Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is addictive because it can change the brain in ways that cause people to experience physical, psychological and behavioral problems. The drug can cause severe short- and long-term health complications. Individuals who are struggling to quit cocaine should seek rehab treatment to learn how to overcome cravings, achieve sobriety and avoid relapse.
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Derived from the South American coca plant, cocaine causes feelings of happiness, energy and wakefulness.

However, it is also associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness and mental health problems. Chronic use of large doses of cocaine can result in agitation, aggression, hostility, panic and suicidal or homicidal behaviors.

Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. After the first hit, people can quickly progress to repeated use and addiction. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, a person can become addicted to crack cocaine after the first time trying it.

Just one dose of cocaine can cause life-threatening consequences, and repetitive use of the drug can lead to cocaine addiction. A cocaine use disorder can result in physical and mental health problems that affect many facets of a person’s life.

How Addictive Is Cocaine?

Researchers have attempted to measure the addictiveness of cocaine and other drugs. For example, a 2007 study published in The Lancet assessed the harm, dependence and potential misuse of 20 drugs. The research team found that cocaine is the second most addictive drug behind heroin.

In 2015, a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry also explored the addictive potency of drugs based on a variety of factors. Researchers suggested that cocaine was the third most addictive drug. Only alcohol and heroin were reported to be more addictive.

Cocaine addiction can be deadly. Individuals can experience a fatal cocaine overdose after just one try. More commonly, overdoses occur when people take large doses of cocaine.

Mixing cocaine with alcohol or other drugs is especially dangerous. Combining cocaine with heroin, a concoction known as speedball, greatly increases the risk of overdose. Most cocaine-related deaths occur when the drug stops the heart and causes breathing to stop.

Why Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine alters brain chemistry. When people use the stimulant, excessive amounts of the chemical dopamine build up in the brain. Dopamine produces feelings of pleasure and happiness.

The flood of dopamine from cocaine use causes a euphoric high. Snorting cocaine produces a high that lasts for 30 minutes or less. Smoking crack or freebase cocaine has more powerful euphoric effects that last for just two to three minutes.

Some people mix cocaine with weed or other drugs. This increases the impact the drugs have on brain chemistry.

The feelings of euphoria caused by cocaine fade quickly, and people often experience a crash marked by fatigue and intense cravings to use the drug again. These factors cause many people to repeatedly use the substance.

Over time, the drug changes the brain. People develop a tolerance to cocaine, and they need to take more to achieve the desired effects.

Addiction is a brain disease that changes a person’s physical, psychological and social health. Individuals who are addicted to cocaine experience intense impulses to use the drug. They may even begin stealing money to pay for cocaine.

Signs of cocaine addiction include:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Suspicious activity
  • Depressed mood
  • Frequent nightmares

People addicted to cocaine experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the stimulant. Cocaine withdrawal may cause drowsiness, increased appetite, slowed thinking, trouble sleeping or depression.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

The best way to treat cocaine addiction is to seek treatment. At cocaine rehab, people can receive support and evidence-based treatment that matches their specific needs.

Cocaine treatment may include therapies such as:

  • Contingency management
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Therapeutic communities
  • 12-step programs

If you know someone addicted to cocaine, consider contacting a cocaine hotline for information about treatment and supportive services. A representative can put you in touch with nearby rehab centers that can help you or your loved one recover from cocaine addiction. All calls are free and confidential.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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