Cocaine is still a major health and safety problem. More than 36.8 million Americans over 11 years of age have used it at least once, according to the White House’s drug task force. More than 40% of teenagers nationwide have ready access to the drug, as well as 20% of pre-teen children. Almost one in five users have admitted to committing crimes in order to support their habit. Although 15,000 Americans die from using cocaine each year, members of all parts of society indulge in it. Rich, well-educated teenaged users are just as common as homeless junkies. In fact, the average cocaine user has a home, a family, an education, and a full-time job.
Cocaine is very dangerous. Even using it just one time can cause a powerful physical addiction. This addiction then creates health problems, leads to criminal activity, and can even cause coma or death. If you fear that a friend or loved one is addicted to this drug then you need to take action. Get them help before something bad happens. Learn the symptoms of cocaine abuse to help you decide if your friend or loved one needs help.
Symptoms of Cocaine Use
Any of these symptoms can be caused by a variety of things, so you cannot take one symptom alone as proof of cocaine use. It is when multiple symptoms are present together that you should be suspicious.
High Energy and Euphoria Followed by Lethargy, Depression, and Anxiety
The first symptom of cocaine use is a sudden surge of energy that comes with an unusually good mood and optimism. This can create a state of high focus and productivity that can cross over into obsession, distractibility, and manic behavior. After the drug wears off, energy levels crash along with the mood. A person in this state seems to be easily irritated and paranoid.
Cocaine is a stimulant, and a cocaine user can’t keep still. A person on cocaine stands and sits a lot, with a lot of pacing in between. Tapping feet and fingers are common. So is a tendency to look frequently at random objects for no apparent reason.
Cocaine makes small muscles, especially those around the mouth and eyes, twitch.
Loss of Appetite
A person on cocaine loses his or her appetite, and will often skip meals. People who have psychological issues related to weight or body image are at increased risk of abusing this drug because of this.
Cocaine is a stimulant: it causes the heart and lungs to work faster. This is the cause of the energy boost the drug provides. It also leaves users unable to fall asleep, even when they need to.
High Blood Pressure, Pulse, and Respiration
The increased heart and lung activity causes rapid breathing and a high pulse. This causes the blood pressure to rise, sometimes enough to make the veins stand out.
The racing metabolism that cocaine causes makes the body run hot. A person with a fever but no other signs of illness might be on cocaine.
The pupils of a cocaine user will remain dilated, or wide, even in bright light.
Symptoms of Long-Term Use
People who use cocaine regularly build up a tolerance to the drug. Their addiction drives them to overcome this tolerance by taking more and more cocaine in an effort to experience the original effect again. This vicious cycle affects brain chemistry and the behavior of the body in noticeable ways. While all of the symptoms of one-time cocaine use are still present, new symptoms develop that are unique to long-term abuse.
Delusional Mental States
The extended bouts of paranoia and anxiety can produce new, deranged habits of thought that can seem disconnected from reality. In extreme cases, this can even become full-blown psychosis. Irritability and anger issues are constant problems in this state. Hallucinations are also possible with long-term cocaine use. As the brain is exposed to higher and higher levels, its chemical balance can become so upset that both auditory and visual hallucinations result. The paranoia and delusional thinking can become mixed up with the hallucinations, leading to very bizarre behavior.
Unpredictable Mood Swings
These same changes can also bring about sudden and unpredictable mood swings. These can be quite extreme, and inexplicable to people around the user.
Low Sex Drive
Long-term cocaine use lowers the sex drive, and can even stop it completely. This problem gets worse the longer the cocaine abuse continues.
Repeated use causes a host of physical problems. The damage that snorting it does to the blood vessels causes nosebleeds. Prolonged rapid pulse and high blood pressure cause chest pains. Because the drug interferes with control of the small muscles around the eyes, long-term abuse can cause blurred vision and an inability to focus the eyes. The sudden development of seizures without any history of epilepsy can also be a physical symptom.
Nothing is more important to a cocaine addict then taking the next dose. Because of this, addicts in financial trouble often pawn or sell off their personal possessions. Even prized possessions with a lot of sentimental value will be sold to feed the habit.
Cocaine addicts do not tend to seek help. Even if they really believe they need it, the embarrassment of the addiction and the situation it has created often causes them to keep their problems to themselves. Friends and loved ones of the addict are therefore best placed to determine if they should intervene and try to get some help. It is only friends and loved ones who can observe an addict closely enough for a long enough time to be able to notice the many little changes in behavior and symptoms that indicate that a problem exists. If symptoms of cocaine use persist and symptoms from the long-term use list begin to appear, there is serious cause for concern.