Cocaine Effects & Signs of Abuse

Written by Nicole LaNeve

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD

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Last Updated - 08/09/2023

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Updated 08/09/2023

Cocaine’s effects can be dangerous even with a single use. So, it’s important to understand how it affects the user in order to understand the signs that someone has a cocaine abuse or addiction problem.

If you know the signs to look for, identifying a cocaine problem early can help you intervene before tragedy strikes.

Side Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine, unlike opioids, is a stimulant, the side effects of cocaine relate to this. As a stimulant, when someone takes cocaine some of the side effects can include seeming very energetic or euphoric. Other common side effects of taking cocaine often include an inflated sense of self and a generally elevated mood.

Because of the cocaine side effects, people will often take this drug thinking it will enhance their performance in some way, such as at school or work, or will help them accomplish difficult tasks. People will also often take cocaine as a party drug so they can stay awake for hours or days.

Unfortunately, one of the cocaine side effects also commonly seen is appetite suppression, so people may take it as a way to help them lose weight.

While some people may find many of the side effects of cocaine and even crack cocaine side effects desirable, there is the potential for adverse cocaine side effects in the short term as well. Negative side effects of cocaine include irritability, restlessness, anxiety, panic, and paranoia.

The way you take the drug may determine the type and severity of the cocaine side effects you experience. For example, if you snort cocaine, it may take longer to feel the effects, but the high can be more powerful, whereas if you smoke or inject cocaine the effects may take hold more quickly, but tend to last for a shorter period of time. The rapid onset of smoking or injecting cocaine is one reason why crack cocaine is so addictive, even in comparison to snorting cocaine.

Cocaine Addiction Signs

There’s an unfortunate and dangerous misconception that cocaine can be used recreationally and it’s not addictive, but this isn’t the case. Cocaine is one of the primary reasons people enter drug treatment in Colorado and nationwide.

Some of the signs you’re addicted to cocaine can include:

  • Being preoccupied or focused on the drug, including constantly thinking about when you can get more or use it again
  • People who are addicted to cocaine may exhibit manic or aggressive behavior, insomnia, and depression.
  • You may also find that it’s hard for you to function without it and when you’re not using cocaine, you are fatigued.
  • You may have started using cocaine recreationally, but now you feel as if you can’t stop using it even when you want to, and even when there are negative consequences.

Other signs you’re addicted to cocaine may include:

  • Lying or covering up your use of the drug
  • Failing in your responsibilities
  • Having problems in your relationships with others
  • Legal or money problems

Cocaine Side Effects of the Mouth

People often want to know how to recognize cocaine use in people around them, including the physical symptoms of the drug.

In terms of cocaine side effects and the mouth, people who are abusing cocaine may have symptoms such as lesions in the mouth and erosion of the surface of their teeth. One of the reasons cocaine side effects can show up in the mouth is because of the appetite suppression caused by the drug.

When your appetite is suppressed, and you’re not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals, it can cause problems in your mouth. Eventually, this can result in tooth decay and loss. With crack cocaine, there can also be oral symptoms like abscesses on the gums.

For people who snort cocaine, there can be signs of cocaine use in the nose as well.

If someone is snorting cocaine, they may have a runny nose, or frequent nose bleeds. They may also lose their sense of smell, or have chronic symptoms that seem similar to a cold or sinus infection.

Side Effects of Cocaine Use Long-Term

Over time with long-term cocaine use, one of the primary side effects is addiction. Addiction to cocaine and other drugs occurs as your brain’s reward pathways are changed. You may not feel like yourself, or you may experience a negative mood when you aren’t taking cocaine, particularly with long-term use. It can become difficult for you to experience pleasure in other ways outside of cocaine.

Cocaine side effects in the long-term can also include the development of tolerance, meaning you need higher doses of the drug or to take it more often to experience the same effects.

In many cases, people who have been using cocaine for a longer period of time will start bingeing on the drug, which can result in panic attacks and paranoia, restlessness, irritability, and psychosis.

With long-term use cocaine can lead to problems with the cardiovascular system, ranging from chest pain to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. People who use cocaine in the long-term may be at a higher risk of seizures, and with chronic use of cocaine for many years people may develop Parkinson’s disease.

Signs of Cocaine Use

Many of the top cocaine use signs were touched on above. When someone uses cocaine, they may seem euphoric, incredibly confident, or very energetic. They may experience sleep problems and weight loss, and cocaine use signs can also include in some cases erratic behavior. Physical cocaine signs and symptoms can include dilated pupils, increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature, and problems with sexual function.

Other cocaine signs and symptoms may include headaches, and nose bleeds, and in some cases severe side effects like cardiac arrest, stroke, and seizures.

Signs of Cocaine Intoxication

When you take cocaine, it changes chemicals in your brain, leading to cocaine intoxication in some cases. Cocaine intoxication means you’re not just high, but you may be experiencing other widespread side effects throughout your body.

Cocaine intoxication can be caused by taking too much of the drug, being dehydrated when taking the drug, or using it with other drugs.

Signs of cocaine intoxication can include tremors in the face and fingers, enlarged pupils, increased heart rate, and blood pressure, confusion, agitation, anxiety, paleness, nausea, and vomiting. Signs of cocaine intoxication can also include fever and sweating.

Cocaine High Symptoms

Most of the cocaine high symptoms were touched on above. They range from having a sense of high energy and almost manic euphoria to anxiety or erratic behavior. Symptoms of a cocaine high can include intense talkativeness and sociability, being very mentally alert, and being very sensitive to stimuli.

People who are high on cocaine may also have a reduced need for food and sleep.

Cocaine Addiction Symptoms

So, what about the symptoms of cocaine use the following day? For many people, the symptoms of cocaine use the day after can be very difficult to deal with, mentally and physically.

People may be dehydrated and have a severe headaches. Symptoms of cocaine use the day after also include mood disturbances such as irritability and the inability to concentrate, as well as anger and depression.

Find the Help You Need

If you or a loved one is abusing cocaine or showing signs of the use of cocaine, it’s important to find a qualified Colorado cocaine treatment center or a national treatment center.

The Recovery Village has a proven track record of providing caring and successful substance abuse treatment at our Palmer Lake, Colorado facility. We also offer free resources, such as online recovery meetings, free chat rooms, and much more. Contact us today.


NIDA. “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 9, 2021. Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.


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