credit card, rolled bill and white powder in form of a skull on a black table
Image showing the effects of cocaine on the brain

Blow, dust, flake, bump, toot. The street names may change with the times, but cocaine has been a dangerous intoxicant for decades. The fine white crystalline powder was wildly popular and even thought to be glamorous and hip in the 70s and 80s. Although it has declined in popularity somewhat, it still ranks in the top five drugs being abused today1

Cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic stimulant that is highly addictive and very dangerous. While users may feel pleasant short-term effects including euphoria and enhanced alertness, long-term use of cocaine can destroy nasal structures, tissue, membranes and organs causing chronic runny nose and nosebleeds, lung and heart tissue damage, weight loss and malnutrition, seizures, heart attack, coma, stroke and death.

It takes bravery and strength to ask for help with cocaine addiction. Whether you find yourself or a loved one abusing cocaine, please seek help right away. Windward Way Recovery can provide a full continuum of care that is tailored to each person’s unique needs. Medically supervised detox; group, individual or family therapy; partial hospitalization; outpatient programs; aftercare; and sober living are all part of the spectrum of care available to participants in Windward Way Recovery’s treatment programs.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a fine white powder made from the leaves of the coca plant, most commonly grown and harvested in Central and South America. From the Amazon jungle to the highlands of the Andes, it has been an integral part of certain indigenous cultures in Argentina, Columbia, Bolivia and Peru for thousands of years, where its stimulant effects were utilized by the Incas and others for religious rituals, meditations and to cure certain maladies including altitude sickness and fatigue.

Cocaine’s interesting history in Europe and North America includes widespread use in the late 1800s as a cure for depression and other sicknesses, It was added to wine to “restore health and vitality.” It is wild to know that yes, it was part of Coca-Cola’s original formula until cocaine was criminalized in the United States around the beginning of the 20th century. Interestingly, there is still a “de-cocainized” extract of the coca leaf used today in the secret recipe for Coca-Cola.

Slang or Street Names for Cocaine

  • Blow
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Bump
  • Nose candy
  • Line
  • Big C
  • Snow
  • Sniff
  • Toot
  • Coca
  • Coke
  • Soda Cot
  • Crack/Rock/Crank (when heated and smoked as larger crystals)

It can’t hurt to learn and recognize the slang terms for cocaine.2 You may overhear these terms being used by a child, loved one or friend, and that can help you identify a person who is abusing the drug.

How Do People Use Cocaine?

There are several methods by which users can take cocaine into the body:

  • Orally (rubbing it into the gums)
  • Intranasal (snorting powder into the nostrils, where it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues)
  • Intravenous (dissolving powdered cocaine in water and injecting directly into the bloodstream, heightening the intensity of its effects)
  • Inhalation (heating larger cocaine crystals and smoking/inhaling the vapors into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is almost as rapid as intravenous injection)

What Does Cocaine Do To Your Brain and Body?

If you want to get into the chemical properties of cocaine and its effects on the brain, it works on the mesolimbic dopamine system. This is the “reward” area of the brain that is stimulated by things like food, sex and a multitude of drugs that affect the normal communication process in this part of the brain. Emotions and motivation are also regulated by the mesolimbic dopamine system.

Drugs like cocaine interfere with the dopamine transporters in the brain. Cocaine binds to these dopamine transporters, preventing dopamine from traveling its intended pathway. Instead, dopamine accumulates and throws out an amplified signal to neurons in the brain, causing the euphoric high that is so attractive to users and abusers of prescription and illegal drugs.

Who Exactly Is Using Cocaine These Days?

The majority of cocaine users tend to fall in the 18 to 24 age range, according to the most recent survey from the NSDUH3, but the total number of admitted cocaine users or people who are trying cocaine for the first time has actually decreased since the late 1990s.

Its popularity has definitely fallen from its heyday in the 70s and 80s, but cocaine still ranks fifth overall4 in misused and abused drugs, after marijuana, painkillers, sedatives and hallucinogens.

