Developing a Cocaine Dependence

Developing a Dependence on Cocaine

Cocaine can create serious health problems which may lead to cardiac arrest, stroke, seizure or death. Addiction is different from cocaine dependence in that symptoms vary person to person but can be difficult to discern without recognizing the symptoms. Learn what the symptoms of dependence on cocaine are and how to recognize symptoms as they appear to best support a loved one in seeking treatment.

Cocaine Dependence vs. Addiction

The distinction between cocaine dependence and addiction is noticeable. Addiction is a compulsive need to use the drug combined with physical symptoms including:

  • Loss of control over use (frequency, amount)
  • Inability to stop using
  • Cravings
  • Continued use in spite of negative consequences
  • Obsessive or compulsive thinking about the drug

Physical dependence, on the other hand, is focused on the following symptoms:

  • Body adapts to presence of the drug
  • Drug-specific physical or mental symptoms are noticeable if drug is no longer used
  • Dependence often accompanies addiction

Building Dependence

People who use cocaine often use in a binge pattern, defined as taking the drug repeatedly within a relatively short period of time. The practice can lead to drug dependence within a period of days. Once a person recovers from withdrawal symptoms, psychological symptoms of cravings specific to addiction compel continued use. Tolerance builds over time where a larger dose is needed to achieve the same effect. The user becomes more responsive to cocaine without increasing the dose.


Following repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain adapts to the presence of the drug and the dopamine-based reward pathway which registers pleasure in the system. Tolerance may develop during this time requiring higher doses and more frequent use to achieve pleasurable feelings. Symptoms of dependence include the following:

  • Agitated or restless behavior
  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue
  • Generalized malaise
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Slowing down of activity

Intense cravings can start for cocaine along with depression which may last for several months following cessation of long-term heavy use (daily especially).

Physical Dependence

Cocaine produces euphoric feelings of extreme joy as the brain releases biochemicals. Significant physical risks associated with use of cocaine have been noted. First time users can experience severe side effects of using cocaine. Some additional signs of dependence may include:

  • Brain seizures
  • Heart attacks, strokes, respiratory failure
  • Hepatitis or AIDS through sharing of needles
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, body temp
  • Reduced ability to fight infection

Psychological Dependence

Psychological risks of dependence on cocaine include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Losing touch with reality
  • Loss of interest in food or sexual activity
  • Violent, erratic or paranoid behavior
  • Loss of interest in friends, family, hobbies or other activities

Dependence on cocaine is very serious and can lead to addiction with health consequences and other serious complications including broken relationships, financial distress and loss of unemployment, to name a few. Treatment and therapeutic services are available to support a person who wants to quit cocaine and get on the road to recovery.

If you or a loved one want to quit cocaine, help is available. Detox and treatment centers can help you experience withdrawal safely in a supportive environment surrounded by professionals in the addictions field. Call us to find out how we can get your journey to recovery started.