Rehab 4 Addiction

Research from the UK government has found that, in the past decade, cocaine use amongst individuals in the UK above the age of 15 has increased from 2% to 4.2%.

For many, this is a serious cause for concern. How do you know if a loved one is using cocaine?

Whether a loved one has had a previous history with substance dependency or is simply beginning to explore the local drug scene, the thought that they might be using cocaine can be a troubling one.

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that carries life-altering long-term consequences, both mental and physical.

Fortunately, there are many evident signs that a loved one might be experimenting with cocaine.

This can range from changes in behaviour and physical appearance to erratic mood changes.

This article will discuss the signs that a loved one might be using cocaine.

What is cocaine and is it addictive?

What is cocaine

Cocaine is extracted from the South American coca plant. This extract comes in a liquid form which is then baked and turned into powder.

Cocaine is considered to be one of the most addictive substances in the world, with only alcohol and heroin being more addictive.

The reason for this is that when an individual consumes cocaine, it quickly enters the bloodstream and unleashes a burst of dopamine in the brain.

However, this initial euphoria lasts only up to thirty minutes. More of the substance is then required to maintain the high.

Individuals also build a tolerance to the drug very quickly.

The need for continued use and the quick developing level of tolerance means that both the body and the brain can become dependent upon the drug to function properly.

This leads to substance dependency and intense cravings.

Physical changes

Physical changes

Perhaps one of the most evident signs that a loved one is using cocaine is physical changes.

Because cocaine increases heart rate and energy levels, many that use the substance will not sleep for long periods.

In addition, cocaine is an appetite suppressant. Those using cocaine will regularly skip meals.

As a result of both sleep deprivation and a decreased appetite, weight loss and physical signs of tiredness will be visible.

The latter might include pale skin or black marks under the eyes.

Cocaine also negatively impacts muscles and the lining of the nose. This can lead to muscle spasms and regular nose bleeds.

Other physical signs include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Perforated septum
  • Excessive sweating 

Those with a substance dependency have also been found to stop taking care of their hygiene and looks.

A possible sign that a loved one is using cocaine is a noticeable change in their cleanliness, sanitation, and appearance.

Behavioural and mood changes

Mood changes

Another common sign that a loved one is using cocaine is a change in behaviour and in their mood – this can be in both the short-term and in the long-term.

Short-term changes in behaviour and mood include:

  • Visibly noticeable excitement
  • Increased anxiety – the person being fidgety, hyper, or nervous
  • Increased energy – pacing or doing things at a faster rate 
  • Restlessness
  • More talkative

Although these signs can wear off, there a some more serious long-term signs that a loved one has been using cocaine.

This can include erratic and unusual behaviour, such as them becoming anti-social, spending hours closed away in their room, tremors, and even violent outbursts.

Some more long-term effects include:

  • Damage to motor functions
  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Breathing issues
  • Nausea and vomiting

Similarly, permanent mood changes and mental health issues can occur such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Personality disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis.

Financial changes

Financial changes

Cocaine is one of the most expensive drugs in the world. In the UK a single gram of cocaine can cost anywhere between £50-£100.

A single gram for any cocaine user will not be enough to maintain a high for a long time. Therefore, it is common for cocaine users to buy multiple grams.

For someone with cocaine dependency, this can amount to tens of grams per week.

It is understandable, then, that an evident sign that a loved one is using cocaine is a change in their financial situation.

This can lead to debt, unpaid bills, homelessness, unemployment, and the inability to pay for other necessities such as food.

Unfortunately, crime statistics show a correlation between cocaine users and crimes such as theft and burglary. This is often to help pay for the addiction.

Paraphernalia

Cocaine paraphernalia

Cocaine is mostly consumed by inhalation through the nasal passage.

As a result, it is not uncommon for there to be leftover residue on certain objects and for people to own paraphernalia used to consume cocaine.

Some things to look out for are:

  • Cut up straws
  • Metal or plastic tubes
  • Rolled banknotes
  • Small, easily pocketed mirrors
  • Flat surfaces with white powder residue
  • Small baggies, wraps, or containers

Although more uncommon, other consumption methods include smoking and injecting. Therefore, it is also worth looking for smoking devices such as pipes, or injecting devices such as syringes.

What can I do if a loved one is using cocaine?

Helping hand

The best initial option is to talk with your loved ones to express concern and to ask them directly if they are using cocaine.

Talking to a loved one about addiction can be awkward, hard to address, and a heavy subject.

However, studies have found that the pros of talking to a loved one significantly outweigh the cons – especially if approached calmly and with consideration.

One of the most significant benefits is that it allows for the opportunity to air feelings, concerns, and anxieties.

Being able to express how one feels can alleviate stress and worry.

It is important to recognise that confronting a loved one might not lead to the wanted reaction.

If a person is dealing with substance consumption or dependency, it might bring to the fore feelings of shame, guilt, or anxiety.

In addition, the loved one might not be ready to address the possibility that they have a problem.

It is recommended that loved ones are approached with patience and understanding.

It is best to express support and willingness to help.

Some recommended phrases to open a dialogue with a loved one, include:

  • ‘It seems like you have not been yourself lately, is everything okay?’
  • ‘I have noticed a change in your behaviour and mood recently, and wanted to make nothing was wrong.’
  • ‘How are you? Is there anything that you would like to talk to me about?’

Rehabilitation and treatment for cocaine dependency

Treatment

If a loved one is using cocaine – either recreationally or has a dependency – the best option is to encourage them to seek professional and medical help.

This can vary from local counselling and support groups to entering a rehabilitation facility.

It is recommended that the individual first speak with their General Practitioner. Their GP will be able to assess them and advise what options are best.

There is also the possibility of entering a private facility. However, these can be expensive, ranging from several hundred to several thousand pounds.

Cocaine Rehabilitation facilities and local organisations will offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment for cocaine.

The former will require the patient to stay overnight in the facility. The latter will allow the patient to go home after treatment sessions.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatments will help deal with withdrawal and offer counselling services, such as psychoanalysis, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Contingency Management (CM), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Treatment for cocaine dependency usually takes between 10 to 28 days – this can be longer depending upon the patient’s needs. Most facilities also offer an aftercare programme.

References

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/substance-misuse-treatment-for-adults-statistics-2020-to-2021/adult-substance-misuse-treatment-statistics-2020-to-2021-report

Calpe-López, Claudia, M. Pilar García-Pardo, and Maria A. Aguilar. “Cannabidiol treatment might promote resilience to cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders: a review of possible mechanisms.” Molecules 24, no. 14 (2019): 2583.

Richards, John R., and Jacqueline K. Le. “Cocaine Toxicity.” StatPearls [Internet] (2021).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181074/

https://castlecraig.co.uk/treatment/drug-addiction/stimulant-addiction/cocaine-addiction/cocaine-drug-facts

Siegel, Ronald K. “New patterns of cocaine use: changing doses and routes.” Cocaine Use in America: Epidemiologic and Clinical Perspectives. National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Monograph 61 (1985): 204-220.

Weiss, Roger D., Steven M. Mirin, and Roxanne L. Bartel. Cocaine. American Psychiatric Pub, 2002.

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cocaine-get-help/

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.