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cocaine is a highly addictive and commonly abused stimulant drug that can be fatal in some cases. About 2 million Americans used cocaine in 2019.

Unlike some other illicit substances, crack cocaine is not always considered an illegal drug in the United States. crack cocaine has a few medical uses in specific medical situations, primarily in controlling surgery-related nosebleeds. However, cocaine misuse outside of these controlled settings quickly leads to a cocaine addiction for most people.

Article at a Glance:

  • Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug.
  • Cocaine side effects are lengthy, dangerous, and potentially deadly.
  • Cocaine addiction can be both physical and psychological.
  • Treatment is available for those who struggle with cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

crack cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from coca plant leaves. It enhances the effects of a brain chemical called dopamine, leading to a sense of increased energy and power. The increased impact of dopamine also causes the euphoric and pleasurable sensation of a “high” on cocaine.

People who hear about the effects of cocaine may wonder, “Is crack cocaine bad for you? If it makes you feel good and have more energy, what’s wrong with that?” These are good questions: the answer is that by overstimulating your body, cocaine puts too much strain on your system. Your body works as at an increased rate, which can cause side effectsincluding:

  • Alertness
  • Excitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Death

RELATED: Learn more about commonly abused stimulants.

Common Cocaine Nicknames and Street Names

There are several common nicknames and street names for cocaine. Many of these names are based on the white, flaky appearance of cocaine. These names may include:

  • Bernice
  • Blow
  • Bump
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Line
  • Nose Candy
  • Rail
  • Rock
  • Schneef
  • Sneeze
  • Sniff
  • Snow
  • Snow White
  • Toot
  • White
  • Yayo

Related Topic: Street Names for Drugs

Cocaine Addiction Potential & Abuse

Cocaine abuse and addiction are similar concepts, but they have some important differences. Cocaine abuse occurs when a person recreationally uses cocaine, often with the intention of getting high. A person who abuses cocaine is not automatically considered addicted to the drug, although they are at risk for addiction.

Statistics show that around 25% of those who start using cocaine recreationally will develop an addiction to cocaine. Addiction occurs when a person continues to use cocaine despite ongoing negative consequences. These consequences can take different forms and may be mental, physical, interpersonal or even legal problems. synthetic cannabinoids

Cocaine abuse can develop into addiction with repeated use. Cocaine is a short-acting drug that starts to cause a high within seconds. After the high wears off, a person will often crash and feel sluggish. Frequently, people will have an urge to use more cocaine after this crash is over, leading to a cycle of “binge and crash” that can lead to addiction.

Cocaine addiction includes both physical and psychological components. Recognizing that cocaine addiction is complex and includes a physical and a mental component is key to understanding the addiction process.

Physical Addiction to Cocaine

Physically, cocaine is addicting because of an effect called dependence. As the brain and body become adjusted to the chemical changes that cocaine causes, they start needing cocaine to continue functioning normally. This need can lead to withdrawal symptoms when cocaine use stops. The body needs cocaine to continue normal functioning, so it creates cravings for cocaine that many people find irresistible.

Psychological Addiction to Cocaine

Psychological addiction to cocaine occurs when cocaine fulfills a psychological need. For example, the increased energy and stimulation that cocaine causes may make the person using cocaine feel better about interacting in social situations. The high that cocaine creates may help someone overcome feelings of inadequacy or depression. The person then may have an urge to use cocaine because they link it with feeling better about themselves.

Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Because addiction is defined as continued use of a substance despite negative consequences, addiction always carries a harmful downside.

Cocaine addiction can cause several negative effects that ripple through a person’s life. Some of these effects are physical, including insomniafeeling shakypoor memory and even death. Other effects of cocaine addiction are indirect but still harm a person’s quality of life, like a negative impact on your social life, career and loved ones.

Some cocaine addiction effects will become obvious right away, while others may take longer to become noticeable.

Short-Term Effects

Even in the short term, a struggle with cocaine can have obvious negative consequences on your life. These include both the drug’s physical side effects and changes in your behavior.

Some of these short-term side effects are:

  • Loss of interest in things that once gave pleasure
  • Mood changes
  • Hygiene problems
  • Low mood
  • Sleep problems
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Problems with work, school or the law

Long-Term Effects

Over the long term, the effects of a cocaine addiction can become even more pronounced, reflecting the toll that cocaine abuse can take on the body. People who snort cocaine can develop nasal problems like loss of smell and nasal damage, while those who smoke cocaine can develop lung disease. Bleeding in the brain and neuromuscular diseases like Parkinson’s Disease can also occur with long-term cocaine abuse. The brain often becomes desensitized to feel-good stimuli, a change that can lead to a decrease in mood and make it harder to feel happy.

When the body becomes used to the presence of cocaine, a phenomenon called tolerance, higher and more frequent doses may be needed to achieve previous results. Higher doses are more toxic than lower doses, so a person may be more likely to have side effects like seizures after a dose.

