What Is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction affects thousands of people across the UK. It is a highly addictive substance linked to numerous mental and physical health problems. However, there are many effective treatment options to help combat cocaine addiction.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant and is usually refined into a white powder or crystals. The crystal form of cocaine is known as crack cocaine, which is smoked. Powder cocaine is snorted through the nose or rubbed on the gums to achieve an intense high. Cocaine is often taken for recreational use but can quickly spiral into addiction.

The most dangerous method of taking cocaine is injecting it, also known as shooting. Injecting cocaine allows it to enter the blood quickly and carries a high risk of overdose and even cardiac arrest. Users also risk contracting blood-based infections if sharing needles when injecting cocaine.

The effects of cocaine are known to be extreme and pleasurable. They can include:

  • Greater self-esteem
  • More energy
  • Being more talkative
  • A rush of pleasure and happiness

Many people abuse cocaine because it improves their confidence. However, this can lead to cocaine addiction, which comes with many risks.

Crack Cocaine

The crystallised form of cocaine, known as crack, produces similar effects to powder cocaine but has some key differences. The onset of the impact of crack cocaine is quicker than with powder cocaine, and the effects often peak much faster. However, the impact of crack cocaine wears off quickly, and many people often use more to stay high. This can lead to a cycle of drug abuse that causes crack cocaine addiction to set in quickly.

What Are the Risks of Cocaine Use?

What Are the Risks of Cocaine Use?

There are many negative side effects of cocaine use, including:

  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Tremors and twitches

Long-term cocaine abuse can also lead to many physical and mental health consequences, including:

  • Heart problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Damage to the nose, including a loss of smell and damage to the soft tissue and cartilage.
  • The development or worsening of co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
  • If injected, the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis from shared needles.

Cocaine use can worsen any underlying issues that people face, whether mental or physical.

Polysubstance Abuse

Many people combine cocaine abuse with other forms of substance abuse. This is known as polysubstance abuse and can increase the adverse effects of cocaine use.

Other drugs commonly used alongside cocaine include alcohol and opioids such as heroin. Mixing alcohol with cocaine offsets the stimulating effects, and some think it can limit severe withdrawal symptoms. However, mixing alcohol and cocaine can produce toxic effects and raises the risk of a stroke. Alcohol can also increase cravings for cocaine and make it more difficult for people to stop taking it.

Taking cocaine and an opioid such as heroin is known as a speedball. Both substances are injected but may also be snorted. Combining these two substances can cause a range of adverse side effects, including:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory failure

This type of drug abuse is hazardous and can be fatal in many circumstances. The effects of cocaine wear off faster than opioids, and when this happens, the full effects of the opioid hits the body.

How Addictive Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance due to its effects on the brain. It stops the brain from discarding dopamine, a reward chemical associated with emotion and motivation.

This produces a rush of euphoria and pleasure that lasts from a few minutes to an hour. Due to the short-lived effects of cocaine, many people use it multiple times to achieve the rush they want in a binge-and-crash cycle that increases the risk of addiction.

Consistent use of cocaine causes people to develop a tolerance, meaning that they need to consume more cocaine to achieve the high they want. Repeated substance abuse can also cause neurological changes in cocaine users’ brains, making quitting incredibly difficult.

The purity of cocaine also affects how addictive it can be. In many cases, cocaine is not pure and is instead cut with many other substances, including caffeine, methamphetamine, and benzocaine. These substances look and feel like cocaine and may produce some of the same effects. However, these substances can have many addictive properties of their own, especially methamphetamine, which is a potent and addictive stimulant.

What Causes Cocaine Addiction?

People may be addicted to cocaine for many reasons. There is also often not one reason why people suffer from cocaine addiction – it may be a combination of several factors, such as:

  • Mental health – many people are more likely to struggle with addiction if they have a prior mental health condition. Severe depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may lead people to try cocaine to cope with their symptoms.
  • Genetics – those with parents or other family members with substance abuse disorders can be more likely to develop an addiction themselves.
  • Social and environmental factors – those who have grown up in an environment with drugs may be at a higher risk of addiction. People who are also surrounded by those who use cocaine recreationally are at a higher risk of developing an addiction due to social pressures and influences.

Cocaine: Statistics and Trends

Cocaine is a widely used drug in the UK. A 2019 study found that the UK had the highest prevalence of cocaine users in Europe, with 2.7% of people using the drug.

