How to Spot a Coke AddictAnna Ciulla
Cocaine has historically been a drug glamorized and romanticized by all things in Hollywood. It’s the rich kid’s vice, the party favor and the narcotic that doesn’t carry with it the stigma of harder, more ‘junky’ types of substances like heroin or meth. You’ve seen it popularized in films like Scarface or Blow, heard of its widespread use on college campuses, and if you’re an adult living in America there’s a strong chance you’ve been offered the drug yourself. At the very least, we can assume you know someone that’s done it.
The fact is: it’s one of the most popular drugs in America. Using cocaine is not as looked down upon as injecting heroin or snorting opiates. Thus, while still being an extremely dangerous narcotic—more so now than ever thanks to fentanyl—it’s accurate to say that it’s also a bit more accepted. Today, it’s estimated that there are some 2~ million current cocaine users (those that have used in the last month) living the United States.
Yet, the risks cocaine poses to our communities, youth, and loved ones are many. For some, it’s nothing more than recreation. For others, the wrath of addiction swallows them whole, drowning them in the clutches of cocaine abuse. If you think a loved one or someone you care for is abusing cocaine, below we’re going to teach you how to spot a coke addict and what kind of rehab treatment is available. This particular addiction is merciless, so the quicker you act, the better.
Where Does It Begin?
In the wake of today’s opioid crisis, the usual trend goes as follows: someone starts using painkillers, either in a health care setting or recreationally, and eventually becomes addicted. Over time, this addiction becomes too expensive or the doctor’s catch wind, in which case they switch to heroin or other opiate-based substances.
Cocaine doesn’t necessarily follow this trend. Cocaine use typically begins in a party setting, used as a supplement to enhance the night, lower levels of intoxication, or simply energize the partygoers. This is why it’s favorable in colleges because, by nature, the drug is a stimulant. It provides energy and releases dopamine, allowing partiers to last for longer durations of time, drink more, and fight the urge to sleep.
Of course, cocaine use can begin in any setting for any reason. But by design it’s not necessarily the type of drug that keeps users planted on a couch. This is paramount to note, as if you notice that your loved one—who is already demonstrating other signs of cocaine abuse—is constantly going out, this could be the source and evidence of the problem.
- Cocaine usually begins in social, party environments
- By design it’s a stimulant, meaning it provides the user with energy
- Cocaine use typically doesn’t follow the same trends as what we’re facing with the opioid epidemic; people rarely turn to cocaine to satisfy an opiate high
In which case, how do you spot a coke addict? What are the signs that they exhibit—those which are ubiquitous—that you can identify when looking? What certain tendencies do they have?
It should be no surprise to you that one of the first places to look for cocaine abuse is the nose. Why? Because most commonly, cocaine is snorted. If it’s used in other ways, this is typically indicative of heavier and more serious drug use.
Your nose is separated into two different chambers by what we call a septum. This wall of flesh is what you can pinch between your fingers, an act that’s also a staple of being stressed. Why is that? Because the mucous membrane, a layer within the septum, works like a filter to protect you from anything bad that you might inhale. This can be dust, bacteria, pollen, etc.
It’s this very mucous membrane that cocaine uses to enter the bloodstream. What occurs is an inflammation and swelling of the lining which will worsen over time. In the immediate, the symptoms are typically nothing more than a runny nose, sneezing, or congestion. But the morning following cocaine use, when the user blows their nose, typically blood will accompany the mucous. Thus:
If your loved one—or whomever you suspect of abusing cocaine—is constantly getting nosebleeds, this can be indicative of a coke addiction. Over time, the septum lining will start to form sores which will crack at the slightest sneeze or exhale, resulting in consistent bleeding. Again, this is another trope we’ve seen countless times in film. Yet, it’s extremely accurate.
Another sign is a runny nose. This can be indicative of recent cocaine use, being that it’s a symptom that often occurs immediately, or of a cocaine addiction, being that the nose is damaged and now continuously runs. If someone you suspect of coke addiction continuously dabs or wipes their nose, this can be a major red flag.
Swelling & Redness
Another sign is swelling and redness around the nose. If they want to keep their addiction concealed, then often they’ll be blowing or wiping their nose, which will inflame the already tender area. Additionally, the additives in cocaine can irritate the nostrils and septum, which can form sores, swell dramatically, or remain in a perpetual state of ‘redness.’
There’s a reason why Hollywood likes to glamorize cocaine and why it’s often a staple of Los Angeles culture—that’s because to do it consistently, you have to have deep pockets. It’s infamously one of the most expensive drugs in America and supporting a full-blown addiction can cost upwards of $400 per day. Cocaine has a relatively short lived high, which means that users typically need a plethora of the substance to remain in their desired state.
Thus, one of the main things to be on the lookout for is financial struggles. If your loved one that you suspect is dealing with a coke addiction is constantly asking for money, seems incapable of keeping a balance in their bank account, or is stealing, then this could be another red flag that they’re addicted to cocaine.