Cocaine and Other Drugs

Cocaine is often mixed with other drugs before use. It is sometimes smoked along with marijuana or injected with opioids like heroin, a practice known as “speedballing.

Mixing cocaine and other substances can be dangerous because your overdose risk increases when you take multiple substances together. Many substances also interact with each other to create additional negative symptoms.

Illicit street drugs often also contain unknown ingredients or are cut with other drugs. People using street drugs can inadvertently take an unintended drug if they are not told what is in their cocaine or they begin mixing substances together.

Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose can occur when you take high doses of cocaine, impacting multiple organs in the body. A cocaine overdose is considered a medical emergency and can be fatal.

Symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • Loss of urine control
  • High body temperature
  • Severe sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Very fast heart rate or irregular heartbeat
  • Bluish skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

Factors That Influence Cocaine Addiction Potential

Multiple risk factors determine how likely a person is to become addicted to a drug like cocaine. Although risk factors do not guarantee that a person will become addicted to cocaine, they increase overall risk.

These risk factors include:

  • Environmental risk factors like community crime and unemployment
  • Minority status risk factors like discrimination and generational assimilation
  • Family risk factors like parental cocaine abuse and parental neglect
  • Constitutional risk factors like physical or learning disabilities
  • Behavioral risk factors like low self-esteem and delinquency

Cocaine Addiction Rates and Statistics

Approximately 2% of Americans used cocaine at least once in 2019. This includes the 0.3% of Americans who used crack cocaine that year. Overall, around 1,800 Americans per day tried cocaine for the first time in 2019.

Cocaine use may be more common among youth than previously thought: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of 2020, more than 4% of 12th graders had tried cocaine at least once, with 1.6% having tried crack cocaine.

How Is Cocaine Abuse Diagnosed?

Cocaine abuse must be diagnosed by a licensed doctor who will consider a variety of individual factors. Ultimately, the doctor will likely use several criteria out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) to evaluate if you have a cocaine addiction. Typically, diagnosis depends on having at least two of the following criteria:

  • Hazardous cocaine use
  • Social or interpersonal problems related to cocaine use
  • Neglected major responsibilities to use cocaine
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Using larger amounts
  • Repeated attempts to quit or control cocaine use
  • Excessive time spent using cocaine
  • Physical or psychological problems related to cocaine use
  • Activities replaced by cocaine use
  • Cravings

Everyone’s addiction is unique, and it ultimately requires individual assessment by a doctor to diagnose someone with cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Approaches & Options

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed if you realize that you or a loved one struggles with cocaine. Fortunately, help is here. Cocaine addiction treatment is available and can help you quit cocaine and begin a cocaine-free life. Addiction support begins with cocaine detox and withdrawal management and continues through rehab and aftercare.

Cocaine Detox & Withdrawal Management

Cocaine abuse treatment typically starts with an initial detox. During detox, cocaine is cleared from the body, and a healthcare professional manages the symptoms of withdrawal to keep you as comfortable as possible.

As the drug leaves your system, treatment shifts to developing coping mechanisms that help maintain continuous sobriety. This shift can involve medications and therapies.

Inpatient, Residential and Outpatient Cocaine Rehab

After detox is complete, the hard work of rehab can begin. Rehab focuses on helping you explore why you began to rely on cocaine in the first place and develop coping strategies that can help protect you against further cocaine use.

Rehab can take place in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Sometimes, inpatient rehab is longer-lasting and takes place in a home-like environment, a rehab setting known as residential rehab. In other cases, a person may benefit from outpatient rehab, living at home or at a sober living center and coming to the rehab facility for therapy sessions.

Your addiction counselors can help guide you towards the rehab setting that is most appropriate for your needs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

During rehab, a commonly used therapy that many find helpful is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy involves learning about the underlying motivations behind our behaviors. By learning how to change our motivations, our behaviors can change. Long-term treatment will involve a follow-up to ensure that sobriety is maintained.

Contingency Management

Contingency management is a motivational treatment strategy used in rehab that has been successful in helping people stay sober from cocaine. For example, one technique involves the use of vouchers for monetary value that you can receive for every cocaine-free urine sample.

Therapeutic Communities

Therapeutic communities are long-term residential treatment facilities used during the rehab process. They support a comprehensive approach to recovery, addressing a person’s mental, physical and health needs as they recover from addiction. While some therapeutic communities support inpatient rehab, others support outpatient rehab or a mixed approach.

Cocaine Anonymous

Cocaine Anonymous is a free support group to help cocaine addicts in recovery. It is run by those with a history of cocaine abuse to support others who wish to become sober. It adopts the 12-step program approach of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous to help those struggling with cocaine quit their drug use for good.

Teletherapy and Online Counseling

Counseling does not need to be face-to-face. Online counseling is available where a therapist guides you through the rehab process via video chat. While this may not work for everyone, teletherapy offers flexible scheduling to give you access to licensed professionals at a time and place convenient for you.

Cocaine Addiction Recovery Rates

Recovery rates from cocaine addiction can vary. In a 2010 study, between 60% to 78% of those who attempted to quit using cocaine on their own experienced at least one relapse back to drug use.

