Understanding Cocaine Use Disorder

Some people may admit to using cocaine, but they are uncertain if they fit the category of having a cocaine addiction. What are the signs and symptoms of Cocaine Use Disorder (CUD)? Having the right knowledge can encourage you to get started on treatment.

Cocaine belongs to the list of the most commonly abused drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As a potent stimulant, people use it for various purposes, such as to feel energized, do more tasks, or enhance one’s mood.

Many users, however, can say that they are using cocaine. However, they are unsure if they can consider themselves addicts. What is the fine line between being just a “user” and evolving into an “addict”?

Just like many other mental health disorders, Cocaine Use Disorder (CUD) has certain criteria that need to be met to gain a formal diagnosis. CUD is actually under the umbrella of a more general condition called Substance Use Disorder (SUD), which has the 11 criteria for any type of substance, such as alcohol or illicit drugs.

Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Use

There are short term and long-term effects of cocaine use. First time or early users will have these common physical signs, such as:

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened energy levels.

Long-time users may also experience these signs upon taking cocaine, but there are also other physical symptoms that can be noticed that certainly indicates that Cocaine Use Disorder is present:

  • Nasal damage: When users continuously snort cocaine, this results in nasal damage such as loss of the sense of smell, frequent nosebleeds, and infected nasal area.
  • Respiratory issues: Inhaling cocaine may also result in breathing problems such as shortness of breath, frequent coughs, and bluish skin due to the lack of oxygen.
  • Circulation problems: Heavy cocaine use is also related to problems in blood flow, as such, a person may experience bowel problems as tissues die because there is a lack of blood supply. Stroke and heart attack may also appear as issues in circulation arise.
  • Physical appearance: Those who take cocaine intravenously may have visible marks on their arms due to repeated injections. Cocaine also leads people to eat or drink less, which leads to weight loss and unkempt physical appearance.

Mental Health Symptoms of Cocaine Use

As cocaine initially targets the brain, some of the earliest symptoms of cocaine addiction are present as a form of mental health issues. The short-term psychological effects of cocaine include:

  • Increased alertness or hypervigilance
  • Short-term anxiety
  • Short-term depression when the drug is not used
  • Hallucinations
  • Incomprehensible speech

Cocaine addiction may present more pronounced mental health effects, such as:

  • Long-term anxiety: Most may conclude these are cocaine mood swings, but anxiety both has physical and emotional components. People who abuse cocaine may find themselves having racing thoughts, fast heart rate, and excessive worry about seemingly typical things.
  • Long-term depression: Depression in cocaine users first appear when the drug isn’t taken. Since cocaine increases energy, alertness, and mood, without it the brain can have difficulties getting back to a ‘feel-good’ state.
  • Panic attacks: When anxiety escalates, panic attacks happen. These include symptoms such as blacking out, having a sensation of ringing in the ears or difficulty breathing. Panic attacks happen as a result of not being able to manage a stressful situation or having too many anxiety-inducing thoughts.
  • Paranoia: Paranoia is the condition where a person may perceive danger or a threat even when it doesn’t exist in reality. As a result, they may appear defensive towards others.
  • Psychosis: Psychosis is the development of personality disorders related to cocaine addiction. It may first appear as mood swings, as mood swings are psychological-emotional signs of addiction. After this, you may experience hallmark symptoms of psychosis such as those describing someone with schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, multiple personalities, dissociation disorder, etc.

Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Use

Many symptoms of cocaine behavior are evident because of the changes in the brain. However, this can also be a result of reactions towards the physical pain that one experiences when they have withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using the drug. Below are some of the short-term cocaine behavioral effects:

  • Erratic mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Wanting to be isolated from loved ones

For long-term addiction, below are the signs you may need to take note of:

  • Rage: Many people wonder if there is such a thing such as cocaine rage. As short-term effects usually present aggression, it is possible to indicate someone who is abusing cocaine through this type of behavior. Cocaine and anger are closely related–you would see someone having rage issues when they react strongly to seemingly typical things.
  • Violence: Some verbal threats can escalate quickly into violence, such as domestic abuse or crime-related behavior. When a person suffers from cocaine addiction, they are more likely to present reckless behavior in order to acquire the drug. This can result in breaking the rules, hurting others, or attempts to hurt oneself.
  • Relationship problems: People with CUD also display behaviors that repel their loved ones from interacting properly with them. As rage and acts of violence continue, the person may also want to be isolated resulting in damaged relationships towards others.

Help With Cocaine Addiction and Mental Health

If you know someone who experiences physical, mental and behavioral signs of cocaine addiction mentioned above, or you have been going through these symptoms yourself, know that you are not alone. There is help available for people who are going through substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Here are some of the steps you can take to get started with having a safe and effective cocaine addiction treatment:

  1. Talk to an addiction specialist: The first step you can take is to consult an addiction specialist on how to get in an inpatient rehab center. The addiction specialist or counselor will walk you through the process of letting your family members and employers know, verify your health insurance for financial concerns, and other things you need to get prepared.
  2. Stage an intervention: If you are the family member of a person going through cocaine addiction, contacting a trusted rehab center will also provide you with great resources on how to stage an intervention. The intervention will consist of a planned family meeting where you and others can convince your loved ones to go through rehab.
  3. Equip yourself with knowledge about substance abuse and mental health: Understanding more about how addiction develops and the long-term effects can help you make an informed decision on getting treatment. Arming yourself with the right information will also enable you and your loved ones to become aware of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Cocaine Use Disorder: Is It Over?

The signs of symptoms of cocaine use may look grim, but it doesn’t mean your situation is hopeless. Having CUD doesn’t mean that your life is over–you can get a fresh start with the right treatment and resources available.

Sources:

  • Drugabuse.gov – “Commonly Used Drug Charts”.
  • Sciencedirect.com – “Analyses related to the development of DSM-5 criteria for substance use-related disorders: 2. Proposed DSM-5 criteria for alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and heroin disorders in 663 substance abuse patients”.
  • Journals.sagepub.com – “Massive Apoptosis Erodes Nasal Mucosa of Cocaine Abusers
  • Academic.oup.com – “Epidemiologic evidence on cocaine use and panic attacks”.
  • Jamanetwork.com – “Neural Activity Related to Drug Craving in Cocaine Addiction”.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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