February 13, 2023

How Addictive is Cocaine?

How addictive is cocaine? It's no secret that cocaine is an addictive drug. But how addictive? And who is at the most risk for developing a cocaine addiction?

how addictive is cocaine

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Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on June 5, 2023

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How Addictive is Cocaine?

Cocaine creates an intensely powerful high that can make it difficult for recreational users to abstain from continued use.

The consequences of cocaine use are very serious, as the drug is incredibly addictive, both physically and psychologically.

Cocaine addiction can leave individuals struggling with intense cravings, unable to function without the substance and likely facing physical and psychological side effects.

Sadly, undue stress on the body can lead to depression, paranoia, heart problems, hallucinations, and withdrawal symptoms if someone suddenly stops using.

Cocaine and the Brain

Cocaine is a stimulant that alters the way the brain processes dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. 

The accumulation of dopamine caused by this drug can lead to a range of harmful experiences, including paranoid thoughts, anxiety and decreased appetite. 

Additionally, cocaine can often be accompanied by an intense feeling of euphoria and increased energy – these factors can make its use so appealing but often very damaging in the long run. 

Is How Cocaine is Ingested Affect Addictiveness

Cocaine is a dangerous and highly addictive drug that can be ingested in numerous ways. When asking “how addictive is cocaine?”, we have to consider modes of ingestion. 

Its purest form can be injected directly into the bloodstream for an immediate rush of pleasure or euphoria. 

Researchers found1 that when cocaine is injected, it has a more addictive nature compared to other ways of ingestion.

Snorting also increases the risk of addiction as it significantly raises the drug’s potency – although not to the same degree as injecting it.

Furthermore, cocaine abusers may also rub it onto their gums or mix it with cigarettes or marijuana before smoking.

Whatever means of ingestion is chosen, users need to understand that cocaine is incredibly addictive and has strong, lasting effects on those who use it.

Who is most at risk for developing a cocaine addiction?

Unfortunately, addiction can affect anyone, but certain groups of people may be more vulnerable than others when it comes to cocaine addiction.

Teens & Young Adult

According to a study2 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens and young adults are particularly at risk because their physical, mental, and social development is still in flux.

People With a History of Abuse

Those who have suffered physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in their childhood are more likely to develop an addiction to cocaine.

Those With Mental Health Issues

People with mental illnesses may turn to drugs like cocaine as a way of self-medicating their symptoms and providing temporary relief from their struggles.

Those Who Live in Poverty

Lack of access to resources, such as education, job opportunities, and affordable health care, can increase the risk of cocaine addiction.

Those Who Struggle With Impulsivity

Difficulty controlling impulses is a major factor in drug use and abuse. Those who struggle to resist temptation may be more prone to abusing drugs like cocaine. 

People Who Use Alcohol or Other Drugs

Using alcohol or other drugs can increase the risk of developing an addiction to cocaine. Those who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to also engage in cocaine use, which can lead to a cycle of addiction. 

Those Who Experience Stressful Life Events

Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, can increase the risk of cocaine addiction. Those who are vulnerable to stress-induced substance abuse may be more likely to use cocaine as a way to cope with their emotions. 

Those who have a genetic predisposition toward addiction

Those with a family history of substance abuse or addiction may be at higher genetic predisposition of developing an addiction and should take precautions if they choose to use cocaine.

Cocaine and Arrested Development

Recent studies3 have uncovered a troubling relationship between cocaine use and brain development.

Scientists suggest that in individuals over the age of 25, cocaine dependence may interfere with the normal maturation of white matter in certain sections of the frontal and temporal lobes.

While it is already well established that substance abuse can cause serious harm to both physical and mental health, these new findings provide further evidence as to how long-term use could directly affect brain development and structure.

We must continue to raise awareness around the dangers of addiction and invest resources into prevention programs to reduce both short-term and long-term damage caused by substance misuse.

Does Stopping Cocaine Lead to Withdrawal Symptoms?

Stopping cocaine use can be difficult and come with a range of cocaine withdrawal symptoms.

Those quitting cocaine might experience persistent cravings for the drug, depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, and headaches.

More intense cocaine withdrawal symptoms include confusion and strong emotions such as anger or agitation.

It is important to note that cocaine withdrawal should not be taken lightly – even if you only used cocaine once before stopping its use.

Cocaine withdrawal is a complex process and can take a toll on both your physical and emotional well-being – in some cases, it may even require hospitalization or professional care. 

Therefore, if you are considering quitting cocaine use for good, it is highly recommended to seek professional advice to help guide the process.

Other Cocaine-Related Health Problems

Cocaine use is a highly damaging and dangerous drug, not only because of its various harmful effects on the body but because it can also increase risk of HIV/AIDS.

Sharing needles while using cocaine or engaging in sexual behavior while under its influence can put cocaine users at an increased risk of contracting HIV or AIDS.

Cocaine withdrawal can also lead to changes in desires, affecting decisions that may be made while users are trying all they can to get the drug out of their system.

It’s important always to remember the risks associated with cocaine use, including the danger of contracting HIV/AIDS due to unsafe drug-related practices and choices made during cocaine withdrawal.

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction

If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction and are looking for a safe, supportive place to go through your recovery process, Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, AZ, might be the right spot for you.

Cornerstone Healing Center’s team of compassionate professionals understand what it’s like to struggle with cocaine addiction and are dedicated to helping cocaine users start on the path towards sobriety.

They specialize in providing individualized treatment plans focusing on cocaine withdrawal and finding activities and therapies that fit each patient’s unique needs.

No matter how difficult it may feel now, there is hope waiting for you at Cornerstone Healing Center- take this first step towards your brighter future and get treatment for cocaine addiction today. 


[1] Rats Markedly Escalate Their Intake and Show a Persistent Susceptibility to Reinstatement Only When Cocaine Is Injected Rapidly

[2] Adolescent cocaine abuse. Addictive potential, behavioral and psychiatric effects

[3] Brain maturation may be arrested in chronic cocaine addicts

Published: 2/10/2023

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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