Cocaine Addiction



The popularity of cocaine outdates most of its current users. It was a popular street drug in the 1980s and 90s, but its existence continues to wreak havoc on the lives of millions of people every year. Even still, cocaine is much older than its rise in popularity. The drug dates back at least 100 years when it was first abused. Even further still, history suggests the origin of the drug, the coca leaf, has been ingested for thousands of years. 

Though cocaine has a long history, its hold on people’s lives is ever present. In 2021, 4.8 million people reported using cocaine. In the same year, 24,486 died from the substance, with the youngest 12 years old. 

Cocaine gives individuals a feeling of alertness and increased power and energy. Most users explain a state of euphoria and confidence. However, other experiences can include anxiety, paranoia, and irritation. Most are left feeling physically spent and mentally out of sorts when the high wears off.

The anesthetic nature of cocaine creates numbness in the throat and tongue when it’s snorted and the mouth when it’s smoked. Injecting cocaine leaves the injection site numb, too. The method of use determines how long the numbing sensation and the high last. 

The lure and addiction to cocaine continue. However, treatment programs and medically-assisted detox can help individuals recover. It’s possible to regain a sense of normalcy after a cocaine addiction.  

Lining up the Facts on Cocaine Addiction

Because cocaine is a stimulant, the risk of addiction is high. Without proper treatment, addiction can be chronic and lead to relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that almost 10% of people who abuse cocaine will develop an addiction.

The damage that cocaine addiction can have on the body is profound. Health complications can include cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, and neurological damage. 

Cocaine’s stimulant nature is the hardest on the heart. Approximately 15% of people who use cocaine experience a heart attack. This is even true of heart-healthy individuals.

Sharing needles is common among people who use syringes to abuse cocaine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that they place themselves at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C.

Like other street drugs, cocaine addiction can lead to mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

Cocaine addiction can significantly impact an individual’s social and economic well-being. Those addicted have reported job loss, financial instability, and broken relationships. 

Taking it to the Streets: Slang Terms for Cocaine

Learning the street names of drugs can help loved ones be aware of a possible substance that someone close to them is ingesting. Most adolescents and young people are not going to use their actual names to conceal their drug use. 

Cocaine is unique in that there are names for both the pure and rock forms. Street names for the pure form include:

  • Blow
  • Bump
  • Big C
  • Coke
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Line
  • Nose Candy
  • Pearl
  • Rail
  • Snow
  • Sneeze
  • Sniff
  • Speedball
  • Toot

Street names for crack cocaine include the following:

  • Black Rock, Hard Rock, and Rocks
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Dice
  • Gravel
  • Grit
  • Hail
  • Jelly beans
  • Nuggets
  • Purple caps
  • Scrabble
  • Sleet
  • Snow coke
  • Tornado

Recognizing the Different Forms of Cocaine

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter the form of cocaine. It is all illegal and highly addictive. Cocaine comes in several different forms. It is usually purchased in small vials or plastic bags. 

Below are some of the most common forms of cocaine.

  • Powder cocaine is a fine white powder. This form is usually snorted through the nose. Individuals also take the powder and dissolve it in water to inject it or mix it with other substances and smoke it. 
  • Crack cocaine is cocaine that has been processed to form small rocks. Individuals usually smoke it with a pipe. When they do, they hear a crackling sound. That’s how it got its name. 
  • Freebase cocaine shares similarities with crack cocaine. This form undergoes a different chemical process and tends to be more expensive. Individuals will smoke this form of cocaine.
  • Coca leaves are the raw material used to produce cocaine. The tradition of people in South America using the coca leaf date back several centuries. Traditionally, individuals chewed or brewed the leaves in drinks such as tea. While using the leaves themselves isn’t considered drug abuse, using them to make cocaine is.  

Understanding How Cocaine Affects the Body

Cocaine has several adverse effects on the body. They are classified into short and long-term consequences. 

Short-term effects:

  • Increased heart rate and changes in blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Changes in appetite
  • Bursts of energy and alertness
  • Euphoria and sensations of pleasure
  • Improved social skills and talkativeness
  • Anxiety, restlessness, and irritability
  • Paranoia and hallucinations 

Long-term effects:

  • Cardiovascular: heart attack, stroke, and irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory: breathing issues and lung damage 
  • Neurological: seizures and coordination problems 
  • Gastrointestinal: stomach pain and nausea
  • Reproductive: infertility and sexual impairment
  • Dental: tooth decay and loss of teeth 

Cocaine Addiction and the Withdrawal Process

As with most drugs, the withdrawal process for cocaine addiction can be complex. The body has to relearn how to function without the drug. Exhaustion, pain, and discomfort are some of the body’s responses.

While the process can feel daunting, the rewards of recovery entirely outweigh the short-term discomfort of a detoxification process. Usually, the withdrawal process occurs in three phases.

  • Phase 1: A cocaine crash begins as soon as the effects of the drug wear off and the high dissipates. This occurs for some hours, or even minutes, after the last dose. Feelings of depression and anxiety develop along with discomfort, usually characterized by extreme tiredness, irritation to things that once brought pleasure, and an increased appetite. Individuals who abuse cocaine in large doses also experience dehydration, shakes, cardiac arrest, and the potential for death.

  • Phase 2: This phase can last up to 3 months. While the symptoms of phase 1 have been conquered, other symptoms arise. Those include issues with attention and focus, extreme sluggishness, and the craving for cocaine will come in waves. However, toward the end of this phase, individuals begin to feel the ability to reclaim control over their lives.

  • Phase 3: During this time, individuals will continue to crave cocaine to an extent. Places where they formerly abused cocaine and people they used it with become triggers. Individuals’ overall moods begin to realign as the discomfort of phases 1 and 2 subside. Eventually, people will start to feel like their former selves more of the time than not.

The potential for relapse will take time to cope with. It is vital for individuals addicted to cocaine to detox in a safe and controlled environment with medical professionals. 

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Programs

Addiction treatment programs are the best course of action for substance dependency. Evidence-based therapeutic options resolve the underlying issues that led to addiction. Options such as an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program will improve the overall quality of life and well-being. 

Partial Hospitalization Program

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are a structured treatment option that provides intensive care services without requiring clients to spend the night. PHP is recommended for individuals who have completed a higher level of care, such as residential treatment, but still need ongoing support and monitoring to maintain active recovery. 

PHPs benefit individuals struggling with cocaine addiction by providing a safe and structured environment with access to medical supervision, including therapy with family members and one-on-one and group therapy with peers with the same substance abuse issues and possible mental health disorders. 

Intensive Outpatient Program

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) provide more structure than the PHP program but less than residential care. IOPs include group and individual therapy sessions and provide the tools and support for our clients to achieve and maintain sobriety. 

IOPs provide more support than traditional outpatient programs because therapy sessions are more frequent, and clients can participate in more support group activities. Services can include cognitive behavioral therapy, courses on coping skills, dialectical behavior therapy, holistic therapies, medication management, and other forms of mental health treatment.

Next Steps and Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Even though breaking a cocaine addiction can be challenging, it’s not impossible. Once you recognize the addiction and its control over daily life, you must seek treatment. It is a matter of life and death. Take the first step by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline at 800-662-4357. They can offer treatment options, support groups, and resources in your area. They also have a treatment center directory