While there are many distinctive signs that can point to cocaine use, encouraging open and honest communication is the best way to determine whether someone is using cocaine.

According to recent data, about 4.8 million Americans over the age of 12 use cocaine each year, and about half a million Americans over 12 have an addiction to cocaine.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is known for producing effects such as energy, increased alertness, euphoria, talkativeness, and decreased appetite. It is highly addictive, and people can experience a strong craving for cocaine almost as soon as the drug leaves their leaves the bloodstream.

If someone you know is using cocaine, you might notice signs such as unexplained weight loss, changes to sleep and eating patterns, changes to social habits, changes to mood, sudden difficulties with finance and work, and more.

If you believe a loved one is using cocaine, it’s best to talk with them about it in a way that focuses on support and care, without accusations or pressure.

It’s not always obvious when someone develops an addiction to cocaine. However, there are some common signs to be aware of. If you notice a friend, family member, or other loved one demonstrating these signs, it could be because of addiction.

Signs that could indicate cocaine addiction include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • changes to eating habits
  • dilated pupils
  • overexcitability
  • chronic runny nose
  • nosebleeds
  • changes to social patterns and activities
  • social isolation
  • mood changes or irritability
  • nightmares
  • insomnia and other changes to sleep patterns
  • increase in harmful behaviors
  • increased confidence
  • increased talkativeness
  • changes in personal hygiene and appearance
  • burn marks on the lips or hands
  • white powder residue around the mouth or nose
  • neglect of personal relationships
  • sudden financial difficulties
  • difficulty at work or school
  • decline in oral health
  • intense emotional highs and lows
  • increase in withdrawn, isolated, and private behavior

Some of these signs are also associated with other addictions and with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. If someone you know displays these symptoms, they might need help and treatment, even if an addiction to cocaine isn’t the cause.

Addiction is a chronic condition that develops when some people use substances that make changes to the brain.

Not everyone who uses substances with the potential to be addictive develops an addiction. But typically, the more a person uses a drug, the more their brain adapts to it and begins to have difficulty functioning without it. This leads to cravings and to addiction.

Usually, this happens because cocaine and other drugs affect the chemicals that are made in the brain. This means they affect how you feel and how you think.

As your tolerance for high amounts of a drug and its effects grow, the change in brain chemical levels from everyday activities will lessen. This is why people who develop addictions often stop getting pleasure from the things they used to enjoy and being relying on a high to produce happiness.

Over time, additional emotional and cognitive functions also start to rely on the substance, making the addiction even stronger.

It can be difficult to know how to help someone who is using cocaine. Many people worry that intervening will drive their loved one away or will not make a difference. It can feel frustrating, frightening, and overwhelming to talk with someone about something as important as a cocaine issue.

One of the most important things you can do is remind your loved one that you care. It’s best to keep your words and your tone supportive and to offer help and resources without making any accusations.

For more about helping a loved one with addiction, you can read these articles:

Remember that people will only take steps toward recovery when they’re ready. You can’t force someone to face their addiction and quit if they’re unwilling. If that becomes too stressful, you can seek outside help, such as additional friends or family members, or the services of professional addiction services.

If your loved one is ready to start treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a great place to start. You can also offer to go with them to talk with their primary doctor about local rehabilitation services.

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. People who use cocaine can quickly become dependent on it for strong rushes of brain chemicals that control how they think and feel.

When someone develops an addiction to cocaine, they might demonstrate signs such as changes to previous sleep, dietary, social, and hygiene patterns, along with mood changes, unexplained weight loss, financial difficulties, secretiveness, and trouble at work or school.

It can be stressful and overwhelming to talk with a loved one about a cocaine addiction. It’s best to keep the conversation calm and focused on your support and on places that your loved one can go for help. Steering clear of accusations and arguments can help the conversation go in a more useful direction.