Being that cocaine is a stimulant, usually, addicts won’t turn to cheaper substances like heroin to obtain their fix. This means they have to consistently shell out money and the addiction, although tragic, will drive them to cover the cost by any means necessary (we’re generalizing here).
Another warning sign of coke addiction is isolationism. Obviously, the addict is going to want to hide their addiction, meaning they will want to spend as much ‘alone’ time as possible. This could be as glaring as frequent trips to the bathroom or consistently ‘disappearing,’ to lying about their whereabouts, spending countless hours away from their usual environments, or locking themselves in their room and yet staying awake throughout the night.
Isolation is one of the warning signs that transcends across the plain of all drug addictions. It’s only commonsensical for someone to want to separate from their loved ones to hide their drug addiction. Unfortunately, isolation when it comes to coke addiction can be a bit more difficult to spot, which brings us to our next point in these signs of addiction:
There’s an age-old adage that goes like this: tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are. In many drug addiction situations, this couldn’t be more accurate. Those using drugs will forfeit their old friend groups to be around like-minded individuals. In other words, addicts seek solace in other addicts, as they don’t feel shame when in ‘comfortable’ environments. Misery loves company.
Yet, cocaine doesn’t make it so easy to spot. In today’s day and age, it’s popular to the point that many non-drug users tend not to bat an eye when someone is using. Meaning someone with a coke addiction can blend in with the normal social crowd and yet still use their vice every night.
With that being said, if the drug addiction worsens and people take note, then they may divert to a different crowd. If you begin to notice similar signs with the people they are constantly with, this can be a warning sign that they’re seeking solace in others with the same addiction as them.
Being that cocaine is taxing on the brain, behavioral changes can occur. These include but are not limited to:
- Extreme agitation
- Mood swings
- Paranoid tendencies
- Difficulty sleeping
These will become particularly apparent if the person is not using, or without access to cocaine. Once cocaine withdrawal sets in, the behavior that follows can be neurotic, aggressive, and abrasive. Being that cocaine stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine—which is linked to our reward center and is responsible for our ‘happiness’—over time the brain can mistakenly regard cocaine as the chemical itself. This means it will halt the production of a chemical that we rely on for natural balance. When this occurs, often the user can become depressed, anxious, and extremely fatigued.
If someone you suspect of cocaine addiction is constantly alert and awake, then goes through bouts of lethargy and sleepiness, this can be indicative of the ups and downs of the disorder. This is when they should seek cocaine detox in order to get rid of their addiction.
What Are the Risks?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that cocaine use poses a serious risk to the coke addict’s health. While the risks are many, below we are going to outline the potential complications that are most prevalent with longstanding use. These points need to be addressed in so that the addict—or yourself—knows that time is of the essence. Every day that passes in which a coke addict continues to use, these threats become more serious.
Being the cocaine is a stimulant, the most common form of overdose is cardiac arrest. This is closely trailed by respiratory failure although this usually occurs when coupled with other drugs. When the CNS it too overstimulated, the heart can beat itself down and the body can seize.
Furthermore, in today’s drug climate, fentanyl—a horribly powerful opioid—is being cut into cocaine to enhance its effects. Time and time again, users are overdosing because they were unaware that the drug was cut with such a powerful substance, one that pays few similarities to the molecular structure of cocaine.
We are not trying to fear monger when we say that there has never been a more dangerous time to use cocaine. We mean only to state the facts, as overdoses from fentanyl-cut cocaine continue to soar.
The further a coke addict uses, the further they create an imbalance in their brain chemistry. With extended use, it is not uncommon for the user to experience severe paranoia. This can include but is not limited to:
- Psychosis: a complete disconnection with reality, in which the user hears and sees things that are not real, or begins to believe paranoid ideas
- Auditory Hallucinations: a state in which the user is hearing things that aren’t there, often voices that speak nonsensically
- Schizophrenia: cocaine is commonly thought to be a trigger for those predisposed to schizophrenia and can ‘activate’ the gene mutation, rendering the user to become schizophrenic
- Paranoia: the user will begin to become paranoid about certain things that are untrue, outlandish, and sometimes even threatening. This risk is typically saved for those who have abused the drug for prolonged periods of time but, unfortunately, can occur to a cocaine addict at any given stage of their addiction.
A Final Thought
Depending on your upbringing, social circle, or even your own worldviews, you can regard cocaine as a serious narcotic clumped together with the rest of the deadly substances reaping lives across America, or it can be no more than a bad party habit. Yet, no matter what anyone says, cocaine poses the threat of addiction like any other substance in its category. For those addicted, a full drug detox will be needed to be completed if the addict wants a fighting chance at beating their addiction. If your addiction is at this stage, an inpatient drug rehab facility will be your best bet.
If you’re reading this because you think a loved one or someone you care for is falling into the clutches of cocaine addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions. Cocaine addiction is merciless but with help, anyone can overcome it. It’ll burn a hole in the nose, pocket, and psyche. That’s why knowing the warning signs is paramount, as catching the addiction early can be the difference between a lifestyle change and an overdose.
For more information on our long term residential treatment program, please call Beach House Recovery today.