How To Recognize the Signs of Cocaine Use

Learn to Spot the Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Girl sniffing cocaine

Statistics are a funny thing. To hear that 2.8 percent of Americans age 15-64 consume cocaine, one might feel like cocaine abuse is a somewhat marginal concern. Yet half of the world's consumption occurs in the United States - roughly 300 metric tons of it per year. A sobering statistic, made more sobering by the knowledge of what it does to the human body. Whether snorted, eaten, injected or smoked, cocaine is potentially deadly, and no one can predict a fatal dose. Here are some perils of long-term, unresolved addiction and even short-term drug abuse in some cases.

  • Necrosis in nasal tissue. Snorted cocaine causes constriction of blood vessels; too much constriction means that tissue is being deprived of oxygen, which can lead to cell death.
  • Seizure.
  • Arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke. Cocaine puts an enormous burden on your cardiovascular system, dramatically elevating a user's heart rate. Even recovered addicts face a likelihood of heart attack seven times higher than the average person. Risk of heart attack is substantially more elevated in the hours after taking a dose of cocaine.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Kidney damage and failure.
  • Serious infection or contraction of HIV/AIDS from contaminated needles.
  • Circulatory embolism from insoluble elements cutting the injected cocaine.

Some view cocaine as a hip, glamorous drug. True addicts are not burdened by those delusions, as they grown desperately focused on how to score their next fix. For every American in that 2.8 percent, there are friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors who may wonder what's happening and wish they could identify the problem.

Here are some ways to recognize cocaine addiction.

  1. Constantly runny nose. Snorting cocaine can lead to rhinitis, a fancy term for the inflammation of the nasal membranes. Consequently, people who snort cocaine often have an uncontrollably runny nose. In addition to runniness, addicts often suffer nosebleeds or even a loss of their sense of smell.
  2. Pronounced fluctuations in mood and energy levels. When high on cocaine, an addict experiences a rush characterized by hyperactive tendencies, euphoria (as mentioned above), fidgetiness and elevated heart rate. Cocaine highs produce these effects in varying length and amplitude, depending upon how it is ingested.

    Cocaine abuse physically alters the brain's ability to register pleasure by any other means than gradually escalating doses of the drug. Inevitably, the high gives way to an equally powerful low, characterized by the following signs: irritability, lethargy and depression.

  3. Sleeping problems. Cocaine addiction can lead to insomnia or oversleeping.
  4. Paranoia and psychosis. Chronic abuse can cause the user to become paranoid and anxiety-ridden or even spiral into hallucination and psychotic episodes.
  5. Sexual clues. Users often report heightened libido, but cocaine abuse can also cause erectile dysfunction and impotence.
  6. Grinding teeth. There's even a term for compulsive tooth grinding - "bruxism." This nervous tendency is a common consequence of smoking the drug.
  7. Short breath. Someone who smokes crack may suffer from shortness of breath due to lung damage. No matter how it's ingested, it raises your heart rate enough that, to keep enough oxygen pumping through the veins, a person often feels shortness of breath.
  8. Hot and cold flashes. Cocaine abuse compromises our ability to regulate body temperature.
  9. Weight loss. The drug acts as an appetite suppressant, to such an extent that some addicts ultimately suffer from malnutrition.
  10. Needle tracks. A cocaine addict who injects the drug intravenously typically has a track of needle pricks visible on the forearm. They often resort to wearing long-sleeved shirts even on ridiculously hot days in their efforts to hide the evidence.

These observable characteristics do not necessarily indicate addiction to cocaine, but where several of the observations can be made, it is a distinct possibility. It's important to understand the signs of drug abuse so the addict can get professional help. Successful treatment is an individualized process, but the first step is identifying the problem and encouraging the addict to find help.


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