Cocaine is a stimulant and like many other drugs can be highly addictive.  As a drug Cocaine affects the brain mostly by preventing the neurotransmitter dopamine from being recycled naturally. Dopamine is associated with the reward and pleasure systems of the brain and with repeated use of the drug these systems can change.  The change prevents the user from receiving pleasure while participating in simple activities that were once enjoyable.  Most individuals who have taken cocaine claim they are trying to get that initial high again. However, they cannot achieve this high because the body becomes adjusted to the drug over time and it will take increased amounts of cocaine to have a similar effect (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010).

There are three ways to use cocaine; snorting, injecting and smoking.  The method chosen will determine the effect of the high.  Snorting or injecting allows intoxication to be felt more quickly (15 to 20 minutes) as compared to smoking that has a shorter notification period (5-10 minutes).  Cocaine is usually re-used within a relatively short time of first use due to the brief nature of the intoxification. Users have to ingest the drug repeatedly to continue the effect.  

The use of cocaine can lead to many side effects connected to ones health and mental health.  It can mimic depression by individuals having a decreased appetite and regular users of the drug can suffer from malnutrition.  Habitual use can lead to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety and even death through heart attack or stroke.  When some individuals take cocaine, they experience extreme paranoia and hallucinations of the auditory, olfactory, and visual systems of the body (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010), which can look like psychotic symptoms. Some individuals if full background information is unavailable, or they offer misleading information, to their mental health clinician it can be diagnosed incorrectly due to some of the side effects just mentioned.  Other side effects of cocaine include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased blood pressure along with body temperature and heart rate, headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea. 

Tips for Dealing with Cocaine Addiction:

  • Seek the help of a medical provider. Due to side effects cocaine has on the body it might be best to get a physical and seek medical assistance while discontinuing use. Especially if they suffer from years of addiction they may have medical issues that need treatment while becoming sober.
  • Identify mental health support. A trained professional that has experience with addiction would likely be beneficial. In addition, they will likely be familiar with doing an assessment to assist with identifying any depressive or mental health related issues.
  • Attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings would likely be beneficial to provide support.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (2010).  Retrieved September 26, 2010 from