Cocaine is one of the most commonly abused substances in the US and around the world. It’s a highly addictive drug that produces an intense and short-lived high. Users report feeling energetic, alert, and euphoric, which keeps them coming back for more. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug in America, which means that, while it does have limited medical uses, it’s an addictive and dangerous substance that has a high potential to be abused. With more than a million people reporting cocaine usage annually, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse.
Cocaine is relatively cheap and easy to obtain on the street, which makes it even more attractive to people looking for a quick high. If you suspect someone you know or love is using cocaine, there are a few things you can look out for to help confirm your suspicions, including the appearance of a user’s eyes and nose, and their behavior.
One of the most recognizable signs of cocaine use is dilated pupils. This means that a user’s pupils are larger than usual. Though nearly all drugs affect the eyes, cocaine use stimulates the brain to release endorphins, which results in dilated pupils. When a user has dilated pupils, they are usually more sensitive to light, which is why cocaine users sometimes wear sunglasses, even indoors.
Cocaine eyes, also known as coke eyes, can also be bloodshot red. This is because cocaine use expands blood vessels, throughout the body, making the whites of a user’s eyes look red. If you notice someone has bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils, this can be a sign that they’re using cocaine. Though it won’t cause damage to your eyes in the long-term, frequent cocaine use can cause a host of other issues.
The main way cocaine is ingested is usually through snorting. When someone snorts cocaine, even if they only do it one time, it can lead to trouble with the nose, including:
- Sinus problems
- Constant runny nose
- Loss of sense of smell
- Nasal pain
- Decaying skin around the bottom of the nose
- Disfiguration or damage to the nose
- Collapsed nasal bridge
Long-term or frequent use of cocaine can worsen all the issues surrounding cocaine nose. In addition, users can start to experience breathing problems and pain that may last for years even after they stop using the drug. The user’s septum, which is the wall separating the two nostrils, may become deviated (i.e. displaced to one side) This is referred to as cocaine nose or coke nose. Usually, a deviated septum or other nasal damage can only be fixed through surgery.
How Long Does Cocaine Last?
A high from cocaine typically lasts from 15 to 30 minutes, which, when compared to the effects of other drugs, isn’t that long. The effects of cocaine come on very quickly after ingesting a dose, and the short-lived experience often makes users want to take the drug again and again in a short period. This is referred to as doing “bumps” of cocaine.
When you snort cocaine or rub it into your gums, the effects come on within a minute or two, and when you smoke it or inject it, it comes on even quicker, but the duration of the high is shorter. How long the effects last can also depend on how much of the drug you ingested during a period of time. Cocaine usually stays in your system for up to four days after using it. Over time and with frequent use, the high associated with cocaine may become less euphoric and pleasant, and can produce paranoia and anxiety.
Cocaine is such a powerful, addictive stimulant that users may find themselves using a lot of cocaine in a very short period, which can lead to overdose. When someone uses cocaine, they may appear talkative, active, energetic, nervous, or agitated. They may skip meals and need to sleep less, resulting in weight loss and other issues. When cocaine is taken in high doses, the user may appear agitated or angry, or act out bizarre or violent behaviors. Cocaine use can cause elevated heart rate, putting a strain on your heart and eventually causing damage. Some people may experience tremors or even seizures when overdosing on cocaine.
Cocaine is also a popular drug to use in conjunction with other drugs, in particular heroin. This combination is often referred to as a speedball. When combined with other drugs, cocaine becomes even more dangerous. Cocaine, which acts as a stimulant, and heroin (or another opiate), which acts as a depressant can cancel out some of the negative effects of each other, making the users believe that they are less intoxicated than they actually are. This may result in them using more of the drugs than their body can take. This can result in the users central nervous system slowing down to the point where they are no longer breathing, resulting in death by opioid overdose. This mixture of cocaine and heroin has killed countless people, including many celebrities.
Though cocaine users are drawn to the drug due to its euphoric effects, after the effects of the drug wear off, there is a pronounced crash immediately afterward. Users will have a strong craving for more of the drug, and often experience fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and depression that can last for days. Though cocaine withdrawal doesn’t have any physical effects like vomiting or nausea, the psychological effects can be just as uncomfortable.
Cravings for the drug can last for months or longer, and cocaine withdrawal may even cause some people to become suicidal. Even if a user experienced a high riddled with paranoia or anxiety, they will still want more of the drug. Even when users try to quit, they often relapse within the coming days, weeks, or months.
If you’ve tried to stop using cocaine, but are unable to stay sober, understand that quitting drugs by yourself is difficult, and you aren’t alone. There are plenty of treatment options that can help cocaine users get clean, manage cravings, and stay in recovery.