Another study showed that 42% of people who’d undergone addiction treatment used cocaine at least once in the year before their five-year checkup, with 25% reporting weekly cocaine use that year. Those who stayed in long-term residential treatment (90 days or more) had better one-year outcomes than those who did not. Other data also support the idea that a rehab stay of at least 90 days is linked to higher success in staying sober.

crack cocaine addiction treatment and therapy can improve the odds of maintaining abstinence by as much as 50%. However, even if you relapse back to cocaine use, relapse does not mean failure: it’s a normal part of the treatment journey towards eventual recovery.

Find the Help You or Your Loved One Needs

It can be overwhelming to realize that you or a loved one has a problem with cocaine abuse or addiction. Fortunately, help is here and sobriety is within reach.

If someone you know lives with a cocaine addiction or is using cocaine recreationally and wants to stop, it’s time to seek professional help. The Recovery Village provides care to those struggling with cocaine. Reach out to one of our knowledgeable representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

Cocaine Effects on the Body

Because cocaine is a stimulant, it can have a variety of short- and long-term effects on both the body and the mind. The drug’s short-term effects often start immediately after use and subside within a half-hour. Smoking or injecting cocaine leads to a fast, strong high that lasts for up to ten minutes. Conversely, snorting cocaine leads to a slower, weaker high that lasts for up to 30 minutes.

Some of the short-term effects of cocaine on the brain include:

  • Alertness
  • Euphoria
  • Energetic feelings
  • Extreme sensitivity to sight, sound and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness

Cocaine’s short-term physical effects on the body include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Large pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches

Some of cocaine’s physical effects can lead to medical emergencies like:

  • Heart attack
  • Ruptured arteries
  • Miscarriage
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • ture
  • Extreme sweating
  • Severe agitation, restlessness or confusion
  • Itching
  • Vision problems, including blurry vision or complete vision loss
  • Diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Delirium

If you notice one or more signs of a potential overdose, contact 911 immediately.

Long-Term Health Effects of Cocaine Abuse

In addition to short-term health effects, cocaine can also cause long-term health issues. These long-term health concerns can be both physical and psychological in nature.

Long-term physical health effects may include:

  • Permanent blood vessel damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Sexual problems, including infertility in both men and women

Long-term psychological effects may include

  • Paranoia
  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Psychosis and hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Confusion and Disorientation

Long-term cocaine use also affects general cognitive abilities, including

  • Attention
  • Impulse control
  • Memory
  • Decision-making
  • Motor function

Long-term effects can also vary depending on how the person is abusing cocaine. Snorting, smoking, injecting and taking cocaine orally can all have different long-term consequences.

crack cocaine Snorting

Over time, snorting cocaine can lead to health problems like:

  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Problems with swallowing


Over the long term, chronically smoking cocaine can lead to lung issues like:

  • Chronic cough
  • Asthma
  • Problems keeping enough oxygen in your blood
  • Lung infections, such as pneumonia


Over time, injecting cocaine can increase your risk for health concerns like:

  • HIV, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases
  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Scarring
  • Collapsed veins

Ingesting Orally

It’s uncommon for cocaine to be used orally because it takes longer to get high via this route. However, oral cocaine use can still cause dangerous, long-term side effects, such as severe bowel decay caused by reduced blood flow to the intestines.

Signs of Cocaine Abuse

The signs of cocaine abuse are similar to the signs of other drug use. The first signs of cocaine abuse may seem minor, but they can escalate as a person’s addiction continues to develop.

Signs that your loved one is abusing cocaine may include:

  • Strange and unusual behavior
  • Keeping secrets or giving suspicious answers to questions
  • Leaving early, showing up late or missing obligations entirely
  • Increased impulsivity
  • Financial troubles
  • White stains on clothes, belongings or skin

crack cocaine is not cheap. In order to fund a cocaine habit or addiction, many people must go to extreme lengths to pay for the next binge. This can mean repeatedly asking for money, stealing from friends or family members, taking on extra jobs, taking out loans, selling their possessions or beginning to sell drugs themselves.

It’s not uncommon for people with cocaine addiction to empty their savings accounts or retirement funds to pay for their drug use. As cocaine use progresses, it can result in a series of life-altering outcomes that should be red flags and prompt immediate attention. These include:

  • Quitting or getting kicked out of school
  • Leaving or getting fired from a job
  • Bankruptcy or serious debt
  • Lost friendships and relationships
  • Trouble with the law

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A common thread among those who use cocaine is the unpredictable and extreme changes in mood. A loved one who develops a cocaine addiction can become distant and unrecognizable from the person you used to know. This can make it difficult to address their behavior or confront the situation that’s unfolding. The more these symptoms pile up, though, the more urgent the problem becomes.

If you suspect someone you love is struggling with cocaine use, The Recovery Village is here to help you find the appropriate care for your loved one. Contact us today to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment programs that can work well for your loved one’s needs.

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