What Are the Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine addiction is responsible for 1 in 3 drug-related emergency room visits, but would you know if you were looking at it? 

Part of cocaine addiction is hiding it. People who have stimulant use disorder (SUD) change their behavior to hide what’s happening. If you’re addicted, then you might deny that you have a problem, even to yourself.

You can’t treat cocaine addiction without recognizing it first. Recognizing the signs and symptoms allows you to address the problem. Still, you can’t recognize those signs without knowing about them. If you learn what cocaine addiction looks like, you can recognize it in yourself or your loved ones. 

Here’s what you should know about the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction.

What Are the Signs of Cocaine Use?

Cocaine (coke) is a central nervous stimulant, which means that it acts by increasing brain and nervous system activity. 

When you use cocaine, there are clear physical signs that you’re under the influence. They include: 

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Dilated pupils 
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased energy
  • Restlessness

People who are under the influence of cocaine may seem like they have to keep moving. They might be unusually talkative or feel the need to keep doing unproductive tasks. 

What Are the Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction causes plenty of behavior changes. Most of the behavior signs are the result of trying to hide the addiction or avoid being confronted about it. 

Some signs that cocaine use is turning into addiction include: 

  • A need to keep using cocaine even though it affects your life in a negative way
  • A need to use higher doses of cocaine or use it more often
  • Failing to stop using cocaine
  • Lying about what you’re doing or who you’re spending time with
  • Spending too much time finding or using cocaine
  • Spending too little time on self-care, including eating, sleeping, and hygiene
  • Trouble maintaining responsibilities, like childcare, work, or finances 
  • Withdrawal and cravings when you try to stop using cocaine 

If you notice these signs in yourself or someone close to you, then cocaine addiction could be the cause.

What Are the Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine addiction can cause physical changes too. Many of these changes are the result of behavior changes. However, some of them are caused by physical changes from cocaine use. 

The physical symptoms of cocaine addiction include: 

  • Heart arrhythmia, or changes in your heart’s rhythm and speed
  • Dehydration 
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pain and diarrhea 
  • Malnutrition, including nervous system or endocrine problems from a lack of nutrition 
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss

Cocaine addiction can also have physical signs based on the way that you use coke. For instance: 

  • Smoking cocaine can cause breathing problems, including asthma exacerbations, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Intravenous cocaine use or injecting can cause vein problems, skin infections, clots or blockages in the blood vessels, and heart problems
  • Nasal cocaine use or snorting can cause nosebleeds, runny noses, sinus problems, and even holes in the septum 

Tolerance and dependence are the most common effects of cocaine addiction. 

With tolerance, your body doesn’t respond to small doses of cocaine anymore, so you need to take higher and higher doses. Tolerance leads to dependence, where your body needs cocaine all the time. 

Once you’ve developed dependence, you’ll experience withdrawal every time you stop using cocaine. That leads to repeated use and a cycle of addiction. 

More Signs of Cocaine Addiction

If you live with someone who’s addicted to cocaine, you may be able to spot signs in their living area or car. The signs can include: 

  • Empty baggies with light-colored residue that’s powdery or waxy
  • Items that can be used to inject cocaine, like syringes, tourniquets, and spoons
  • Items that can be used to smoke cocaine, like bongs, pipes, or foil
  • Items that can be used to snort cocaine, like razors and mirrors 

You could also find actual evidence of cocaine itself. Cocaine can look like a white to brown powder, or it can look like a waxy rock known as crack cocaine

What Are the Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is part of cocaine addiction. When you stop using coke after you develop an addiction, you experience withdrawal. The signs include: 

  • An intense need to sleep
  • Depression
  • Dysphoria, or a feeling of general unease or discomfort 
  • Fatigue
  • Night terrors
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed movement 

It’s common for coke withdrawal to feel like severe depression. These signs are always accompanied by a strong need to use cocaine. 

What Are the Signs of Health Problems From Cocaine?

When you use cocaine over a long period of time, it can lead to health problems. These health conditions can be severe and even permanent. 

It’s easy to overlook the signs of cocaine-related health problems because they can be nonspecific. You should look for: 

  • Signs of blood vessel problems, including shortness of breath, discomfort in the limbs, chest pain, and fatigue 
  • Signs of psychotic disorders, such as delusions, hallucinations, and paranoid behavior 
  • Signs of gastrointestinal problems, including lack of appetite, rectal bleeding, problems with your stool, and stomach pain
  • Signs of heart problems, which include fatigue, chest pain, shoulder pain, shortness of breath, and jaw pain
  • Signs of liver problems that can include yellow skin and eyes, dark urine, severe itching, and abdominal pain
  • Signs of stroke that include one-sided weakness, facial droop, trouble speaking, and sudden confusion 

Long-term cocaine addiction can cause severe and permanent effects on your health. Call your doctor right away if you suspect cocaine-related health problems. Be open about your cocaine use, since that will help your doctor offer the right treatment. 

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose?

Cocaine addiction can lead to overdose. You’re more likely to experience an overdose if you use multiple drugs at once or high doses of cocaine, but anyone can experience an overdose. 

A cocaine overdose can be lethal if you don’t get treatment. It’s very important to call 911 if you suspect a cocaine overdose.

The signs of a cocaine overdose include: 

  • Confusion
  • Delusions 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fast breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of consciousness

What Are the Signs You Need Treatment for Cocaine Addiction? 

Everyone who has cocaine addiction can benefit from treatment. Addiction treatment gives you the tools and support that you need to overcome stimulant use disorder. 

You should consider cocaine addiction treatment if you have: 

  • A need to use cocaine that you can’t control
  • A history of relapsing on cocaine
  • Health problems caused by cocaine
  • Social problems caused by cocaine 
  • Quality of life problems caused by cocaine
  • Withdrawal when you stop using cocaine

Any of these signs on its own is an indicator for cocaine addiction treatment. Search our treatment directory to find a treatment center near you that offers treatment for SUD. You can end your relationship with cocaine by making a simple phone call! 


  1. What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States? | National Institute on Drug Abuse
  2. What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? | National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. Cocaine withdrawal
  4. What are the long-term effects of cocaine use? | National Institute on Drug Abuse
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Francine Mends, MD