How To Spot and Help a Cocaine Addict

Is someone in your life behaving in an unusual manner, and you suspect cocaine to be the culprit? You may be feeling a range of emotions including worry, anger, guilt and fear, as a cocaine addiction can cause a number of problems including financial and legal trouble as well as physical and mental health problems.

This blog post will help you to spot the warning signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction in your friends and family members, and provide tips and advice that allow you to effectively support them through this situation and encourage them to seek help for their addiction.

How to spot a cocaine addict – what are the signs and symptoms?

Many people who are addicted to cocaine or other substances attempt to keep their dependency a secret, particularly from friends and family members. This may be due to a sense of shame or guilt, or simply the fact that they are aware that their behaviour will be met with disapproval.

However there are a number of tell-tale signs that can help you to spot a cocaine addict, and it’s important to be aware of the potential symptoms of addiction in order to step in promptly and encourage the individual to seek help. [1]

Common symptoms of a cocaine addiction

  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Insomnia, difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Anxiety and depression [2]
  • Agitated and restless
  • Regular mood swings
  • Bursts of overconfidence and euphoria
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Frequent sniffing and runny nose
  • Little desire or need to sleep
  • Increased heart rate
  • Traces of white powder around nose
  • Irritability if they are unable to use cocaine

Other warning signs to look out for

  • They have become withdrawn and secretive, appearing to live a ‘double life’
  • They are dishonest about their activities, whereabouts and use of cocaine
  • They have attempted to stop using cocaine in the past but have been unable to
  • They associate primarily with people who also use cocaine
  • They need to regularly increase the amount and/or frequency of cocaine use in order to experience the same effects
  • They are disinterested in hobbies and activities that they previously enjoyed
  • They experience withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to use cocaine
  • They are struggling with financial troubles due to their cocaine use
  • They have experienced legal troubles due to their cocaine use
  • They have resorted to borrowing or even stealing money to fund their cocaine use
  • They are neglecting their responsibilities at home, work or school
  • They appear to be under the influence of cocaine on a regular basis
  • They have experienced negative consequences related to their cocaine use, such as the loss of a job, but continue to use it

If someone you know is displaying some of the above symptoms, it is likely that they have lost control over their behaviour around cocaine and may have fallen into the trap of addiction. [3]

How to help a cocaine addict

Once you have established that the person of concern is indeed dealing with a cocaine addiction, it’s natural that you will want to help in any way possible. It can be difficult to pinpoint the most effective course of action, and you may be concerned about potentially making the situation worse.

While you may have little to no control over their behaviour and actions, there are a number of ways that you can support them through this situation and encourage them to seek help.

Choose an appropriate time and place to speak to them

Attempting to have a conversation about their addiction when they are under the influence of cocaine will likely prove to be ineffective, as the individual may become defensive and agitated or simply refuse to engage. Similarly, inviting them to your home gives them an easy way to leave the conversation and puts you in a potentially dangerous situation.

Instead, choose to meet in a neutral environment when they are sober and clear-headed. It should be private enough to engage in a sensitive conversation without the fear of being overheard, but public enough that the individual will be less likely to react aggressively. This will give you the best chance to express your concerns without the fear that they will lash out or storm off.

Educate yourself about cocaine, addiction and recovery

Understanding exactly what can motivate someone with an addiction to seek help, the various factors that may trigger a relapse and the addictive nature of cocaine itself can help you to provide the most effective support to your friend or family member. For this reason, taking the time to research and educate yourself about these topics can be extremely beneficial when helping someone with a cocaine addiction.

Armed with this knowledge you will be more likely to identify patterns in their behaviour that may signal a relapse or binge, and will understand the language and tone required to encourage someone to seek help instead of potentially making the situation worse.

Speak in a calm, non-judgemental manner

Many people dealing with a cocaine addiction feel a deep sense of guilt and shame over their behaviour, particularly when they are aware of the impact that their addiction has on those closest to them. With this in mind, it’s important not to harshly criticise them or judge their behaviour when you confront them about their cocaine use. Shouting, blaming and accusing will likely cause them to withdraw deeper into their addiction and feel unable to seek help.

By keeping the tone of the conversation pleasant, calm and non-judgemental, you will be able to get your points across much more easily and show that you love and support the individual. Make sure to focus on the impact that the addiction is having on you, rather than the behaviour itself. It’s important that both parties have a chance to speak and share their feelings – this is a conversation, not a lecture.

Research rehabilitation centres and treatment programmes

The idea of taking steps towards seeking help can feel overwhelming and intimidating to many people struggling with a cocaine addiction, and the physical and mental task of researching treatment facilities can be a barrier to recovery in many cases.

Make the process easier by researching rehabilitation centres and treatment programmes beforehand, so that you can present them with the relevant information as soon as they express a desire to seek help for their addiction. With their permission you can even contact these facilities and arrange treatment on their behalf, making the decision to recover a seamless and stress-free experience.

Take care of your own physical and mental health

Supporting someone with a cocaine addition can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. You may feel overwhelmed and burdened with responsibility, and this can prevent you from living your own life to the fullest. If you do not take steps to resolve this, your health may begin to suffer and as a result you may no longer have the strength to support your friend or family member in the way that they need.

Reach out for support from other friends, family members or even a professional counsellor. You are a human being with your own needs, emotions and feelings, and it’s important that you express these on a regular basis to someone you trust. Additionally you should make sure to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly as well as continuing your own hobbies and activities outside of work or school.

Set firm boundaries

In order to preserve your own physical and mental health, it’s important to set clear boundaries and communicate them to this individual at a time when they are sober and clear-headed. Although they are struggling with an addiction, they must respect your choices and stick to the boundaries.

It is possible to be supportive while still making yourself and other members of the family a priority, and this can include statements such as ‘You cannot use cocaine in my home’ or ‘You cannot see the children if you have been using cocaine.’ Make sure you are firm and secure in your decisions and take necessary actions if they ignore your requests.

Refuse to enable their behaviour

Although you may feel compelled to help this individual in any way you can, it’s important that you take a step back and let them face the inevitable consequences of their behaviour without attempting to shield them. For example if they are in debt due to their cocaine use, do not lend or gift them money to repay the debt. If other people comment on their behaviour and addiction, do not make excuses or defend them.

This is a difficult yet necessary step and can potentially encourage them to seek help when they realise that they alone are responsible for their actions. If you enable their behaviour by shielding them from the consequences and allow them to continue making mistakes with no natural repercussions, they may fall deeper into their addiction and delay seeking help.