The Dangers of Cocaine Addiction Everything You Need to Know

When you think of cocaine, harmless party environments like raves, night clubs, or concerts may be what pops in your mind, but cocaine addiction is a serious problem which can have deadly side effects. Learning more about the substance can inform you on just how dangerous this drug can be.

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Deaths from cocaine have gone up each year since 2009 – with nearly 15,000 people dying from cocaine overdose in 2018. The CDC reports the most significant incline in reported deaths over the last four years as cocaine is becoming regularly mixed (or cut) with deadly opioids like heroin or fentanyl.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful drug made from leaves of the coca plant found in South America. The drug looks like a fine, white powder and is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse.

While cocaine is generally depicted as a white powder being snorted, it can be taken a variety of ways. People may choose a different method of consumption as it will alter how the body reacts to the drug. Certain methods of using cocaine are more dangerous than others and will put the user at a higher risk of addiction or infection.

Is Cocaine A Stimulant?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug causing euphoric effects, which is why it is abused in the first place. However, there is a long list of harmful effects from using cocaine.

Stimulants are known to raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and increase body temperature. It can also cause problems such as:

  • Cerebral hemorrhaging
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Coma
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Learn more about the effects of cocaine addiction.

4 Common Ways to Use Cocaine

When taking cocaine orally people typically use the powdered form and either swallow it or rub it into their gums to be absorbed.

When taking cocaine intranasally people will usually put the powdered form of cocaine into a line and snort it into their nose. Taking cocaine this way allows it to coat the soft tissue in the nasal passage and enter the bloodstream. This process allows people to feel the effects of cocaine longer.

Cocaine consumed through inhalation is usually from someone heating crack cocaine in a pipe and inhaling the vapors. This allows the drug to take effect significantly quicker, but is more addictive this way.

Cocaine delivered intravenously is the most dangerous of all forms of cocaine consumption. It involves dissolving the powder form in water and injecting directly into your bloodstream. Shared needles and lack of medical training lead to increased risks of HIV, collapsed blood vessels, and more.

Regular cocaine can lead to dependence. Repeated exposure to cocaine, or other addictive substances, cause alterations to neurons in the brain causing the body to develop a tolerance and require more of the drug to experience the same effects, crave the substance when it’s not present in the body, and become dependent on the drug to function.

Is cocaine addictive?

Yes, cocaine is addictive. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug meaning it is a substance with high potential for abuse and using the drug can lead to severe physical and psychological dependence.

3 Stages of Cocaine Addiction

In general, addiction will often occur through 3 major processes.

Woman Sitting In Gray Room Dealing With A Cocaine Tolerance Build Up

Tolerance occurs when there is a need for an increasing amount of substance in order to feel the desired effects or to avoid the negative effects associated with withdrawal.

Man Hunched On Bed Craving Cocaine

Craving the drug of choice is a central aspect of addiction and causes people to feel intense urges to use which can lead to continued use or relapse. For cocaine specifically, high relapse rates are common even after physical withdrawal and abstinence — which is why professional intervention is vital to successfully stopping cocaine use.

Woman With Hands On Head In Black Hoodie Struggling With Drug Dependence

Dependence occurs with repeated use and, as the name suggests, means the body has become dependent upon the substance. The body fails to function normally and goes through dangerous withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not present.

Why is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine use triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. Cues associated with the drug, like seeing someone use, can trigger this same release of dopamine, leading to cravings. From there, cravings can lead to continued use, the buildup of tolerance, and a physical dependence on the substance

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine screenings are done in several ways that affect how long the drug will register in your system. Typically tests are done through urine (2-3 days), hair (multiple months), sweat (1-2 days), blood (12 hours), and saliva (1-2 days).

Other factors like age, gender, and overall health can influence how long cocaine will stay in your system.

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Street dealers of cocaine will often mix other substances such as flour or talcum powder with the drug in order to maximize profits. In recent years; however, they have also turned to mixing cocaine with other drugs, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl. (Often called Dirty Fentanyl)

When people don’t realize their drug has been cut (laced) with fentanyl, they use it as they normally would but are at a much higher risk of overdose due to the small amount of fentanyl needed for an overdose. The increased use of fentanyl with cocaine has caused cocaine overdose numbers to skyrocket in recent years.