People who abuse cocaine can be occasional, repeated or compulsive users, including any combination of these extremes. It’s also no surprise that users often combine cocaine with alcohol or use it to counteract other sedative drugs. Any of these scenarios can potentially lead to absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine, causing heart attacks, strokes, or seizures—all of which can cause a user to overdose or die.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

The Positives

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Heightened sense of self-confidence

The Negatives

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Narrowed blood vessels
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Erratic and unpredictable behavior, sometimes violent
  • Panic and paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Heart problems including irregular rhythm or heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Coma

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine can cause major damage to all organs and tissues in the body over time.

For example, since it reduces blood flow, that can lead to tears and ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract. The toxic effects on the heart and cardiovascular system can include generalized chest pain that “feels” like a heart attack. The inflammation of the heart muscle can cause the heart muscle to lose the ability to contract. This can facilitate stroke and aortic ruptures. Although there is a pervasive idea that cocaine is not dangerous, overdose deaths from cocaine number in the thousands per year.

Other long-term effects on the body of a person who chronically uses cocaine include:

  • Nasal damage including loss of sense of smell and chronic nosebleeds.
  • Trouble swallowing and hoarseness.
  • Infection and death of tissues affected by decreased blood flow.
  • Weight loss and malnutrition because of reduced appetite.
  • Lung damage.
  • Premature delivery, low birth weight and issues with ADD and other deficits for those children later in life for women who are pregnant when using.
  • The risk of infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis if sharing needles while injecting.

How Do You Recognize Cocaine Addiction?

Dependence and addiction are the obvious results of frequent and repeated use of cocaine. Dependence causes users to seek the drug more often and in higher doses to achieve the same effect.

Like all other chemical addictions, dependence on cocaine causes individuals to continue using despite negative consequences on their personal lives and finances. Attempts to stop using cocaine can lead to anxiety, panic or depression in an addicted person, leading to an increased risk of suicide or other harmful behaviors.

Physical and Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction

  • Enlarged, dilated pupils
  • Frequent runny nose/bloody nose
  • Sniffing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Shaking
  • nausea
  • Weight loss without exercise
  • Impotence
  • White powder around the nose or mouth (seems obvious)
  • Burn marks on lips or fingers (from smoking heated crystals)
  • Financial issues, losing money, stealing or selling personal property
  • Rapid decrease in personal grooming and hygiene
  • High-risk behaviors

Paraphernalia of Cocaine Users

Depending on how the person is abusing cocaine, each method has its own tools. If a person snorts cocaine, be on the lookout for powdery residues on surfaces like mirrors or glass coffee tables and rolled bills or cut straws (just like you see in movies or on tv.) A person abusing powdered cocaine may discard small baggies or torn corners of sandwich bags.

If the person abusing is smoking or inhaling “crack” rocks of crystal cocaine, they may use a metal or glass pipe and leave lighters or spoons lying around.

If they use cocaine intravenously, using a syringe to inject it, there may be a tourniquet belt or rubber bands, small syringes, needles and lighters kept in a “kit” just like heroin users might carry. This can be a small zip pouch about the size and shape of a paperback book.

How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated?

There currently are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction, but there have been some promising studies using buprenorphine5 or Buprenorphine/Naltrexone6 to curb cocaine use. People who are addicted to cocaine usually respond well to a variety of talk therapies.

Addiction is so much more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Treatment for cocaine use disorder must include learning coping skills through therapy with skilled professionals. Once you have eliminated the substance from your body, you will need time, talk, and tools to overcome that physical and mental dependence.

So many social activities, friends and family units have inherent triggers that can push you into relapsing back into drug, alcohol, or other substance use. If you commit and take time to recover in a protected setting like Windward Way Recovery, you will gain the strength, knowledge and tools necessary to deal with all the stressors in your life without using or abusing substances like household inhalants.

How Can Windward Way Recovery Help People Who Have a Cocaine Addiction?

Windward Way Recovery offers partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment services. However, the first step in any recovery process is reaching out for treatment. Whether starting with inpatient detox or outpatient detox, your treatment begins by asking for help.

