How to recognize cocaine use

Updated April 17, 2017

Cocaine use can trigger seizures, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, or a stroke, regardless of your age. When a family member is using cocaine, the whole family suffers. If you suspect a loved one of using this addictive stimulant, there are various signs to look for that can confirm your suspicions. Quick action may be required because unexpected death while using cocaine is not uncommon.

Examine the eyes of the suspected user. If his pupils are dilated or his eyes are bloodshot, it can be an indication of cocaine use.The length that the pupils stay dilated depends on the duration of the high. It can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Bloodshot eyes are caused by the lack of sleep that the user suffers from. They are visible all day long. If the user complains of blurry vision, it can be another sign he is using cocaine.

Ask if the suspected user is congested. Observe him to see if he has a runny nose or if he is constantly sniffling. A bloody nose can also be triggered by cocaine use. Consistent cocaine use weakens the nasal membranes and can ultimately deteriorate the septum.

Notice if there is a change in the suspect user's hygiene and weight. Cocaine use becomes the priority in the user's life. He neglects his appearance and hygiene; he doesn't care about things like washing his clothes, taking a shower and brushing his teeth. Cocaine triggers a consistent lack of appetite; the user does not care to eat, which instantly triggers weight loss to the point of malnourishment.

Inspect the clothing and residence of the cocaine user for traces of white powder or cocaine paraphernalia. Rolled-up currency bills used for snorting the substance, razor blades used for lining up powdered cocaine, pipes used for smoking cocaine, and plastic mini-bags with white powder residue can all signify cocaine use. Look for white powder traces on the collars and cuffs of shirts and look for paraphernalia under mattresses and in inconspicuous jars or soda cans.

Observe the behaviour of the suspect user. Cocaine gives you a rush and users may appear to be hyperactive, agitated or exited for the duration of the rush. This can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Examine the suspect user's sleeping and eating behaviour; cocaine reduces your appetite and triggers insomnia.

Take note if items start disappearing from the house. A cocaine user may start asking for money for no obvious reason. He may steal money, or items that he can sell, such as stereo equipment and jewellery, to get money for cocaine.

Monitor the social life of the suspected user. Find out where he goes out and what kind of people he surrounds himself with. Cocaine is often used in situation where hyperactivity is allowed. Nightclubs and parties are common settings. Avoid interrogating the suspected user about his whereabouts because he may lie and get agitated.

Check the scholastic performance of the suspect cocaine user if he is still in school. Being absent more than usual and a drop in grades may indicate drug use.


Consult your doctor for rehabilitation programs and support.

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