who is using cocaine

How To Tell If Someone Is Using Cocaine

Let’s say you have a friend named William. William is like your brother. He’s one of those friends that has been in your life since childhood and is affectionately known as “Uncle Willy” by your children. However, something has been … off about him lately.

William seems to be pretty scatterbrained, he’s pretty avoidant, and he seems jittery. You might be thinking, “Maybe it’s just been a tough week for him, and he’s a little off.” Then those weeks turn into months, and you start to notice a change in William’s physical appearance, too. You don’t want to presume, but you ask yourself: Is William on drugs?

Some of these behaviors are telltale signs of cocaine use, but we will dive deeper into signs that someone is using cocaine and effective treatment plans.

What Is Cocaine?

Made from coca leaves grown in South America, cocaine is one of the most well-known substances because of its age. Coca leaves were chewed for thousands of years in South America for their stimulating effects. The form that most know it as (a white powder) was extracted from the plant over a century ago.

Cocaine is classed as a Schedule II substance. This means that it is addictive but can still be administered by doctors as anesthesia for different surgeries, such as eye and throat surgeries. Cocaine was an active ingredient in several medicines in the early 1900s and was famously an ingredient in early versions of Coca-Cola.

Cocaine is a stimulant, which means that it raises nervous activity. Basically, it gives people energy. A popular, legal stimulant is caffeine.

Cocaine affects the brain by increasing the levels of dopamine (a chemical messenger). Dopamine controls our reward center, and normally, dopamine will be recycled into the cells that released it. This will shut the signals of the nerve cells off. Cocaine stops dopamine from being recycled and causes a massive buildup between nerve cells, which causes the brain to feel rewarded and promotes taking higher doses of the substance.

Cocaine addiction has been common in America for years, so there are telltale signs that people may show when addicted. Let’s discuss different signs of cocaine addiction.

Mood Swings

One of the side effects of cocaine is a feeling called euphoria. Euphoria is a word for extreme happiness and is one of the reasons many people addicted to the substance use it. Now, when that feeling of euphoria wears off, there comes a feeling of irritability, especially when addicted to the substance. These feelings can happen very quickly as cocaine’s effects last just 15 to 30 minutes. Someone may even become violent when coming down from cocaine.

Weight Loss

One of the telltale signs of cocaine addiction is a severe change in weight. Cocaine addiction affects the metabolism of people. This results in an imbalance of fat intake and storage in the body, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that people addicted to cocaine tend to eat fattier foods and have patterns of uncontrolled eating, but still have a reduced fat mass within their bodies.

Other physical symptoms of cocaine use can depend on how a person uses it. There are three main ways to use cocaine: snorting it (the most well-known method), smoking it (crack cocaine is mainly smoked), and injecting it. The physical symptoms of injection can include having “tracks” on one’s arm. “Tracks” are scars caused by the needles used to inject the cocaine. Collapsed veins are also a physical sign of cocaine use by injection. Smoking cocaine can trigger fits of coughing and respiratory (breathing) distress.

Snorting cocaine will have several physical signs. A frequent runny nose is a physical sign, as well as frequent nosebleeds. Other physical signs of cocaine use include:

  • Muscle spasms (twitches)
  • Dilated pupils (black centers of your eyes are enlarged)
  • Restlessness
  • High body temperature

Another sign is something called “cocaine nose.”

Cocaine Nose

Cocaine nose is a condition where the septum (the part of the nose that separates the nostrils) grows a hole in it. This is also called septal perforation. In the beginning stages, a person may not even realize they have it, but as it gets worse, it can turn into “full-blown” septal perforation. In this condition, it won’t be able to heal on its own. Other signs and symptoms of cocaine nose are:

  • Nasal collapse
  • Loss of smell
  • Worsening allergies
  • Nose whistling
  • Nasal obstruction (blockage)
  • Deformed nose

Behavioral Signs

There are several behavioral signs of cocaine addiction. These signs may be the most crucial to look out for, pairing them with the physical signs as well. Some of these behavioral signs can include:

  • Irritability
  • Elevated mood
  • Euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Mental alertness
  • Hyperactivity and hypersensitivity

One of the most common behavioral signs of cocaine addiction is a feeling called paranoia.


Paranoia is an extreme distrust of others. It is a feeling that everyone is against you, or they are out to get you. Pay attention to your friend’s eyes. Does he seem to be shifting them a ton? Is he far more defensive than usual? Has he stopped confiding in you? These are all signs of paranoia. Cocaine can cause paranoia, and addiction can make these symptoms even worse.

Financial Issues

Addiction is expensive. Many people who struggle with addiction struggle financially as well. It is no different with people addicted to cocaine. People addicted to cocaine may commit different crimes to fund their addiction, and these crimes can range from theft to committing fraud. This is all to pay for the cocaine, but some of these acts may be committed while taking the substance as well.

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Cocaine Withdrawal

One of the most common signs of cocaine use is when someone is coming off of the substance. Cocaine withdrawal takes place almost immediately after someone stops using cocaine, and many of the signs above are parts of the withdrawal. Cocaine withdrawal is stressful and can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares (bad dreams)
  • Depressed mood
  • Restlessness

Because of these unpleasant symptoms, people addicted to cocaine will want to use the substance more. Pair this with the euphoria felt when consuming it and people will attempt to use more cocaine in higher doses. Unfortunately, this can lead to addiction, overdoses, and even death.

How Common Is Cocaine Use?

Cocaine use is common in the U.S. In 2018, 5.5 million people age 12 or older (2 million age 18 to 25; 3.5 million people age 26 or older) reported using cocaine.

Cocaine use and addiction have affected Mississippi as well. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, around 2% of all Mississippians reported using cocaine during 2019. This is about 60,000 Mississippians, or one in every 50 Mississippi residents.

How Can I Help Him? Or Can I?

Cocaine addiction is difficult to see someone struggling with, especially a close friend. However, we would like to extend help to our fellow Mississippi residents. Vertava Health offers proven treatment for cocaine addiction.

Every client is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. The first portion of treatment will be getting rid of the cocaine in one’s body, or detox.

Cocaine detox can be tough. Cravings will show up, clients will be irritable, and a mental toll is taken. While detox from cocaine is mild compared with detox from substances like opioids, it is still unpleasant. This is why Vertava Health believes in medically supervised detox. Our medically trained staff will be there with your friend every step of the way. We will be there to provide support through the physical symptoms of the detox process, as well as the emotional turmoil he will encounter.

Vertava Health offers several forms of treatment, such as:

  • Residential treatment
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • An intensive outpatient program (IOP)

Click here to learn more about treatment for cocaine addiction.

Vertava Health – Mississippi Is Here For You

Vertava Health Mississippi is here to help you through the struggles of addiction. Our mission is to empower our clients so they can start to live out their best futures.

Call (888) 956-6369 to learn more about treatment.

Call Vertava Health now!