It’s very easy to reach us. Make a simple phone call to (855) 491-7694, send a message through our website, or through Facebook7 messenger to begin admission. This process can definitely be overwhelming. At Cardinal, we understand how hard this step can be, so we work hard to make the process as comforting and straightforward as possible. It’s helpful to gather all your current and previous health information before calling us. The following is our process and the steps necessary to join us at Windward Way Recovery.

1. Pre-Admissions Process:

  • Cardinal staff will ask about a person’s drug and alcohol history and current situation.
  • Other medical conditions will be disclosed and discussed
  • We will discuss the current doctors a person is seeing
  • Discuss prior treatment history (if any)

2. Next, a Cardinal staff member will discuss programs at our treatment center to see if there is a suitable match for your needs

3. Should Cardinal be a good fit, insurance information will be discussed. If you don’t have insurance, there may be private self-pay options or even possible scholarships. There may be a waiting list, or we may be able to take you in right away.

4. Admission: Immediately after arriving at the recovery center, each person undergoes a comprehensive health assessment. Addiction professionals will discuss a person’s substance abuse history, relevant mental and physical health conditions and family life. Then, you will be provided with our policies and rules.

5. Treatment Length: the length of treatment varies greatly depending upon the substance used, the length of time using, and the presence of co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

How Can Windward Way Recovery Help Me?

From its leafy suburban setting to its wide variety of holistic therapies, Windward Way Recovery is an industry leader in substance abuse treatment care. We adhere to the highest standards and utilize groundbreaking research findings in all of our methodologies and levels of care including:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Individual, group, family, and nature therapy

Types of Therapy Offered at Windward Way Recovery

Group Therapy

Our intensive group therapy sessions offer the opportunity for:

  • Psychoeducational groups (education about substance abuse)
  • Skills developmental groups (learn the tools you’ll need to break free from addiction)
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups (rearrange patterns of thinking that lead to addiction)
  • Support groups (a forum where members can supportively challenge each other to debunk “excuses”)
  • Interpersonal process group (members help each other process the relational and other life issues that were previously escaped through addictive substances)

Family Therapy

We offer family therapy work to include:

  • Family engagement (begins the conversation and involves family and the individual in the recovery process)
  • Relational reframing (rather than placing all the blame of addiction on the child, family therapy will emphasize the root causes of the addiction and move the source of some issues from internal to external)
  • Family behavioral change (enabling communication, rules, and limits; with room to express how everyone is feeling)
  • Family restructuring (this process can help break down barriers and establish an environment that encourages open communication)

Nature Therapy

Our unique, holistic approach includes nature therapy (also called green or eco therapy):

  • Nature meditation
  • Horticultural therapy (gardening and plant care)
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Physical exercise outdoors (yoga, hiking, etc.)
  • Conservation (taking action to help preserve nature)

What Steps Can You Take Right Now?

The desire to stop using drugs or alcohol is essential to begin a lifelong recovery path. Reach out to our staff at Windward Way Recovery. If you live anywhere in the Midwest, Cardinal is centrally located in Franklin, California, just thirty minutes south of Californiapolis, with a wide spectrum of programs and resources to help people with substance abuse issues.

Please visit our website to learn more about our programs and the treatment options available. Take a look at our tranquil suburban treatment center, where you can find refuge from the stresses and triggers of the everyday world in order to work on self-care, rest, therapy, and taking back control of your life.

  1. In most cases, if a person has a substance abuse disorder, recovery begins at the detox stage. Medical monitoring of this stage reduces the risks to mental and physical well-being.
  2. Following medical detox, Cardinal’s treatment options include inpatient rehab in a residential treatment program, outpatient rehab, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and sober living homes.
  3. The intensity of these treatment program options ranges significantly, from outpatient counseling to intensive inpatient therapy.


Windward Way Recovery is part of the Zinnia Health Network of addiction and mental health services. There are seven facilities in the network, focused on treatment paths that include detox and stabilization, residential/outpatient/partial hospitalization options, holistic and family approaches and unique LGBTQ+ program tracks. Please call, message, or email us today to begin the process of freeing yourself from the prison of addiction.

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