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Cocaine Abuse


What is cocaine abuse?

Cocaine is a type of illegal drug. Cocaine stimulates your central nervous system and helps you feel happy and excited. These feelings may last for a few minutes to hours. Cocaine abuse is a pattern of use that causes health or other problems. Abuse can include using large amounts of cocaine at one time or using it several times each day or week. You may start needing more cocaine to get the same feelings of happiness you got from lower amounts.

What are the signs and symptoms 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:

  • Use of more cocaine than you first wanted to use
  • No ability to decrease or control your use of cocaine
  • Spending much of your time using cocaine, or dealing with a hangover after you use cocaine
  • Less time spent around others, at work, or doing activities that you enjoy
  • Continued cocaine use, even when it causes physical or mental problems

What are the signs and symptoms of cocaine withdrawal?

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: Healthcare providers 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. Healthcare providers 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. Healthcare providers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help healthcare providers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, healthcare providers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Healthcare providers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.
  • Urine tests may be used to check for cocaine.

How is cocaine abuse treated?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help you change your thinking and behavior. It can help you manage depression and anxiety caused by cocaine abuse. CBT can help you learn good coping skills and ways to manage stress. CBT can be done with you and a talk therapist or in a group with others.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy may help you change your behavior and stop cocaine abuse. A therapist or counselor helps motivate you and set goals.
  • Twelve-step facilitation (TSF) is a short, structured approach to reach early recovery from drug abuse. It is done one-to-one in 12 to 15 sessions. Goals of the program include accepting that you have a problem that you need to overcome, and being willing to take certain steps to overcome it.

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:
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9561
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-1124
    Web Address:

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel you cannot cope with your problems.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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