize teaching life skills to help individuals make lasting changes in their life.

Prevent Relapse

Unfortunately, many individuals who struggle with a substance use disorder will relapse. Being proactive and getting in touch with a rehabilitation center can help prevent future relapse as it provides individuals with the support and tools they need for recovery.

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