Cocaine addiction

Cocaine is an addictive-controlled substance that creates euphoric feelings. However, long-term use can cause serious health risks, legal and financial issues and, in many cases, addiction. Once you are addicted to cocaine, breaking free from its grip can be incredibly difficult, especially if you don’t have the right professional help.

This page will explain the effects of cocaine abuse, how to recognise a cocaine addiction, and introduce you to the effective help that is available.


Cocaine addiction - cocaine on table

What is cocaine?

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant, a small bush-like tree from South America. Scientists first separated cocaine from the leaves in 1859 and used it in recreational and medical environments.

Today, cocaine typically appears as powder, freebase or rocks:

  • Powder: fine white powder
  • Crack: small lumps or rocks
  • Freebase: crystallised powder

Powdered cocaine is snorted through the nose, rubbed into the gums or dissolved and injected. It is often cut with other chemicals so it can be impossible to really know what you are taking when you buy cocaine on the street.

Effects of cocaine

Cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and wellbeing. This leads to:

  • Dizziness
  • Increased sensitivity to sound
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental alertness
  • Muscle twitches and tremors
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid or slowed task performance
  • Stomach pains
  • Wakefulness
  • High blood pressure, causing an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis

Why Do Some People Develop a Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction has a number of causes and is different for everyone. However, the following factors can play a role in developing a dependency on the drug:

  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Out-of-balance brain chemicals like dopamine
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety and depression
  • Past trauma
  • High levels of stress
  • Poor coping mechanisms for emotional challenges
  • Growing up around people who use cocaine
  • Being part of friendship groups where cocaine use is common
  • Easy access to cocaine in the local community

On a psychological level, cocaine abuse can quickly lead to dependence which means your mind adjusts to it and reacts negatively when it is no longer there. When you try to stop, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, fatigue, migraines, nausea, insomnia and muscular spasms.


Cocaine addiction - powder on table


How do I know if I am addicted to cocaine?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself lying to loved ones about your cocaine use?
  • Do you have to take ever greater amounts of the drug to get high?
  • Do you experience anxiety and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop?
  • Are your most important personal relationships suffering because of your cocaine use?


If you answered yes to these questions then it is likely you are addicted to cocaine and you should seek help and support urgently.

Damage caused by cocaine addiction

Cocaine abuse and addiction can cause a number of serious health issues, including:

Nasal damage…

If you snort cocaine, it can cause permanent infections in your nose. Bacteria, dust and dirt mix with the cocaine powder as you inhale it. These enter the blood vessels beneath the nasal membrane, restricting blood flow.

As a result, you may:

  • Cause eye, ear or brain infections
  • Damage your nasal cavity and passages
  • Damage your septum
  • Lose your sense of smell
  • Suffer nosebleeds
  • Increase the risk of contracting hepatitis C

Initial symptoms include a runny nose, sinus infections and allergic reactions.

Facial damage…

Repeated damage, restricted blood flow and insufficient healing time may lead to the death of sensitive nasal tissues. Consequent infections can spread to the brain, eyes and ears, resulting in sight loss, deafness and spinal or brain damage.

Oral damage…

Reduced blood flow can cause:

  • Bowel decay
  • Tooth decay,
  • Palatal perforation
  • Dry mouth
  • Bruxism (grinding of teeth and consequent erosion)
  • Coke jaw (sudden, uncontrolled jaw movements)
  • Periodontitis (severe gum infection)


Cocaine addiction - woman with tooth decay


Side effects of intravenous cocaine abuse…

Needle injections can cause:

  • Higher risk of bloodborne infections (including HIV and hepatitis C)
  • Skin infections
  • Soft tissue infections
  • Scarring
  • Collapsed veins

Can you overdose on cocaine?

The following signs and symptoms are indicative of a cocaine overdose:

  • Bluing of the skin
  • Chest pain symptomatic of heart attack (including shoulder and arm pain)
  • Breathing difficulties (rapid or slow respiration)
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Heightened body temperature and sweating
  • Losing bladder control
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Tremors
  • Unconsciousness

Anxiety, confusion, delirium, incoherence, panic, paranoia, and hallucinations may also occur.

A cocaine overdose is a life-threatening medical emergency, and you should call 999 immediately if you spot any of these signs.

How can I tell if a family member has a cocaine addiction?

If you’re concerned a family member has developed a cocaine addiction, look out for signs such as abandoning hobbies, agitation or excitability, or changes in sleeping patterns. Often people with a cocaine addiction will appear more energetic than usual. Other signs include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Isolation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Financial problems
  • Nosebleeds
  • Poor hygiene, grooming and self-care
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Risky or illegal behaviour
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss

Remember that addiction to cocaine is a complicated issue, and these signs may not show. However, if a loved one confides in you that they are addicted to cocaine, encourage them to consult a doctor or contact us to find out about the available support.


Cocaine addiction - woman with nose bleed


The first steps for getting help at Oasis Bradford

At Oasis Bradford, we have the expertise and resources to help you get your life back on track. The vital first stage in treating cocaine addiction is cocaine detox. This can mitigate the most severe withdrawal symptoms and help you break any physical dependence.

Alongside this step is recovery through cocaine rehab, which involves a range of different therapies and other types of treatment and support to help you overcome cocaine addiction while keeping you safe and comfortable.

Get in touch with us today for a brighter future free from the grips of cocaine addiction.

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