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How Do I Talk to My Loved One About Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that shatters relationships, health and finances. When people mix cocaine with other drugs, the results are often fatal. For people who know someone who struggles with cocaine, it’s painful to watch and not know how to intervene. 

So how do you talk to a loved one about cocaine addiction? Understand the effects of cocaine and inform your loved one about what could happen if they don’t get help.

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Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine can set off all kinds of negative effects on the mind and body. People first take it to experience energy and euphoria. However, the drug has unpleasant after-effects that get worse as the user grows addicted and consumes cocaine in larger doses. The effects of cocaine, from mild to severe, include:

  • Extreme sensitivity – During a cocaine high, the user feels heightened senses. Sounds feel louder and deeper; visions seem more vivid and abstract; touch feels stronger and more intense. This can make clubs and parties seem more animated. Depending on the person’s emotional state, he/she might be welcoming or irritated by these changes.
  • Intense happiness – Newer users typically feel extreme elation while high on cocaine. As an energy drug that triggers the brain’s pleasure centers, cocaine makes people feel overjoyed and manic, even in dire circumstances. This makes cocaine tempting to people with troubled lives, such as individuals with high debt and unhappy domestic lives.
  • Decreased appetite – Cocaine suppresses appetite by disrupting the brain’s dopamine system. Activities that a person would normally find pleasurable (hobbies, eating, the outdoors) become disinteresting because the user is more fixated on the high. Consequently, cocaine causes people to lose weight that they often regain during recovery.
  • Headaches – People often suffer headaches after coming off a cocaine high. This could be due to impairment of the dopaminergic system. As with alcohol, where people wake up with hangovers after a night of heavy drinking, the post-cocaine state can be unpleasant. People often rush for their next hit to regain the high and avoid the comedown.
  • Convulsions and seizures – Cocaine abuse can cause people to have convulsions: involuntary muscle spasms and uncontrolled jerky motions in the upper and lower extremities. Users might also have seizures: momentary interruptions in the brain that cause blackouts. This is more common when the user mixes cocaine with alcohol and other drugs.
  • Heart disease – As a stimulant drug, cocaine makes the heart beat faster. When people abuse the drug, it can raise the heart to dangerous levels, especially when they mix cocaine with other stimulants (crack, meth). The most toxic combination is a speedball (cocaine and heroin), which has a contradictory effect that causes arrhythmia. 
  • Sexual trouble – Cocaine abuse can cause decreased blood flow to the penis and render men impotent. Oftentimes, people abuse cocaine and alcohol simultaneously. Alcohol is a depressant that impedes blood flow and makes it difficult for men to perform sexually. People often have reduced libido while under the influence.
  • Lung damage – Powder drugs like cocaine are typically inhaled. This causes pulmonary problems. Cocaine’s toxicity can have a damaging effect on the lungs and make it difficult for users to breathe. As the problem intensifies during hardcore use, the body is robbed of its needed oxygen supply. This can lead to brain damage.
  • HIV or hepatitis – The riskiest way to take cocaine is through intravenous means with shared needles. During the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s, this was one of the major spreaders of the virus among heterosexuals in urban communities. To this day, AIDS has no cure. People who test positive for HIV must take multiple medications to ward off AIDS. 
  • Bowel decay – Users who swallow cocaine sometimes suffer perforated bowels. This can make it difficult to digest food and eliminate it properly. Perforations may be large or small.
  • Loss of smell – People who snuff cocaine often get nosebleeds, which are often the telltale sign that someone has snorted at a party. Users often get runny noses at random. This is sometimes apparent at clubs or in line at grocery stores where an individual is wiping his/her nose and showing other signs (clammy skin). This can impact a person’s sense of smell.

Some people start with a small dose of cocaine and enjoy the experience, so they take it again at the next party. Gradually, the body grows tolerant of cocaine and the user must take higher doses to get the same effect as before. Before long, the user takes it constantly and suffers undesired side effects. 

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

When people fall into cocaine addiction, they usually keep the habit hidden from friends and loved ones. It’s often hard to tell until the problem gets serious. When confronted, the user will typically withdraw or go into denial. The tell-tale signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • Anger/irritability – People who struggle with cocaine addiction often get irritated by perceived slights that most people wouldn’t give a second thought. This is especially true of users who had volatile moods long before their first use of cocaine. As an energy drug, cocaine can push a user’s hard emotions to the extreme.
  • Paranoia – Cocaine addiction can make users paranoid. The drug causes spikes in mood, both positive and negative, that often push preexisting moods to extremes. If the individual is worrisome in general, cocaine could exacerbate that mood to paranoia. People who engage in recreational cocaine use also get paranoid about raids at parties.
  • Mood problems – Cocaine addiction can also cause wild, unpredictable mood swings. A user might go from zero to 100 (mellow to extreme) or hot to cold (overjoyed to enraged) without warning, all due to the effects of the drug at a given moment. People who take cocaine constantly are often moody because the moment the high ends, they crave more.
  • Dilated pupils – One tell-tale sign of drug abuse that people often miss is pupil dilation, where the blacks of the eyes get large and almost overtake the iris (the color ring). Normally, pupils enlarge in the dark to aid vision in hard-to-see places. In the light, healthy pupils are small because this protects the eyes from excess light. Cocaine addiction often causes constant dilation.
  • Erratic behavior – People who abuse cocaine and other hard drugs often behave in strange and often foolish ways. They might change plans constantly or quit some projects for no apparent reason. Erratic behavior is often a direct result of the mood swings that come with drug abuse.
  • Declining appearance – Drug addiction causes people to go slack on their appearance. People typically lose interest in their style, grooming and hygiene as addiction takes hold. A person who was once stylish and image conscious might become dowdy and disheveled due to cocaine addiction.

