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Cocaine Use Disorder
(Cocaine Abuse; Cocaine Dependence)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Cocaine use disorder is when the use of cocaine harms a person’s health or social functioning, or when a person becomes dependent on cocaine. The powdered form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine in a rock crystal form. It can be heated so its vapors can be smoked.
Cocaine use disorder is treatable, but it takes hard work.
Cocaine stimulates the brain to release large amounts of the hormone dopamine. Dopamine results in the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers. As a person continues to use cocaine, a tolerance is developed. This means that higher doses and more frequent use are needed to maintain the euphoria.
When a cocaine user stops using abruptly, a crash or withdrawal occurs. This results in an extremely strong craving for more cocaine. It also results in fatigue, loss of pleasure in life, depression, anxiety, irritability, suicidal thoughts, and sometimes paranoia. These withdrawal symptoms often prompt the user to seek more cocaine.
Risk Factors TOP
Cocaine use disorder is more common in young men and in those aged 18-25 years. However, cocaine use disorder can occur in anyone at any age.
Symptoms associated with cocaine use disorder include:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask specific questions about cocaine use. Questions will include the length and frequency of use.
Treatment programs may be inpatient or outpatient and may:
There are currently no medications to specifically treat cocaine use disorder. Treatment with medication focuses on the symptoms of euphoria and craving. Medications that have shown some promise include:
Behavioral therapies to help people quit using cocaine are often the only available, effective treatment for cocaine use disorder. Therapies include contingency management. With this program, people receive positive rewards for staying in treatment and remaining cocaine-free. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people to learn how to abstain and remain abstinent from cocaine.
Rehabilitation Programs TOP
In rehab programs, people with cocaine use disorder stay in a controlled environment for 6-12 months. During this time, they may receive vocational rehab and other support to prepare them to return to society.
The best way to prevent cocaine use disorder is to never use cocaine. It is highly addictive and illegal.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Cocaine Anonymous of Southern Ontario
Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling Association of Nova Scotia
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DrugFacts: Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine. Accessed. Updated March 2010. Accessed February 20, 2013.
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Opioid abuse or dependence. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 8, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2016.
Research report series: Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Available at:
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Updated September 2010. Accessed February 20, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardJames Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/10/2014
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