Cocaine is the second most commonly used drug in the UK, beaten only by cannabis. During the Covid-19 pandemic, 21% of cocaine users reported using cocaine more frequently than before. In recent years, deaths from cocaine abuse have also increased steadily, with 777 people dying from a cocaine overdose in 2020 alone.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

There are many symptoms of cocaine addiction. Although they can vary from person to person, signs can include:

  • Spending excessive time and money on cocaine
  • Missing school or work due to cocaine use
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Psychosis and hallucinations
  • Becoming reckless and impulsive
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Dilated pupils
  • A constantly runny nose or frequent nose bleeds
  • Needing a large amount of cocaine to feel high

Building a tolerance to cocaine raises the risk for users to overdose.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, cocaine addiction treatment is available. There are many treatment options to suit all lifestyles, such as:

  • Residential treatment centres – inpatient treatment programmes allow people to check in to dedicated facilities to recover from their substance use disorder.
  • Outpatient treatment centres – intensive outpatient programmes allow people to attend treatment during the day and return home at night. This helps people to maintain their daily routines and keep up with work, family, and lifestyle commitments.

When seeking treatment for cocaine use disorder, it is essential to explore treatment options available to you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, and you must find the right treatment option for your needs.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the first steps of addiction treatment is to detox cocaine from the body. Withdrawal can have many effects on the body and can last for a long time, depending on how much cocaine is in a person’s system.

Common cocaine withdrawal symptoms can affect both your physical and mental health and include:

  • Sweating
  • Shivering
  • Irritability
  • Cravings for cocaine
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

Prolonged cocaine use can lead to an extended withdrawal period. Detoxification from cocaine can take seven to ten days, depending on individual circumstances, but withdrawal symptoms can last longer.

It can be incredibly dangerous to detox alone. Severe withdrawal symptoms can lead people to relapse, even if they want to get clean. Consider detox rehabilitation treatment to help you get through this stage.

Therapy for Cocaine Addiction

Detoxing from cocaine is not the end of drug addiction treatment. It is vital to treat the root causes of addiction to prevent the chances of relapse after treatment. Therapy options for those seeking treatment for drug abuse include:

  • Talking therapies -cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) helps those being treated for cocaine misuse change the thoughts and behaviours that trigger them to use drugs. It also teaches people healthy coping mechanisms to deal with these triggers.
  • Group therapy – group therapy is a chance for those in treatment to learn from their peers and develop healthy communication skills. Attending regular meetings can help to foster long-term sobriety.
  • Support groups – Cocaine Anonymous is a support group available for all those seeking to overcome cocaine addiction. This group can help provide a community of people in recovery to support one another throughout their recovery journeys.
How to Help Someone With a Cocaine Addiction

How to Help Someone With a Cocaine Addiction

If you have a loved one addicted to cocaine, you will want to do everything you can to support and help them. There are several steps that you can take to help both your loved one and support yourself:

  • Educate yourself – do some research on drug use and addiction. Addiction is a disease and not a conscious choice for people, and it is essential to be informed about the consequences and treatment options to support your loved one best.
  • Set firm boundaries – be clear with your loved one that there will be consequences due to their drug use and that you will not tolerate or enable their behaviour. Boundaries can protect your mental health and help demonstrate to your loved one that their addiction hurts many other people besides themselves.
  • Be patient – make it clear to your loved one that you do not support their addiction, but you do support them. They may not be responsive to the idea of treatment at first, but with patience and persistence, they can become receptive to help.

There is a myth that people must hit rock bottom before they need help for addiction. However, this is not the case – the sooner drug abuse is recognised, the sooner treatment can begin. Early intervention can help to prevent the worst effects of cocaine addiction.

If your loved one requires treatment but suffers from mental health difficulties or violent thoughts, you may want to consult a mental health professional to stage an intervention. A professional can help to form a detailed plan to help get your loved one into treatment and detail consequences if they decide not to go.


Cocaine addiction is a severe issue that can severely damage a person’s physical and mental health. The desired effects of cocaine may be pleasurable, but as it is a short-acting drug, it quickly fades from the system, and people take more to try and achieve the same high.

The effects of cocaine use and addiction are devastating. The risk of overdose is incredibly high, especially when injecting cocaine, and the drug’s effects can induce panic attacks, heart problems, and intense paranoia. When coming down from cocaine, many people can feel depressed and take more to chase the euphoric feeling it produces. This leads to a vicious cycle of addiction that is difficult to break.

If you are concerned about your cocaine use, or the use of a loved one, there is help available. Medicated detox followed by an intensive therapy programme can help treat the root causes of addiction and prevent the chances of a relapse.

What is cocaine addiction?

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