Cocaine, derived from the South American coca plant, is a potent stimulant and one of the most popular party drugs in the world. Coca leaves have been chewed for thousands of years, mixed with an alkaline substance, which makes it accessible through the bloodstream. In the 19th century, chemists began working on making cocaine in labs, stronger than ever before. Cocaine was originally used medicinally as a local anesthetic, it can block nerves from sending pain signals to the brain, but early chemists noticed the powerful recreational effects. In the 1980s and 1990s, cocaine reached its peak of popularity. Cocaine remains a drug of choice for many, but the intense highs of cocaine come with rock-bottom lows, and use can quickly spiral into abuse and addiction.

Cocaine has powerful effects on the brain. When taken, the drug releases dopamine in the brain, creating a chemical euphoria that comes with increased energy and confidence. The euphoria and excitement from taking cocaine rapidly fades, and as the brain becomes depleted, they can not be regained. Cocaine users return to the drug, taking more and more, looking for the same high. Binging puts stress on the brain and the body, taxing the heart, liver and kidneys, among other vital organs.

Frequent abuse of cocaine, and the manipulation of dopamine in the brain, can result in disruption in what is called the reward pathway, the brain functions that control motivation, reward-seeking and the perception of pleasure. Repeated disruption of this pathway can cause the brain to rely on cocaine; when natural rewards no longer generate pleasure, depression and distress can set in, alongside cravings for the drug. This cycle, combined with withdrawal symptoms that can start as soon as 90 minutes after the last dose, results in users becoming addicted to cocaine in a short period of time. If you suspect that your loved one is being hurt by their addiction to cocaine, call and get connected to a treatment professional right away.

Signs of Abuse

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, and those who use and abuse cocaine can show significant physical symptoms, along with long-lasting psychological effects. The physical symptoms of cocaine are persistent when you are high, but can last long after the high has work off. They include:

  • Interrupted sleep, insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Over excitement, agitation, aggression
  • Increased risk of heart attack or cardiac issues
  • Nosebleeds, runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • White powder around the nose or mouth

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability, extreme mood swings
  • Periods of increased activity followed by lethargy
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, hobbies or other interests
  • Increased risky behaviors
  • White powder around the nose or mouth
  • Disheveled appearance, lack of attention paid to personal hygiene
  • Depression or mood disorders can appear or dramatically worsen

Symptoms of Withdrawal

After a cocaine binge, there is a crash and subsequent depression that can last several days. During this depression, cravings for cocaine intensify, due to the disruption of the brain’s reward pathway, mentioned above.

  • Irritability, anger, agitation
  • Lack of energy, apathy
  • Anxiety, paranoia
  • Anhedonia, inability to feel pleasure
  • Interrupted sleep, insomnia, nightmares
  • Depression or mood disorders can appear or dramatically worsen


Cocaine is often snorted, but can be mixed with a liquid for injection or prepared for smoking. Crack cocaine is the form of the drug that is most often smoked. Cocaine users might have some or all of following, common items used to consume cocaine.


If you have noticed one or more of these signs of these signs and are worried that your loved one is struggling with cocaine, call us today.


  • Rolled dollar bills, straws or similar straw tubes- used for snorting cocaine
  • Small plastic bags or bags cut into smaller triangles and tied together – used to hold cocaine
  • Razor blades, plastic cards or similar – used to cut cocaine into “lines” for snorting
  • Small mirrors, pieces of glass, CD cases or similar – surface for snorting of cocaine
  • Snuff bullets – Older item traditionally used for snuff (finely ground tobacco,) repurposed for cocaine use
  • Specialty cocaine items – can include glass vials with small spoons attached, or simply the spoon by itself, used to snort cocaine
  • Hypodermic needles, rubber tubing, shoelaces or the like – used to inject cocaine intravenously

Adulterants and Substitutions: What's in my Cocaine?

Drug suppliers and drug dealers frequently add other adulterants or substitutes to the cocaine that they sell, in order to increase profits and have more product to sell. As dealers try to stretch their supply, they might add in other psychoactive drugs, that might mimic cocaine or make it feel more potent. In many cases, dealers frequently look to add substances that merely resemble cocaine, with no regard for your safety. Any bag or bundle of cocaine could contain a number of substances, that could be deadly.

Relatively harmless substances, that mimic the physical appearance of cocaine. These substances do not pose an acute danger, but are not things that you want in your body:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Laxatives
  • Caffeine
  • Creatine
  • Baking soda

Other, more chemically active substances can make their way into your drugs. Cheaper drugs end up sold as pure cocaine, allowing your dealer to make a profit, at your expense. These substances can cause immediate or chronic health problems.

  • Other amphetamines – any number of amphetamines can wind up in your cocaine, meant to give you the impression that your coke is more powerful than it is
  • Anesthetics – used to mimic the numbing sensation that cocaine creates:
    • Benzocaine
    • Lidocaine
    • Novocaine
  • Boric Acid – chemical used in insect and rodent pesticides
  • Mannitol – prevents drugs from cakin

Detox Process

Amatus Health detox facilities offer medically assisted detox for individuals facing acute withdrawal from cocaine, as well as inpatient and outpatient therapy programs designed to build the skills for long term recovery.

Because of cocaine’s effects on the brain’s reward pathways, it is important that any co-occurring mental health disorders are considered when implementing a treatment plan. At every level of care, you will have access to trained professionals to help you get clean and stay clean.

If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction, reach out to one of our treatment professionals today.

Further Treatment Options

At Amatus Health we off the full continuum of care, from intensive inpatient programs through a number of outpatient levels of care. We believe, supported by evidence, that a longer stay in treatment sets patients up for a better chance at long term recovery.

Every individual who goes through our care gets an individualized treatment plan designed around their needs, to treat the physical, mental and spiritual causes of substance abuse.

What it means to be an Amatus Managed Recovery Center

  • Person First Philosophy

    Our mission is to get you in the best facility that will allow you to heal and find long term recovery. Whether you enter one of our facilities or another facility, we will help everyone who contacts us find the appropriate place for them to heal.

  • National Footprint, Community Focus

    Our nationwide network of treatment centers and referral partners allows us to make an impact in multiple communities. We want every individual to thrive, and become a positive force in your community. We desire to help people and communities recover.

  • Facility and Treatment

    We are committed to providing the highest level of care, delivered in cutting-edge facilities designed to support your recovery. Every individual gets an individualized treatment plan, with the highest-level of care standards and quality.

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