Cocaine Abuse

What is cocaine abuse?

Cocaine is a type of illegal drug. It is a white powder that is snorted (sniffed) or mixed with water and injected. It may also be made into free base (crack) and smoked. It may also be put on areas such as the gums or vagina.

How does cocaine work?

Cocaine stimulates your central nervous system and helps you feel happy and excited. These feelings may last for a few minutes to hours. If you use cocaine more than once, these feelings may not be as strong or last as long. You may need more cocaine to get the same feelings.

What are the signs of cocaine abuse?

Cocaine abuse may lead to problems being around others, doing your job, or new medical problems. You may have the following problems:

  • You use more cocaine than you first wanted to.

  • You are unable to decrease or control your use of cocaine.

  • You spend much of your time using cocaine, or dealing with a hangover after you use cocaine.

  • You spend less time around others, at work, or doing activities that you enjoy.

  • You keep using cocaine, even when it causes physical or mental problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of cocaine withdrawal?

Cocaine withdrawal happens when you have used cocaine for a long period of time, and you suddenly take less or stop taking it. Symptoms may begin within a few hours after you decrease or stop taking cocaine and may include the following:

  • Severe sadness or fatigue

  • Restlessness, nervousness, or anxiety

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Trouble sleeping or difficulty waking up

  • Unpleasant dreams that seem real

  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there

  • Sweating, shaking, or a fast heartbeat

  • Seizure

How is cocaine abuse diagnosed?

  • Psychiatric assessment: Caregivers will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. They will ask if you were given the care that you needed. Caregivers will ask you if you have been a victim of a crime or natural disaster, or if you have a serious injury or disease. They will ask you if you have seen other people being harmed, such as in combat. You will be asked if you drink alcohol or use drugs at present or in the past. Caregivers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help caregivers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, caregivers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Caregivers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.

  • Urine tests: Caregivers may test your urine for cocaine.

What are the risks of cocaine abuse?

  • If you snort cocaine, it may damage the tissue inside of your nose and create a hole. Cocaine may damage other parts of your body, such as your lungs, stomach, or intestines. It may cause a headache or ringing in your ears. If you inject cocaine, you may have an increased risk of other medical conditions, such as an HIV or hepatitis. Cocaine may cause your body temperature to get very high, or cause a seizure or a stroke. It may also cause an irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, or a heart attack. These conditions may be life-threatening.

  • Cocaine abuse may change the way you think or behave. It may cause you to get angry easily and harm other people. You may see things that are not there, or think others are following you when they do not. Cocaine abuse may increase your risk for suicide.

How may cocaine affect my baby?

  • Cocaine may harm your unborn baby's brain, heart, stomach, and bowels. It also increases your risk of a miscarriage, early delivery, or stillbirth. Cocaine can cause long-term medical problems for your baby.

  • Your baby may go through withdrawal after he is born. He may have seizures, problems waking, or feeding. He may overreact to sounds or movement by violently jerking or jumping. He may vomit or have diarrhea. He may have learning difficulties or other behavior problems when he gets older.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Web Address: http://www.samhsa.gov
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9561
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-1124
    Web Address: www.nida.nih.gov

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your problems.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

  • You have a seizure.

  • You have a temperature over 101°F (38.3°C) after you use cocaine.

  • You cough or spit up blood.

  • You have severe abdominal pain.

  • You have a severe headache, confusion, or feel very nervous.

  • You have weakness on one side of your body.

  • You have chest pain, sweating, or shortness of breath.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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