Cocaine addiction can be defined as an innate urge of an individual to administer cocaine to deal with emotional, physical, psychological or financial distress. In this case, the individual develops a physical dependence on cocaine, which is a dangerous drug. Cocaine can be defined as a recreational drug which is known to induce positivity, motivation and energy. On addiction, the drug induces high risk of psychiatric disorders, diseases and death. Cocaine has been classified by DEA as a Schedule 2 drug which is not only a powerful stimulant, but also has a five percent risk of addiction just after the first use. The possibility of addiction increases with every subsequent usage of the drug with addiction levels up to ninety percent.

Cocaine produces a very powerful feeling of high within an individual which is quite short lived, and leaves the individual wanting for more. This constant urge of more leads to increment in the dosage consumed within a relatively short span which finally makes an individual an addict.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain and Makes One an Addict?

Cocaine Addiction: An Overview

Cocaine is an extract obtained from Erythroxylum coca bush after purification. It is the most famous of all the street drugs because of its excessive demand amongst the elites. The consumption leaves the users worn out and exhausted both mentally and physically.

Based on its physical form, cocaine is of two types, namely coke and crack. Coke is the powdered form which can be taken orally by dissolving in water, by injecting or through snorting. The high achieved post consumption is intense, but short spanned. On the other hand, crack is the free base form which can be consumed as an inhalable smoke which is obtained via heating. The high from crack lasts only five to ten minutes but through coke it can last up to fifteen to thirty minutes.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine being addictive in its properties, displays significant sign and properties related to addiction. These can be classified into below categories which are:

  • Mood: Erratic mood changes are the signs and symptoms of drug abuse which involve anxiety, restlessness, panic, euphoria, superiority, fearfulness and irritability.
  • Psychological: The psychological effects of cocaine include reckless and fickle behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, drastic change in personality with violent mood swings, constant craving of drug, loss of rationalization and problems in relationships.
  • Physical: The cocaine consumption also has physiological effects on the body like a an addict is likely to have symptoms of abnormal heart rate, elevated body temperature, high blood pressure, headache, dilated pupil, gangrenes, muscle twitches, strokes, heart attack, decrease in appetite, nasal bleeding, runny nose and death.
  • Behavioral: When an individual is high there are certain significant behavioral characteristics that can be observed like talking a lot, elevated energy levels, erratic behavior, violence, increased alertness and decreased need of sleep; but on the contrary, when the effect wears out extreme sleepiness appears with negligence and low mental alertness with loss of concentration and focus.

Health Effects of Cocaine Addiction

The effects on the health of the individual suffering from cocaine drug abuse can be both short term as well as long term.

  • Short-Term Physiological Effects of Cocaine Addiction: The short term effects and complications due to addiction to cocaine includes:
    • Constriction of blood vessels
    • Pupil Dilation
    • Elevated body temperature
    • Increased heart rate
    • High blood pressure
    • Behavior problems like bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior along with mood swings.
    • Restlessness
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Panic
    • Paranoia
    • Tremors
    • Vertigo
    • Muscle twitching
    • Heart attack
    • Arrhythmia
    • Headaches
    • Seizures
    • Strokes
    • Coma
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea
    • Sudden death.
  • Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction: Cocaine also causes damage to several other organs in the body. These complications are:
    • Ulcers and tears in the gastrointestinal lining due to reduced blood flow.
    • Loss of appetite
    • Drastic weight loss and malnutrition
    • Chest pain
    • Inflammation of the heart muscle
    • Decreased ability of the heart to contract
    • Ruptures in the artery
    • Cerebral hemorrhage
    • Movement disorders
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Weak focus and loss of concentration
    • Weak memory
    • Difficulty in taking decisions.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain and Makes One an Addict?

Cocaine, on consumption, affects the central nervous system by stimulating the secretion of dopamine. The importance of dopamine in the brain activity is the onset of a feeling of happiness and being rewarded which can also be termed as euphoric emotions. In normal scenario, these emotions are immediately suppressed after the secretion of dopamine, as it gets recycled back into the brain cells. Consumption of cocaine hinders this process, which in turn causes secretion of large amount of dopamine within the brain thereby enhancing its effects for a longer period. However, this effect lasts only for about an hour or half which leads to a need of more drug to sustain the state, thus making an individual a cocaine addict.

