Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that works by increasing feelings of pleasure in people who use it. Learn the signs to look out for to identify cocaine use in a friend or family member.

Just as with any other illicit drug, cocaine can affect the body in a number of ways. It impacts the reward pathway in the brain, which is what creates the euphoric feeling that so many seek. If you suspect that a friend, relative or other loved one is using cocaine, there are many signs and behavioral patterns that can indicate whether they’re abusing the drug.

Knowing the signs of cocaine use can help you make better assessments so you can help your loved one get the help they need. There are many signs associated with cocaine use that can be observed in a person’s appearance and general behavior. It’s important to also consider the behavioral cocaine side effects that occur from long-term use.

Article at a Glance:

Lack of judgement, excessive aggression, hallucinations and paranoia are signs of cocaine use.

A person may have needle marks on the body or burned fingers or lips after using cocaine.

Long-term effects of cocaine use include moodiness, loss of smell, mental disorders and financial problems.

Treatment options are available for people who are addicted to cocaine through The Recovery Village.

How To Tell If Someone Is On Cocaine

Since cocaine is a stimulant, it typically causes the person that uses it to be very talkative, energetic and confident. It also creates a sense of improved well-being, which can lead them to be social, excitable and even more sexual. People on cocaine may seem “pumped up” for no reason at all. They may also have a diminished appetite, dilated pupils and disrupted sleep in many instances. Behavioral signs of cocaine use include paranoia, excessive aggression, lack of judgment, delusional thoughts and hallucinations.

One of the main tell-tale signs of cocaine use is the presence of small, trace amounts of white powder appearing around their nose. This is often the most obvious way to tell if someone is sniffing cocaine.” (“how to tell if someone is sniffing coke. Sometimes when people are on cocaine, they will also get a runny nose. If someone uses cocaine for a long period of time, they may get nosebleeds frequently.

If someone injects the drug rather than snorting it, there may be physical signs of use, such as needle marks on various parts of the body, including the arms, legs, hands, feet and neck. Someone who smokes cocaine may show physical signs of use such as burned fingers or lips. Other physical symptoms of using cocaine that may be less obvious to an outside observer include a faster heart rate, which can lead to very serious or deadly health concerns like cardiac arrest or heart attack.

Long-Term Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Use & Addiction

When someone is on cocaine over a long period of time, there may be more behavioral indications that they have a substance abuse problem. These include:

  • Moodiness: As the effects of the drug begin to diminish, the person using it might start to seem moody. That moodiness can include hostility and aggressiveness.
  • Avoidance: Often, when people are coming off of cocaine, they try to avoid social situations, and they may take other substances, such as sleeping pills, or drink alcohol to help them fall asleep.
  • Financial problems: Cocaine is also an expensive drug, so someone who uses it for a long period of time will typically start to experience financial problems. While being addicted can make it difficult to maintain a job or career, people on cocaine often steal or do illegal things to get money in an effort to support their habit.
  • Loss of smell: In addition to nosebleeds, someone who abuses cocaine over time may eventually lose their sense of smell.
  • Mental disorders: People who use and abuse cocaine and crack tend to develop anxiety and depression over time. This is one of the reasons many people on cocaine or crack require dual diagnosis treatment when attempting to recover from their addiction.
  • Deterioration of well-being: The more cocaine a person uses, and the longer they abuse the drug, the more likely they are to experience apparent deterioration of their mental and physical well-being. The person who is on cocaine may start to feel nervous and tired all the time, but be unable to sleep, and they’re likely to feel apathy as well as experiencing crashes which can include long periods of sleep.
  • Tolerance: As with most other drugs, when someone is on cocaine they can quickly build a tolerance to the drug, requiring them to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect they’re chasing.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: After someone has used a lot of cocaine, if they use less or stop using it cold turkey, they may experience signs of withdrawal. Some of the signs of withdrawal from cocaine can include mental symptoms such as anxiety, depression, paranoia and violence, as well as physical symptoms like cardiac problems or seizures.

When you’re wondering how to tell if someone is on cocaine, you’ll more than likely first consider their behavior. Then, consider the physical signs. There are treatment options for those who are addicted to cocaine, most of which involve dual diagnosis programs. If you believe someone close to you is using cocaine or is addicted to cocaine, consider talking to a medical or addiction specialists, because it can be dangerous or deadly.

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

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2018 ANNUAL SURVEILLANCE REPORT” 2018. Accessed July 22, 2020.

Ciccarone, D. “Stimulant Abuse: Pharmacology, Cocaine, […]s at Pharmacotherapy.” Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 2011.  Accessed May 27, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.