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Is Cocaine Really Addictive?

April 20, 2021
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod


Cocaine or Coke is a stimulant drug mostly found as a white powder. People consume it by snorting, smoking, injecting, or rubbing on the gums. Cocaine is highly addictive because it has a high potential of causing dependence. 

When used, cocaine changes brain chemistry and causes various physical, psychological, and behavioural changes, including some short term and long term problems. 

What is Cocaine? 

Cocaine was first derived from the South American Coca plants and is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Cocaine makes you feel a sense of pleasure and euphoria. 

But these feelings are short term, and typically dissipate within an hour leaving you to crave for more cocaine to get the same effect and these repeated uses of cocaine propel people into addiction. 

Cocaine is also associated with health problems like increased heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and mental health issues. Chronic use of cocaine can result in more severe problems such as agitation, panic attacks, hostility, suicidal or homicidal thoughts etc.

What is Crack Cocaine?

There is another form of cocaine available in the market called Crack. 

Crack Cocaine looks like rock or crystal and is usually consumed by smoking. It is derived from the excess substance produced when making pure cocaine. Crack is one of the most potent types of cocaine. A person can become addicted to crack cocaine after a single use.

Crack cocaine is gaining popularity because of high potency, affordability and availability.

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Addictivity is characterised as repeated, compulsive usage of certain drugs, alcohol or similar substances despite adverse effects in one’s life. 

Addiction generally comes with psychological and physical dependence on the substance and symptoms of withdrawal when trying to quit. By these criteria, we can determine if cocaine is addictive or not.

1.Tolerance: With repeated use of cocaine, your brain gets used to the doses, and you need more of it to get the same effect. In short, tolerance of cocaine develops.

2. Can’t stop despite the adverse effects: Cocaine users get an intense craving for cocaine. And they can’t stop themselves despite knowing it’s affecting their physical, emotional and social health. 

3.Withdrawal Symptoms: Cocaine doesn’t show many severe and highly visible withdrawal symptoms of addiction. But it doesn’t mean that cocaine doesn’t show any signs. 

4. Damage in Life: Cocaine use not only threatens physical, emotional or social well being, but it can also cause legal problems, job loss, relationship problems and even death.  

As we see, cocaine meets all the criteria to be called addictive. So if anyone claims that cocaine is not addictive, know that they are not telling the truth. 

How Addictive is Cocaine?

A study published in The Lancet assessed 20 drugs for harm, potential of addiction and misuse. They found out that cocaine is the second most addictive drug behind heroin. 

Another study published in the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry also researched different drugs and found out cocaine is the third most addictive drug, after alcohol and heroin. 

In addition to addiction and destructive behaviour, using cocaine can be lethal if consumed mindlessly. Cocaine overdose is one of the common outcomes of cocaine addiction, and most cocaine-related death happens when the overdose of cocaine makes your heart stop beating. 

If you want to learn more about cocaine addiction and overdose, head over to this link.

Is Cocaine Physically Addictive?

Physical addiction to cocaine doesn’t develop as quickly as other substances like alcohol or heroin. But, repeated use of cocaine can lead to severe physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Developing physical addiction depends on several factors, such as the method of consumption, the length of usage.  For example, if you snort cocaine, it takes longer to reach your brain compared to smoking or injecting. Therefore, injecting and smoking cocaine have a higher risk of physical dependence. 

Why Is Cocaine Addictive? 

When people consume cocaine, it releases dopamine in the brain and generates pleasure and euphoric feelings in the brain. 

This euphoria doesn’t last long, and people often take more cocaine to maintain the same euphoric feeling. 

Over time this repeated use of cocaine changes brain chemistry and builds a tolerance to cocaine. As tolerance develops over several doses you need to take more cocaine to achieve the same effect. 

Addiction to any substance is a disease that changes physical, psychological and social health. And people who are addicted to cocaine experience an intense craving for the drug. 

There are several symptoms of cocaine use.

  • Excitability and talkativeness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny or bloody nose
  • Weight loss
  • Moodiness
  • Social Isolation
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Changed sleeping and eating habits, etc.

People who are addicted to cocaine experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. These withdrawal symptoms include drowsiness, tiredness, depression, increased appetite and sleep problems. 

Treatment of Cocaine Addiction?

There is no definitive cure for cocaine addiction, but it can be treated by a comprehensive approach such as pharmacological approach, psychotherapy, rehabilitation and proper education. These treatments can be provided through inpatient or outpatient format.

Treatment of Cocaine addiction involves

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Therapeutic Communities
  • 12-Step Programs
  • Group Therapy

Several symptoms of cocaine addiction are physiological but its impact on mental health is also striking. To know more about the effect of cocaine on anxiety visit this link.


If you know someone who is suffering from cocaine addiction, consider reaching out to a health professional to get treatment and support. A physician can get you in touch with rehabilitation centres who can help you or your loved one recover from cocaine addiction.