Duration of Cocaine Addiction Effects

The duration of cocaine addiction and action firstly depends on the mode of administration of the cocaine. The effects differs entirely while smoking, snorting or injecting. The basic rule for the cocaine high is that higher the rate of absorption of cocaine by the blood, faster is the high and sooner the effect wears out. In terms of time period, effect of injecting cocaine stays for around five minutes, in case of snorting the effect may stay up to half an hour, on smoking the high continues for over forty five minutes while oral consumption can have its effect for over an hour.

Predisposing Factors for Cocaine Addiction

There are many factors owing to which an individual can become a drug addict which are:

  • Hereditary Factors for Cocaine Addiction: The habit of drug abuse can be genetic when a parent or sibling have been drug addicts.
  • Biological Factors Predisposing for Cocaine Addiction: In case of biological factor, the individual with prolonged exposure to drug has an altered brain chemistry with respect to dopamine which makes them an addict.
  • Psychological Factors Predisposing towards Cocaine Addiction: Psychological factor plays a role in drug addiction when an individual is emotionally distressed due to relationships, finances or physical condition. This leads to a feeling of void which appears to be filled in by consumption of drugs.
  • Environmental Factors for Cociane Addiction: One of the crucial factors is the environment ones. While, individuals with a traumatic history tend to become drug addicts owing to their surroundings; others try it out of curiosity as the people around them are doing it too.

It can hence be concluded that there is no single root cause to cocaine addiction rather a combination of two or more predisposes a person for the addiction.

Treatment of Cocaine Addiction

The treatment of cocaine addiction is addressed through behavioral and pharmacological mediations.

  • Medications to Treat Cocaine Addiction: At present there are no permitted medications to address cocaine addiction, but research is being conducted which is still under clinical trials. These are:
    • Disulfiram: The disulfiram has been studied to inhibit the conversion of dopamine into norepinephrine. It has shown positive results to treat cocaine addiction but is not successful for everyone.
    • Cocaine Vaccine: This vaccine is still under its early test phase but has shown significant results to stimulate the innate immunity of an individual to synthesize cocaine specific antibodies thereby preventing its absorption by the brain. Nevertheless similar as disulfiram, the vaccine has proven to be fruitful to certain genotypes only.
  • Behavioral Therapy for Cocaine Addiction: The behavior treatments have been proved extremely effective in treating the addicted individuals through several behavior modification techniques. Some of these techniques are:
    • Contingency Management (CT): This therapy is also known as motivational incentives therapy, in which rewards are given in terms perks or gifts, to the patients who refrain from cocaine or other drug consumption. This is done on the basis of a drug free urine test.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach is followed to avoid a relapse of the addictive condition. In this therapy, the patient is helped to develop skills that provide him the ability to refrain from situations that may instigate the desire to consume the drug through self-reliance and coping mechanism with the existing situation.
    • Therapeutic Community (TC): These are also known as rehabilitation centers, which are drug free and help people recover through behavior modification and support services, to ensure that the patient can successfully take up his routine and gel with the society.


Cocaine being a really powerful stimulant helps the brain to run into euphoric emotions, which are extremely liked by individuals consuming it. This on the bad side, disturbs the normal functioning of the brain thereby increasing the time span for feeling the high. This constant desire to keep self in a state of high is called addiction. Though cocaine surely causes addiction but what cannot be denied is that the addiction happens more in people who wants to escape from the negativity in their life compared to those who just wants to stay high for the sake of the good feeling experienced. However, one should always keep in mind that the drastic changes that take place within and in the surroundings after consuming cocaine, only cause craving and a constant urge to have more of drug, and does not curb the negativity but just neglects it. Cocaine addiction has serious health effects and thus must be treated and avoided at all possible chances.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: August 22, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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