Cocaine Abuse Signs & Symptoms
The powerfully addictive drug cocaine is a high dependency and high abuse risk stimulant. Various cocaine abuse signs and symptoms depend on the method of consumption. In its powdered form, cocaine can be snorted (inhaled) through the nose, or injected right into a vein after dissolving it in water first. Another method commonly called ‘skin popping’ describes when cocaine is injected directly under the skin, which increases the length of the high. It also increases risk of infection and other medical issues.
Snorting cocaine is one of the most popular ways to ingest cocaine and some of the common signs of this method include nosebleeds, hoarseness, trouble with swallowing, a chronically runny nose and loss of the sense of smell.
Crack cocaine, or ‘crack’, is a type of cocaine that is processed into a rock crystal and smoked, typically through a pipe. Because of the poorer purity level and increased likelihood for adding a variety of other dangerous chemicals, crack cocaine causes its long-term users to experience much more dramatic symptoms.
Users who are addicted to cocaine may display a number of personality changes or behaviours that are common signs of frequent use or higher doses of the drug, such as paranoia, restlessness, anxiety and irritability.
Visible Signs of Cocaine Use
You might be wondering whether you see signs of drug use but you are not sure exactly what drug is actually being used, or how badly it is being abused. If you think that someone you know is abusing cocaine then look out for the following signs of cocaine use.
Occasional disappearance :
When an individual is abusing or using powdered cocaine, they often do not want others to know about it. Therefore, they might go to use the drug in a private location, such as the toilet. Since snorting cocaine in its powdered form has shorter lasting effects (15 to 30 minutes), the user may leave every so often so that they can have another dose.
There could also be other reasons for a person to use the bathroom frequently, so do not limit this behaviour to cocaine use. Also watch out for behavioural changes when they return, and whether they appear to be hiding something.
Accompanied bathroom visits :
Some cocaine users enjoy the company of others, especially at social events. Seeing two or more people use the bathroom together throughout the night is a likely indication of drug abuse.
Change in mood :
Once a user consumes cocaine in private, they come back in a completely different mood. They may have become more confident, excited and display a heightened sense of wellbeing. They may talk a lot more and possibly start to get sexually excited. A spike in their energy levels will be evident and they are unlikely to have a strong appetite or proper sleeping pattern.
Traces of white powder :
Another noticeable sign of cocaine use are traces of white powder around the person’s nostrils or on their face. Sometimes, even though the person wiped away the traces of cocaine from their face, they may still have traces on their clothes or belongings.
Eyes are another common giveaway to drug use. Dilated and wide pupils and eyes that are very sensitive to light are signs to look out for. Normal pupil sizes are between 3 to 4 mm, whilst cocaine users pupil sizes can dilate up to 6 to 8mm. It is unusual for normal eyes to be dilated in a well-lit room.
Cocaine users often wear sunglasses in order to protect their sensitive eyes. Note that dilated pupils occur with various drugs and are not limited to cocaine. Dilated pupils tend to last the duration of the high, so it is not always obvious.Cocaine user’s eyes can also become watery or bloodshot, which means that red veins are noticeable in the whites of the eyes. Since habitual cocaine users do not sleep much, their eyes can become look quite red at odd hours of the day.
Nose issues :
Nose related issues are also possible symptoms, such as a chapped or dry nose. Cocaine users are known to sniff quite often, in a similar way one would sniff if they had a runny nose or a cold, despite lacking any other symptoms of an illness. They also touch or rub their noses frequently in response to the harsh substance they are inhaling through their nose. Heavy cocaine users may experience more severe signs of nose issues, such as nosebleeds, runny noses or any type of nose damage.
Track marks :
Cocaine users who inject the drug may have noticeable needle marks on their hands, feet, legs, arms or neck. They may also leave discarded syringes in the area where they consume cocaine. ‘Track marks’ can also indicate a sign of drug use other than cocaine.
Cocaine users who smoke the drug may also have chapped or dry lips and bad breath as a result.
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Once Cocaine Wears Off
Unless the cocaine user is always using the drug to stay ‘up’, there is likely to be a comedown or ‘crash’ period. The first signs of the drug wearing off include agitation, irritability and mood fluctuations.
The day after cocaine abuse is when evidence of a comedown becomes apparent. The user may experience depression and lethargy. They may refuse to leave the bed or be extremely grumpy. It is common for cocaine users to hide out while they are coming down off the drug. They may isolate themselves in their room or apartment and refuse to leave until they feel like it.
In Their Home
If you are visiting the home of someone who you suspect might be using cocaine, try to look for traces of the drug on flat surfaces. Though traces could be due to cooking or other household activities, it is unlikely that traces of white substances would be found on magazines, mirrors, glass, CDs or other unlikely flat surfaces.
Paraphernalia such as cut straws, rolled-up bills, cards and small spoons are also indications since they are common methods of preparing cocaine prior to snorting. Cocaine is often distributed in small zip lock bags, so keep an eye out for empty or ripped bags as well.
Though many people snort cocaine, which is what leaves the white powdery traces, others might dissolve and inject it. Some may even ingest it, which can cause severe damage to the intestines. Those who are using crack cocaine may have small glass, metal or plastic straws lying around, along with razor blades, mirrors and small containers with powdery residue.
Long-term Indications of Cocaine Use
Long-term cocaine users often become dependent on cocaine. They tend to start chasing the drug and prioritising it instead of other obligations. The following signs may indicate that someone has been abusing cocaine for a long period of time.