How to Spot Signs of Cocaine Use

How to Spot Signs of Cocaine Use


How to Spot Signs of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug with widespread use around the world. Some experts estimate that in the United States
alone, almost 25 million people will have tried cocaine at least once in their lifetime. Cocaine is typically snorted through the nose
but can be injected or smoked, and each method of administration carries its own risks of
adverse effects. Learning the signs and symptoms of cocaine
use can help you determine whether a friend or loved one is using cocaine, and help you
determine how to intervene. Part 1 Recognizing Physical Indications of Cocaine
Use 1
Check for dilated pupils. Cocaine use causes the pupils in the eyes
to dilate because of the drug’s stimulant effects. Look for widened pupils (the dark inner circle
of the eye), even in well-lit rooms. Dilated pupils may or may not be accompanied
by red, bloodshot eyes. 2
Look for signs of nasal stress. Because many users administer cocaine by snorting
it through the nose, one of the telltale signs of cocaine use is nasal stress. Look for signs of:
runny noses nosebleeds
damage to the inside of nostrils difficulty swallowing
a decreased sense of smell traces of white powder around the nostrils 3
Check for rapid pulse. Because cocaine is a stimulant, one of the
common physical symptoms of cocaine use is a rapid heartbeat. In some cases, this may lead to cardiac arrhythmias
(irregular heartbeat), hypertension, and cardiac death. A normal, healthy heart rate for most adults
is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Note that heart rate can be affected by other
factors not associated with drug use, including physical activity, air temperature, body position,
emotional states, and even certain legal medications. For this reason, heart rate alone should not
necessarily be considered a definitive sign of drug use. 4
Recognize the signs of crack cocaine use. Another common method of administering cocaine
is by smoking the drug, typically in the form of a solid “rock,” called crack cocaine. Crack is formed by mixing powdered cocaine
with water and baking soda. Signs of crack use include burned fingers
or lips from lighting and smoking through a specialized device commonly called a crack
pipe. 5
Identify the signs of intravenous drug use. Some users inject cocaine intravenously, using
a syringe. This is done to experience immediate effects
of the drug but comes with its own set of risks, including endocarditis (heart inflammation),
cardiovascular disease, abscesses/infections, and an increased risk of overdose. Intravenous drug use also greatly increases
the chances of transmitting a blood-borne disease like hepatitis and HIV. Signs of intravenous drug use include puncture
marks (called “track marks”), most commonly seen in the arm, and possible skin infections
or allergic reactions caused by additives mixed with cocaine. 6
Be aware of oral ingestion. One method of administering cocaine is by
orally swallowing the drug. This produces fewer external signs of drug
use than smoking, snorting, or injecting the drug, but it has been known to cause severe
gangrene in the bowels and gastrointestinal tract due to reduced blood flow and GI sensitivity
to the drug. In cases of oral ingestion, the most visible
signs will probably be the symptoms typical of stimulant use, including:
agitation unusual excitement
hyperactivity suppressed appetite
paranoia delusions Part 2 Looking for Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine
Use 1
Spot conversational clues. Cocaine and other stimulants often cause overly-energetic
behavior. Common conversational clues of cocaine use
include: excessive talkativeness
rapid speech conversations that jump around from one topic
to another 2
Look for risk-taking behavior. Cocaine use frequently gives users a sense
of invincibility. This can lead to high-risk behavior, including
risky sexual activities, and violent tendencies, such as fighting, domestic violence, homicide,
and suicide. Risky sexual activities may lead to pregnancy,
illness, and/or sexually transmitted infections. High-risk behavior may lead to legal problems,
serious injury, or death. 3
Notice other behavioral changes. Someone who consistently uses cocaine may
end up spending large amounts of time and energy acquiring cocaine. Users of cocaine may also engage in:
shirking responsibilities or obligations frequently disappearing, going to the bathroom,
or leaving the room, and returning in a different mood 4
Look for dramatic mood swings. Because cocaine is a stimulant, it can cause
sudden changes in mood. This may mean irritability, but it could also
cause sudden bursts of euphoria or a sense of carelessness, or a shift from one extreme
to the other. 5
Notice social withdrawal. A common behavioral characteristic of people
who use drugs is withdrawing from social relationships, either to be alone or to be with others who
use drugs. Though socially withdrawing from a group of
friends may be caused by other factors, such as anxiety or depression, it may also be a
sign of drug use. 6
Note a loss of pleasure. Many users of all kinds of drugs experience
a loss of pleasure in activities or interests that had previously been enjoyable, but this
is particularly problematic with cocaine use. That’s because cocaine use harms the circuits
in the human brain that are responsible for a sense of pleasure. Look for signs of depression and a seeming
lack of pleasure in day-to-day activities as a symptom of long-term cocaine use. Part 3 Spotting Evidence of Drug Use 1
Look for straws and tubes. Depending on the method of administration,
there may be a wide range of cocaine-related paraphernalia. Because snorting cocaine is the most common
method of ingestion, common paraphernalia items include:
hollowed-out pens straws
rolled up money or money that appears to have been rolled up
razor blades, credit cards, or ID cards, often with powdery residue on the edges 2
Identify crack cocaine paraphernalia. Smoking cocaine typically requires a pipe,
which may be made from glass or constructed out of aluminum foil. Look for:
small glass pipes aluminum foil[
lighters empty plastic bags, including very small crack
bags 3
Recognize evidence of intravenous drug use. Though less frequent than snorting or smoking
the drug, intravenous injection of cocaine is still a common method of administration. Look for:
syringes tourniquets, including belts and shoelaces
spoons, which may have burn marks on the bottom lighters

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