Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
While the world around us is heavily focused on the opioid crisis, the truth remains that society is still saturated by other types of illicit drugs, as well. Cocaine is estimated to be the second-most-used illicit drug, with approximately 1.9 million people using it per month. Spotting a cocaine addiction may often be more difficult than expected, especially if it’s someone you’re close to. Sometimes, we tend to be more resistant to the idea that somebody we love may be an addict because we want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, maybe you’ve noticed some odd behaviors in a friend or loved one recently that have set off some red flags.
Aside from physically seeing someone you know use cocaine, it’s nearly impossible to confirm that this individual is or is not using unless you ask them directly. So how do you know when you’ve seen enough signs to enter into this difficult discussion?
Common Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use
While there is no one sign that can confirm your suspicions, there are a few characteristics of cocaine addicts that, when presented together, may be indicative of cocaine addiction.
Opposite of opioids and other depressant drugs, cocaine acts both as a stimulant and an appetite suppressor. This means that, when consumed, cocaine will make a person more active and less hungry. Being a stimulant, cocaine will have an impact on an individual’s sleep habits, keeping them awake and moving. Over time, these effects from cocaine addiction can cause some pretty substantial weight loss. In fact, in just a few short months, it wouldn’t be out of the question for an addict to lose up to fifty pounds. Unless you can attribute this weight loss to an aggressive fitness plan, this unhealthy weight loss may be an indicator of cocaine addiction.
As previously stated, cocaine is a stimulant, which often results in insomnia and hyperactivity. Cocaine addicts will typically have unusual sleep habits or behaviors, such as staying out all night or sleeping during odd hours. It’s also not uncommon for a cocaine addict to stay awake for multiple days at a time. If you’re suspicious that a friend or loved one may be using cocaine, be wary of the reasons they provide for being out late or exhibiting strange sleep cycles. They may come up with stories in an attempt to explain themselves, so cautiously look for holes or problems with their story.
Let’s be honest: cocaine isn’t cheap, and an addict will have to dish out quite a bit of money to keep up with their habit. Take note of any trends of financial hardship which you are having a hard time understanding. For example, if they earn a steady income and do not live extravagantly, how could they possibly be short rent money or be unable to pay bills? If you share financial responsibility with this person, have you noticed money going missing recently? Friends and loved ones are often the first place an addict will go for financial support- whether they’re asking for money or simply taking it.
Cocaine addicts will often be irritable, jumpy, anxious, and paranoid. Over time, continued use of cocaine will intensify these behaviors, especially if the addict is experiencing a craving. They may become short with you or easily angered or agitated for seemingly no reason. Effects of excessive cocaine use may also lead an individual to experience paranoid psychosis, a condition in which they lose all sense of reality and experience hallucinations.
Cocaine addicts will often experience bouts of depression after crashing and elation after getting high. These mood swings will be more noticeable in a person you are close to, such as a family member or spouse. Be mindful of these changes in behaviors and be cautious, as mood swings may also include rage and violent outbursts.
Other Signs and Evidence
Generally, cocaine addicts will exhibit other physical signs that you should be on the lookout for. These signs will often be subtle and can easily be overlooked if you’re not specifically watching for them. You may pick up clues such as muscle twitches, a runny nose, shakiness, lack of motivation or depression, dilated pupils, or frequent headaches.
There’s also the possibility of finding evidence of cocaine use around the home, such as rolled-up dollar bills, razors, or white powdered residue.
If you’ve noticed continuous patterns similar to those described above, there’s a chance that someone you’re close to may be struggling with cocaine addiction. Don’t wait to take action but be cautious and sensitive in your approach. It’s common for cocaine addicts to become defensive and deny that they have a problem, so be persistent in your efforts. The sooner you can intervene, the sooner they can begin working toward recovery and a healthier life.
Download the Spotting The Signs of Cocaine Addiction presentation so you can share it with loved ones.