Cocaine and Crack Addiction: Symptoms, Signs, Side Effects

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Cocaine, also known as coke, is a highly addictive, fast-acting nervous system stimulant. It is an illegal drug that is used recreationally. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cocaine as a Schedule II Substance, which is defined as a drug “with a high potential for abuse with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Cocaine is made from the leaves of a plant that is native to South America, called the coca plant. In its purest form, it looks like a fine white powder, resembling flour or talcum powder. There are several ways in which people can ingest cocaine. A person can snort cocaine powder, rub cocaine powder onto his or her gums, or dissolve cocaine powder into water and inject it directly into his or her bloodstream. Individuals can also smoke cocaine after it has been processed into crack cocaine, which is the crystal form of cocaine.

Crack is colored yellow, pale rose or white and is usually sold in blocks. The most common way people use crack cocaine is by heating the block and then smoking the vapors. Crack cocaine is known to be the most potent form of cocaine available. Studies have indicated that on average, crack cocaine is between 75% to 100% pure, which makes it far more potent than regular cocaine. The way the cocaine works in one’s body is by sending increased levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that carries signals between brain cells) to areas of the brain that reign pleasure, and the excess buildup of dopamine elicits feelings of energy, alertness, and euphoria.

Signs and Symptoms

The specific signs and symptoms that may manifest because of an addiction will vary, as each person is different. Several common signs and/ or symptoms that may be exhibited by an individual struggling with an addiction to cocaine can include any combination of the following examples:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Burns on fingers
  • Cracked and/ or blistered lips
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea

It is important to note that an individual that exhibits any of the above symptoms may be struggling with an addiction to cocaine and/ or abusing another substance. If left untreated, an addiction can result in severe short and long-term consequences. 

Side Effects

There are a variety of side effects that an individual struggling with cocaine abuse may experience. Examples of possible short-term side effects an individual may encounter when abusing cocaine could include any combination of the following, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Volatile behavior
  • Hyper-stimulation
  • Irritability 
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death (because of overdose)

Possible long-term effects that could develop because of cocaine abuse could include, but are not limited to the following examples, provided by Healthline

  • Destruction of tissues in nose if snorted
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Psychosis 
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory failure if smoked
  • Weight loss
  • Reproductive damage 
  • High blood pressure
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain 
  • Hallucinations
  • Kidney damage
  • Delirium
  • Lung damage
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition

Regardless of the frequency or quantity ingested, cocaine use can increase one’s risk of heart attack, respiratory breathing, stroke, seizures, and sudden death. 

Further Information and Support

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Addiction can be an incredibly damaging disease. Navigating the challenges that arise from substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If left untreated, substance abuse and/ or addiction can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences.

While seeking help is never easy, it is beneficial to bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. There is an entire network of professionals that are readily available to help and support you or your loved one throughout every step of the recovery process.

Pathways Recovery is a fully supportive treatment program for those struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction. We believe in our clients and their ability to turn their lives around. We know that each person who chooses to join our community has the strength it takes to overcome their challenges with substance abuse and/ or addiction. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer any questions and provide any information you may be looking for regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction. Feel free to contact us by phone at 626-515-6424 or 1-866-682-0901. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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