Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant that can be extremely easy to become addicted to, but very difficult to quit. While cocaine does not produce physical symptoms during withdrawal, the psychological stress of cocaine withdrawal can be intense, oftentimes leading someone to continue using the drug. Being able to spot the signs of cocaine abuse can help you show concern and support, and opens the door for a discussion about getting help.
How To Tell if Someone Is Using Coke
Changes in appearance and behavior become more and more obvious as a person continues to abuse cocaine. The more someone becomes addicted to cocaine, the less they are able to hide it, especially due to the physical and psychological effects of both the drug and the withdrawal symptoms.
We all know the telltale sign of white powder around the lips or nose and the constant sniffing that crime shows and documentaries display, however, the mental and physical effects of this drug extend far beyond that. In some cases, it may be readily apparent that the person you love is dealing with addiction, but in some cases, it may not be obvious at all.
If you suspect that someone you love is using cocaine, it is important to look out for the signs because repeated use of this drug can alter the brain’s chemical makeup permanently. This can cause issues that someone will have to deal with for the rest of their life. Early intervention is the best possible way to ensure that whatever damage has been done can be reversed or improved upon.
Physical Signs of Cocaine Use
Some signs to look out for if you are concerned that your loved one is using cocaine include:
- Dilated Pupils, Runny Nose, or Nosebleeds: These often accompany users who inhale the powder through the nose and can cause significant and permanent damage to the skin and cartilage inside of the nose. Because this method of ingesting cocaine provides an easy, quick, and intense high, it is the method most users will use. Prolonged use of cocaine through the nose can lead to a deviated septum, perforated septum, hard palate damage, and “saddle nose.”
- Sudden Changes in Sleeping, Eating, or Weight: Cocaine use suppresses appetite as well as causes dysfunction in metabolism that can interfere with fat intake and storage within the body. Its stimulant properties can disturb normal sleep patterns, another factor that disrupts normal metabolic processes. Cocaine users are typically seeking the energizing high that the drug offers, and during this period of use, the brain is unable to shut down for sleep. The change in brain chemistry actually causes a change to the body’s circadian rhythm which can permanently impact the body’s ability to sleep.
- Deterioration of Hygiene: When the need for cocaine overwhelms a person, it becomes their first priority so things like daily hygiene become less important. Many people in active cocaine addiction spend their money on the drug rather than on food, clothes, or hygienic products, and this can lead to poor outward appearance. Many don’t even notice their lack of hygiene as their only concern is on getting and using cocaine. Continued drug use can also cause oral health to decline, especially the teeth, as well as body odor and skin problems.
Behaviors To Watch For
- Excitability or Rapid Mood Swings: Cocaine is a stimulant that can cause extreme highs as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are released in the brain. When those effects begin to wear off, however, the user can experience intense lows, especially when experiencing withdrawal. Through continued use of cocaine, brain chemistry is altered as the brain reduces sensitivity to the neurotransmitters released through cocaine use. When the drug is not present, the brain cannot keep up naturally with the production of those neurotransmitters, so the user often becomes reliant on cocaine to produce euphoric and pleasurable sensations, or simply to keep from feeling bad. The use and loss of the drug in the brain are what causes those mood swings.
- Social Isolation and an Increased Need for Privacy: People who abuse cocaine often distance themselves from friends and family members for a variety of reasons. They may believe that their family members will notice their use and try to distance themselves to keep the addiction a secret. They may also feel a sense of guilt or shame for their drug use. People using cocaine may require increased privacy to obtain and use the drug, and they may lock their doors or try to hide drugs and stay near those drugs so no one finds them.
- Engage in Risky Behaviors: As someone increases their use of cocaine, he or she may find themselves in situations where they get in trouble with the law or have to engage in risky behaviors in order to get more of the drug. Because cocaine is often used as a party drug and causes intense highs, users may engage in risky sexual behavior (which could lead to pregnancy or STDs) or users may combine multiple drugs at once which can lead to death.
- Financial Problems: You may notice that the person you worry about either asks to borrow money or you may notice missing money. Because the need for cocaine becomes so great during addiction, someone will do whatever it takes to get money to buy drugs. Even if they maintain a job or have some form of income, they are often struggling financially because every penny goes to that drug.
- Loss of Interest in Things They Once Enjoyed: Regular use of cocaine can lead someone to pull away from the people and things they used to enjoy because their life becomes solely about the next high. Someone struggling with cocaine addiction is trying to chase the high and will spend most of their time, and their money, obtaining and using the drug. They may also feel that getting high is the only thing they are good at or able to do, so the thought of going out and doing something else can induce anxiety or depression.
Keeping an eye out for these symptoms is important for the safety of your loved one and could be the difference between life and death, especially if the addiction takes such a strong hold on them that it leads to overdose. Signs of a cocaine overdose to look out for include excessive sweating, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing and hallucinations.
What To Do If My Loved One Is Abusing Cocaine
While it can often be difficult to tell whether or not someone is addicted to cocaine and whether or not they are experiencing overdose symptoms, educating yourself on what those look like and what to do if this happens can save their life. If you feel that someone you love is abusing cocaine, the first step is to get informed about cocaine addiction and on the resources available to them if they choose to seek help.
Starting a conversation with them can be scary, difficult, and frustrating, but letting them know that you care and want to help is crucial in reminding them that they are not alone and that they have options. Never accuse them of doing cocaine or of being “an addict” as this will push them further away, rather remind them how much you love and care about them and how concerned you are about their change in behavior. Provide whatever support they need, but stay away from diagnosing them or telling them what’s best. At the end of the day, they will only get help if they want to. You can’t force them. And as frustrating as that might seem, you have to take the guilt and blame out of the situation and seek help for yourself if the stress becomes too much.
Here at The Summit Wellness Group, we offer services to help both you and your loved one receive the necessary support during this difficult time. Through individual and group therapies, holistic treatments, and community support, we have the best treatment plans for helping your loved one achieve long-term recovery and a drug-free life.
If you suspect that someone you love is abusing cocaine, The Summit Wellness Group provides a variety of treatment options that have helped many others curb their addiction and live a drug-free life.