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Cocaine Use and Its Effects

Cocaine: Psychological Effects and Addiction

Cocaine acts in the deep areas of the brain. These are the areas that reward us for "good behavior" -- those activities that lead to food, sex, and healthy pleasure. Stimulating this brain area with cocaine feels good. And it can create a powerful craving to use more cocaine. Repeated cocaine use leads to tolerance (that is, increasingly higher doses are needed to attain the same effect), dependence, and addiction.

There is no "safe" frequency of use for cocaine. It's impossible to predict whether a person will become physically or psychologically dependent on cocaine.

After using cocaine regularly for an extended period, dependence (addiction) develops. When dependence is present, stopping cocaine suddenly leads to withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine are more psychological than physiological. Typically, cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • depression and anxiety
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • increased craving for cocaine
  • physical symptoms including aches, pains, tremors, and chills

Cocaine withdrawal is rarely medically serious. In certain people, withdrawal from cocaine may cause suicidal thoughts. Typically, withdrawal symptoms from cocaine addiction resolve within one to two weeks. However, intense craving for cocaine may return, even years after the last use.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 23, 2013

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