If you see these signs in a friend or loved one, it’s time to take action. Drug addiction is a touchy subject; most people who struggle with addiction only consider rehab if they think it’s their idea. 

Consequences of Cocaine Abuse

People with cocaine addiction risk severe loss on numerous fronts. Drug addiction often results in personal problems, social isolation and huge financial loss. Many people end up destitute once they hit the bottom of costly drug addiction. The biggest risks include:

  • Job loss – People with drug problems tend to slack off at work and neglect their responsibilities. Sooner or later, employers take notice and issue pink slips and disciplinary action. In some fields, drug addiction can lead to black-listing and condemnation.
  • Financial trouble – Cocaine addiction is costly on two fronts. People with cocaine addiction often lose their income. Cocaine itself costs vast sums of money. In 2021, a gram of cocaine cost $93 to $163. Ten grams could equal the average monthly rent on an apartment. 
  • Legal penalties – Illicit drug use can get people in trouble with the law. If busted during a street deal or party raid, a red-handed user could end up fined and/or imprisoned. This can stay on a person’s record for years and cause problems during background checks by prospective employers, landlords and credit agencies.
  • Isolation – Cocaine addiction isolates people from their friends and loved ones. For the addicted individual, drugs become the center of that person’s life. This alienates friends and family, who can’t relate to the person’s unhealthy habit. 
  • Heart problems – Cocaine, as noted, is a stimulant that causes irregular heart rates, especially when mixed with other stimulants (speed) or contradictory depressants (alcohol, heroin). This can cause heart disease and lead to fatal strokes or heart attacks.

If someone you know is spiraling deep into cocaine addiction, he/she should be warned of these consequences before it’s too late. It could be off-putting to mention these consequences in a scare framework, such as “this will happen to you.” Instead, these consequences should be emphasized anecdotally when discussing great cultural icons who lost everything due to cocaine addiction.

How to Reason with a Loved One about Cocaine

Before you confront a friend or loved one about his/her cocaine addiction, arm yourself with facts on the drug and its effect on people. Don’t approach the topic from a judgemental or disapproving standpoint. Drug addiction is not a moral problem; it’s a physical and mental illness.

  • Educate yourself – Learn what cocaine is and isn’t. Cocaine is an energy drug that people usually first take at parties. It’s addictive because it overtakes the brain’s reward center. Cocaine is different from downers (heroin, fentanyl) and hallucinogens (LSD). The psychological disposition of cocaine users is different from that of heroin users. 
  • Be patient – Getting the person to come around is usually a gradual process. Don’t expect the person to immediately agree to get help. He/she will need to understand why rehab and sobriety are the best and only routes to a happy, productive life.
  • Be persistent – It might take several discussions to get the person to agree to help. Don’t force things but don’t back down either. Give that person the benefit of the doubt that he/she understands your concerns and sees the dangers of cocaine abuse. Be more persistent if the soft approach makes no headway.
  • Contract treatment centers – Look up the nearby rehab centers that offer treatment for cocaine addiction. Ask about their therapeutic programs and financing options. Most of today’s rehab centers offer inpatient and outpatient programs and accept many different insurance plans.
  • Talk with mutual friends – Speak with other people (mutual friends, family, work colleagues) who know the individual. Ask about their observations and see if they have similar concerns. If you haven’t confirmed your suspicion of the person’s cocaine addiction, see what his/her friends say and whether it offers new insights. 
  • Stage an intervention – If the problem is serious and you haven’t managed to get through to the individual during one-on-one discussions, arrange an intervention with his/her closest friends and adult relatives. Gather everyone at a time and place where the subject will feel comfortable and have everyone prepare what they want to say.

For best results, contact an intervention specialist to assist in the intervention. Many rehab centers have counselors that will go out and partake in interventions and coordinate the dialogue between the subject and his/her friends and family.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Rehab centers operate across the US with generalized and specialized programs. Most offer programs to people who struggle with cocaine addiction because this is one of the most common drug problems. Treatment consists of the following:

  • Detox – The road to recovery begins with detox, where the patient first stops using cocaine and enters rehab. Detox usually lasts 2-3 days, during which cravings peak as cocaine clears the body. At rehab centers, doctors may administer anti-addiction medication to relieve the patient of withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Residential rehab – After detox, most patients enter residential rehab, which consists of 30-90 days at a rehab facility, where patients partake in therapy sessions, group meetings, wellness activities, experiential therapy (art therapy, equine therapy), meditation and exercise. 
  • Outpatient treatment – As an alternative to residential, most rehab centers also offer outpatient programs, which cover the same ground. The patient lives at home and comes to the center during the day for therapy, group meetings, experiential therapy and wellness activities.

The best treatment centers usually offer family therapy, where parents, children and partners of the patient partake in moderated group therapy sessions. This helps the family understand the situation and prepare for the patient’s return to normal life on the outside.

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

If someone you know struggles with cocaine addiction, get that person the help he/she needs. Don’t let the problem intensify. Contact the nearest treatment centers and choose one with the best program for the person in your life. Your call could make all the difference.

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