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Cocaine Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

Cocaine and Addiction

So why is cocaine so addictive? In brief, the drug stimulates the central nervous system, interfering with the reward centres in the brain which are associated with the basic needs to eat, drink and have sexual intercourse. In tests on animals, the addictive nature of the drug is demonstrated by the animal seeking the drug in preference to food and water, even in times of extreme hunger and thirst.

This, in part, is due to the way cocaine diverts the normal path of dopamine, a chemical which affects brain processes which control, amongst other things, the ability to experience pleasure. Cocaine binds itself to the proteins which normally transport dopamine and facilitate its re-uptake, so the dopamine is forced instead to build up in the synapse, extending and hugely amplifying the natural sensations of pleasure to create a forced euphoria - an artificial ‘high’.

Cocaine Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

The intense high from a cocaine hit can be within seconds and the ‘crash’ or ‘comedown’ can be devastating, resulting in the immediate and overwhelming desire to take more. Furthermore, an addict can gain a tolerance to cocaine, requiring larger amounts more frequently to achieve the strength of their former cocaine induced euphoria.

Symptoms of cocaine use may include but are not limited to increased energy and mental alertness, hyperactivity and possibly tremors, euphoria, talkativeness, rapid pulse and raised breathing rate, raised body temperature and blood pressure, a runny or stuffy nose and occasionally a bleeding nose, a decrease in appetite, an inflated sense of power or strength, confusion, paranoia, panic and anxiety, hallucinations and dilated pupils. After-effects of cocaine use may be lethargy, intense sleepiness and often depression.

Cocaine Addiction, Withdrawal Symptoms and Overdose

Symptoms of cocaine addiction may include physical problems such as severe loss of appetite and weight loss, nausea, headaches, abdominal pain, neglect of other bodily needs and personal hygiene, mood swings and psychotic behaviours, cardiac problems, collapse of the nasal septum (in the case of repeated snorting of cocaine) and a constantly runny nose, and social problems including neglect of family or work responsibilities, change of friends and other normal social contacts, possibly stealing or selling personal possessions to fund a drug habit and keeping antisocial hours.

A cocaine overdose can cause heart attack or seizures, brain haemorrhage due to increased blood pressure, dangerous rise in body temperature, renal failure, delirium, convulsions and death. Many of these things can occur even after just one use of the drug – a cocaine-induced heart attack or full respiratory failure can occur in a first time user or an addict with an established tolerance.


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