Polysubstance Abuse

Cocaine is also considered a “club drug” and often mixed with other substances. Most popular is using cocaine while drinking alcohol excessively, or using MDMA, LSD, ketamine, meth, or GHB. Using these drugs together often increases the feelings of euphoria, but leads to an increased risk of dangerous health effects.

Whether you’re struggling with regular cocaine use or polysubstance abuse, the addiction specialists at The Hope House can help you achieve long-term sobriety.

Learn about other common addictions:

AlcoholOpioids • Benzodiazepines • Methamphetamines

Risk Factors of Cocaine Addiction

When looking at why people become addicted to cocaine, and substance abuse in general, there are risk factors which can make certain individuals more susceptible than others.

Icon Representing The Environmental Factors That May Lead To Cocaine Addiction


A person’s environment, especially at an early age, can have a huge impact on their addiction potential. Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) tests have shown people who exhibit signs of ACEs increase risk of substance abuse later in life as well as mood and anxiety disorders.

Icon Representing The Genetic Factors That May Cause An Addiction To Cocaine


Studies have shown substance abuse can even be an inherited trait. In fact, one study has found cocaine abuse may be the drug with the highest chance of heritability.

Icon Representing The Personal Attributes That May Make Someone Inclined To Abuse Cocaine


Some studies have found people with certain personalities are more at-risk to become addicted to cocaine. For instance, one study found people exhibiting narcissistic personality traits were more vulnerable to the initiation and maintenance of the drug.

As with many addictions, medical professionals follow a specific set of guidelines to formally diagnose addiction to a substance. Previously, the medical field looked at substance abuse as a number of different illnesses working together. Now, the medical field recognizes that substance use disorder is a spectrum and even non-regular use can lead to long-term addiction issues. Be aware that there are is a lot of slang for cocaine, so you’ll want to be sure you understand what a patient is discussing to get a full picture of their diagnosis.

People must meet 2 of the 11 recognized symptoms of cocaine addiction. This includes craving the substance, neglecting personal or professional obligations to use, and experiencing withdrawal when you stop using. If you are exhibiting the signs of cocaine abuse, the addiction specialists at The Hope House can help you get back on the road to recovery.

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People seeking help to stop cocaine use accounted for 6% of treatment admissions in 2013, a majority of whom use crack cocaine or multiple drugs. An addiction to cocaine, like all forms of addiction, is an incredibly complex issue involving many factors.

Before treating cocaine abuse, clients should undergo evaluations to determine if there are any underlying mental health problems contributing to the addiction.

There are two main ways to treat addiction:

Icon Representing Behavioral Therapy


One form of therapy proven effective for cocaine is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is especially effective at helping patients avoid relapses – a critical skill for achieving long-term sobriety.

This is done by teaching clients to recognize situations in which they are likely to abuse cocaine, avoid these instances, and cope with a range of problems associated with drug use.

Medication Assisted Treatment Icon


While sometimes behavioral therapies are the only available form of treatment, the integration of both therapy and medication may be the most effective approach. There are currently no FDA-approved forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment to treat an addiction to cocaine; however, some medications have shown promise. For instance, disulfiram (used to treat alcoholism) has shown to reduce cocaine use.

Finding treatment for addiction can feel daunting if you’re unsure what exactly you should look for. For the best care possible, consider The Hope House – a comprehensive addiction rehab in Arizona.

The Hope House has two luxury rehabs in the desert mountains of north Scottsdale. During your stay you will receive the highest quality of care as our masters-level clinicians work to treat your addiction and any other underlying issues which may be triggering.

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14,666 People Died From Cocaine Overdoses In 2018

thousand people died from cocaine overdoses in 2018.

40% Of Drug Related Emergency Room Visits Were Due To Cocaine

of drug related emergency room visits were due to cocaine.

2.4x As Many Men (10,500) Have Died From Cocaine Overdose Compared To Women (4,200)

times as many men die from cocaine overdoses.

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