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Cocaine use is a serious issue in the UK, with 2.7% of adults in the UK using cocaine every year. The UK is the cocaine hotspot of Europe – and second only to Australia around the world.

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug, and it can be difficult to overcome cocaine addiction without the right support.

But is cocaine physically addictive? That’s what we’ll be exploring in this blog post. Read on to find out:

  • What cocaine is
  • The effects of cocaine
  • What a physical addiction is
  • Whether cocaine is physically or psychologically addictive
  • What causes cocaine addiction
  • How to overcome cocaine addiction


What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive drug derived from the coca plant. It typically comes in the form of a thin, white powder.

The drug is illegal in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is a Class A controlled substance, which means it’s illegal to possess, supply, and produce.

However, many people use the drug recreationally despite its illicit status. Cocaine can be:

  • Snorted – most people snort cocaine by snorting it through the nose
  • Smoked – cocaine can be smoked through a glass pipe or tube in the form of crack cocaine, also known as freebasing
  • Injected – powdered cocaine and crack cocaine can be injected, which is extremely dangerous


How Does Cocaine Make You Feel?

Cocaine has a short-lived high, and you feel the effects quickly. The drug produces euphoric effects, leaving you feeling:

  • Happy
  • Confident
  • Excitable
  • Awake


The drug increases energy and alertness by blocking the reuptake of dopamine in the brain. The quicker the drug is absorbed, the more intense the high – but it also means the high is over more quickly.

When you snort cocaine, you may feel the effects for 15-30 minutes. When you smoke cocaine, however, you may only feel the effects for around 10 minutes.

Because the effects don’t last long, many people take more cocaine to feel the effects for longer. This is a dangerous cycle that can quickly develop into a physical dependence.

Cocaine abuse can impact your health in numerous ways – with countless short-term and long-term effects to consider. 


What is a Physical Addiction?

A physical addiction is when you take a drug over time, and you begin to experience unpleasant symptoms if you suddenly stop taking it or drastically reduce your typical dose.

These symptoms are known as withdrawal symptoms and can vary depending on factors such as:

  • The substance you are dependent on
  • Your substance use history (frequency of use, how long you’ve been taking)
  • The method of administration (e.g injecting, smoking, snorting etc)
  • Biological factors (e.g metabolism, genetics, health status)
  • Mental health disorders


It is thought that people use drugs compulsively to avoid these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. However, a review of recent evidence found that addictive behaviours (such as cravings, loss of control, relapse etc) are not due to this. Instead, new theories are coming to light that suggest the pleasurable effects of the drug and the changes in the brain’s dopamine system play a bigger role.

So, physical addiction is typically caused by long-lasting changes in the brain. It is a physical disease that requires treatment and ongoing support.


Is Cocaine Physically or Psychologically Addictive?

Cocaine is both physically and psychologically addictive. When you use cocaine, you are at risk of developing a physical and psychological dependence on the drug.

Taking cocaine regularly can cause changes in the chemistry of your brain – in particular, the areas of your brain responsible for pleasure and motivation. This can ultimately lead to a physical urge to take the drug to feel ‘normal’.

Ultimately, the more you take cocaine, the more your body adapts to its presence. You may find yourself needing to take cocaine more regularly, or in higher doses, to achieve the same effects.

When you stop taking cocaine after developing a dependence, you may experience a combination of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. For example:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Intense cocaine cravings
  • Lack of pleasure


Although the physical withdrawal symptoms from cocaine may not be as severe as others (for example, alcohol withdrawal), they can still be uncomfortable and tough to overcome without the right support.

To summarise, cocaine is both physically and psychologically addictive. Although the psychological effects may be more prominent, the drug has the potential for physical dependence and withdrawal effects. Treatment for cocaine addiction should address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.


What Causes Cocaine Addiction?

Substance addiction rarely has one single cause – instead, it is a combination of genetic, physical and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Let’s explore this further:

Genetics – Having an immediate relative with a history of substance addiction can increase your risk – genetics play a huge role when it comes to the risk of addiction. Studies with twins showed that heritability can be up to 72% for cocaine.

Environment – Growing up in an environment where drug or cocaine abuse is normalised can also increase the risk. Taking cocaine from a young age, or being subject to peer pressure can also lead to the development of cocaine addiction.

Brain Chemistry – Your individual brain chemistry is also a huge factor – for example, some people are born with deficiencies in neurotransmitters that regulate pleasure, which can cause them to take cocaine as a form of self-medication.

Tolerance – The more you use cocaine, the more your body develops a tolerance. This means you’ll need to take more of the drug to feel high, leading to a dangerous spiral of addiction.

Mental Illness – Substance addiction often co-occurs with disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder and PTSD. Mental illness may contribute to addiction, and drug use can contribute to the development of mental illness.

Ultimately, the more you take cocaine, the more your brain adapts to the drug. Your brain will then begin to rely on cocaine, and it can become difficult to feel pleasure without it.


How to Overcome Cocaine Addiction

If you have a cocaine addiction and you’re looking to take the first steps toward long-term recovery, you’re in the right place.

At The Online Rehab, we can provide you with a personalised cocaine addiction treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and goals. Residential rehab isn’t a convenient option for everyone – and through our program, you can recover from your addiction from the comfort of your own home.

Utilise our evidence-based treatments and begin your recovery journey today with The Online Rehab. We’re with you, every step of the way.

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn, UK’s foremost addiction expert, CEO of The Online Rehab, and author of “The Thin White Line.” A former police officer turned advocate, Nicholas has been clean since 2009, dedicated to helping others overcome drug and alcohol abuse. Featured in national media, he shares his journey and expertise to combat addiction.

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