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Cocaine Use Disorder

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 27, 2022.

What is cocaine use disorder?

Cocaine use disorder is a medical condition that develops from long-term use of cocaine. You are not able to stop even though it causes physical or social problems. Cocaine use disorder is also called cocaine abuse.

What are the signs and symptoms of cocaine use disorder?

Signs and symptoms include at least 2 of the following in a 12-month period:

  • You have a strong urge or craving for cocaine. This is also called addiction. You are not able to control when you use it or how much you use. You spend large amounts of time trying to get, use, or recover from cocaine. In between uses, you think about when you will get to use it again.
  • You are not able to stop, or to use less. You start again when you try to quit. You try to use lower amounts or to use it less often, but you are not able.
  • You become tolerant to cocaine. This means your usual amount no longer has the effects you want. You need higher amounts to feel the effects.
  • You become dependent on cocaine. Dependence means your body becomes used to cocaine. You have withdrawal symptoms when you do not use cocaine for a short amount of time. You have to use it to stop or prevent withdrawal symptoms, such as shaky hands.
  • You use cocaine even though it causes problems or is dangerous. For example, you try to make the effect stronger by mixing alcohol, medicines, or other drugs with it. You have problems at school, work, or home. You spend less time doing important or enjoyable activities.

How is cocaine use disorder diagnosed and treated?

Blood or urine tests may be used to check the level of cocaine in your system. The tests can also check for physical problems cocaine can cause. Healthcare providers can help you make decisions about treatment programs. Treatment may be offered in a hospital, outpatient facility, or drug rehabilitation center. The goal is to help you decrease or stop using cocaine.

  • Medicines may be given to lower your blood pressure or help you stay calm.
  • A detox program includes medicine and treatment to reduce withdrawal symptoms and anxiety when you stop using cocaine. You will be in the hospital with close monitoring and care.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you manage depression and anxiety caused by cocaine use disorder. CBT can be done with you and a talk therapist or in a group with others.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy can help you set and reach healthy, positive goals.
  • Twelve-step facilitation (TSF) is a short, structured approach to reach early recovery. It is done one-to-one with a therapist in 12 to 15 sessions.

What can I do to lower the risk for certain problems cocaine use can cause?

  • Do not mix cocaine with medicines, other drugs, or alcohol. The combination can be life-threatening.
  • Learn about the signs of an overdose so you know how to respond. Tell others about these signs so they will know what to do if needed. Signs include a fast heartbeat, chest pain, a severed headache, hallucinations, heavy sweating, and agitation. Get immediate help or call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for signs of a cocaine overdose.
  • Work with healthcare providers if you are pregnant or want to breastfeed. 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. Do not breastfeed or give your baby breast milk when you use cocaine. The cocaine will go to your baby through the breast milk.

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

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You have a seizure.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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 or agitated.
  • You have weakness on one side of your body.
  • You have chest pain, sweating, or shortness of breath.

When should I call my doctor?

  • 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.