Cocaine is a stimulant drug that increases certain chemicals in the brain. Neurons (brain cells) use the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine to send signals to other neurons. Cocaine increases the levels of both of the neurotransmitters, which increases energy and makes a person feel euphoric.

Cocaine is addictive after a single use. Cocaine use damages people’s lives in different ways. Identifying a cocaine addiction in a loved one is crucial to ensuring sure they can get the treatment that they need.

Being able to spot the signs of cocaine use early on in addiction can help stop cocaine addiction in time to prevent long-term harm. Cocaine use becomes easier to recognize with time because the symptoms increase in severity.

Visible Signs of Cocaine Use

People using cocaine will show characteristic signs of use. Cocaine use has symptoms that are physical, mental, and emotional. Cocaine impacts several organ systems and causes long-term damage.

Physical signs and symptoms of cocaine use are:

  • Large, dilated pupils
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hoarseness
  • Impotence
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Bloody nose or running nose
  • Sniffing
  • Stomach pain
  • Twitching or shaking

Cocaine use also has psychological or behavioral side effects. At first, these side effects may be easier to notice than physical side effects. Psychological side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bursts of elevated mood and euphoria
  • Emotional swings
  • Hallucinations
  • High energy levels
  • Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy and introversion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Short attention span

Cocaine Paraphernalia

The presence of drug paraphernalia is a clear indicator of drug use. Cocaine can be ingested in a few different ways, potentially involving an assortment of paraphernalia to do so. The most common ingestion method is snorting through the nostrils, but cocaine can be injected or smoked. Consider the following ways cocaine is used and what paraphernalia accompanies each method of use:

  • Injecting: Look for needles, which pharmacies often sell in ten-packs. The syringe, the part of the needle that holds the drug, is usually one milliliter or less. The needle length may vary, but they are typically 0.5 to 1 inch and may appear smaller than needles shown in movies. Belts or large rubber bands may be wrapped around the arm to help bulge veins for identifying injection sites.
  • Smoking: Cocaine can be smoked by chemically converting it into crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is made by heating cocaine with either ammonia or baking soda. Ammonia creates a purer product. Using ammonia is dangerous and expensive. Most people will make crack with baking soda because it is safer to use and less expensive.
  • Snorting: People typically use small mirrors or similar flat surfaces to snort cocaine from. Razor blades may be used to align the powder into lines for easier snorting. Someone might use straws or rolled-up dollar bills for snorting.

Withdrawal and Detox Symptoms

Addiction to cocaine can lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence is a state where the body experiences cocaine withdrawal and detox symptoms when cocaine use discontinues. Detox is the process that occurs when cocaine metabolizes from the body.

Detox and withdrawal are phases that usually happen together. As someone detoxes from cocaine, they experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Nightmares
  • Trouble concentrating

If you notice signs of opioid withdrawal and detox in someone, they may be attempting to self-detox. Consider encouraging them to seek a professional drug detox and addiction treatment. Self-detoxing is dangerous if a person tries it without professional, medical supervision.


Cocaine overdose is a leading cause of visits to the emergency room in the United States. The most noticeable symptoms of a cocaine overdose are confusion and delirium, which means the person may not know who they are or where they are. More serious overdose symptoms can lead to heart attack and death. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased body temperature, sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Paranoia

Emotional Changes

People using cocaine might start acting differently. Their behavior changes and their thoughts become more erratic over time. Cocaine addiction impairs the ability of people to focus on long-term goals and consequences. They become more focused on actions that obtain or help obtain the drug, neglecting personal responsibilities in the process.

Cocaine Addicts and Money

Cocaine is expensive. A person may change their daily habits or behaviors to be able to afford to pay for their cocaine addiction. They may ask for money, steal from friends or family members, take on extra jobs, take out loans, sell their possessions or sell drugs. People addicted to cocaine may empty their life savings or retirement funds to fuel their addiction. As cocaine use progresses, it can result in a series of life-altering, financial consequences.

Key Points: How to Tell If Someone Is on Cocaine

Keep the following key points in mind when considering if someone is on cocaine:

  • Cocaine is a stimulant that becomes addictive quickly
  • Cocaine addiction is visible physically, mentally, and emotionally
  • Physical signs of cocaine use include rapid heart rate, large pupils and a bloody nose
  • Different types of paraphernalia are used for smoking, snorting and injecting cocaine
  • Detox occurs when cocaine leaves the body and withdrawal symptoms are the symptoms associated with that process
  • Withdrawal and detox are safest in an inpatient rehab facility
  • Cocaine causes emotional instability and financial trouble
  • If you suspect someone overdosed, call 911 immediately

Facing a cocaine addiction is personally challenging. If you or someone you know is addicted to cocaine, consider inpatient rehab treatment. Contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how safe and supportive addiction treatment helps set people on the path toward long-term sobriety. You deserve a healthier future, call today.