How to spot and help a cocaine addict

Information on the warning signs of cocaine addiction, and what to consider when you're trying to help someone who's abusing cocaine.

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If you think someone you’re close to may be struggling with a cocaine addiction, it can be difficult to know where to turn to or what to do for the best. Cocaine addiction can cause serious physical and psychological problems, and can also impact on the person’s behaviours and wreak havoc in all areas of their personal and professional life.

In this blog, we outline how to spot and help a cocaine addict. We'll also provide information on the cocaine addiction rehab we can deliver at Priory.

How to spot a cocaine addict

The first step towards getting help for your loved one is to recognise the psychological, behavioural and physical symptoms of cocaine addiction so you can spot when they’re struggling. Some of the symptoms to look out for, to help you spot a cocaine addict, include:

  • They need to take more cocaine, and more frequently, in order to get the high they crave
  • They seem to be unable to cut back on their cocaine misuse, even though it's having a negative impact on their life
  • They seem irritable and agitated when they haven’t taken cocaine for a certain length of time
  • They act in a secretive way and lie about their whereabouts and cocaine use
  • They ‘borrow’ or steal money, even from loved ones, in order to buy cocaine
  • They no longer take part in events and activities they used to enjoy
  • They only tend to socialise with other people who take cocaine
  • They act impulsively, have more energy and are overly confident when they're under the influence of cocaine. This may cause them to behave recklessly and take risks
  • Your loved one may also be experiencing a range of physical symptoms, such as frequent nosebleeds from snorting the drug, insomnia, a reduced appetite and a rapid heart rate

If you spot any of these signs, this may suggest that the person has developed a cocaine misuse problem and needs professional support.

How to help a cocaine addict

If you've spotted that your loved one may be struggling with a cocaine addiction, there are a number of things you can do to help them. Here, we list some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ when it comes to helping a cocaine addict.

‘Dos’ of helping a cocaine addict:

  • Learn the symptoms of cocaine addiction – as above, it’s really important that you take the time to learn as much as you can about the symptoms of cocaine addiction. By recognising the signs and symptoms, you’ll be able to spot any triggers for your loved one’s cocaine misuse and notice when they seem to be going through a particularly tough time. For example, you may notice that they take cocaine after a stressful day or when they’re worried about something. By being aware of the signs and patterns in their behaviour, you’ll be in a much better position to support them
  • Talk to them about your worries – if you’re worried that your loved one may be a cocaine addict, try to have an open and honest conversation with them about your concerns. Pick a time and a place that’s private and where they’re likely to feel comfortable, as this will make it easier for them to open up to you about what they’re going through. Initiating this conversation also lets your loved one know you’re there for them and they can always open up to you if they’re struggling
  • Look after yourself – dealing with a cocaine addict can be draining and have a negative effect on your own wellbeing. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthily. Also, take some time every day to do something you enjoy and find relaxing, whether that’s listening to music, reading your favourite book or taking a hot bath. When your needs are being met, you’ll be in a better position to support someone else. Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup
  • Help them get professional support – addiction is an illness, and while you can help a cocaine addict to a certain extent, it’s likely that they’ll need professional rehab to overcome their dependency. You could offer to make an appointment on their behalf to see their GP and then go along with them for moral support to discuss options and next steps. Alternatively, you can contact Priory to find out about the cocaine addiction treatment that we can provide at our rehab centres

‘Don’ts’ of helping a cocaine addict:

  • Be judgemental or accusatory – when you’re trying to talk to the person, it’s really important that you don’t come across as judgemental or confrontational. If you’ve never experienced an addiction, it can be difficult to understand why they're behaving the way they are and you may feel frustrated. However, approach the conversation in a gentle and sympathetic way as this makes it more likely they’ll be able to open up to you
  • Enable their behaviours - when you care about someone who’s struggling with a cocaine addiction, it can be easy to fall into the trap of enabling their behaviours. Enabling refers to the things we do that help the person to continue misusing cocaine, even if we have the best intentions. Examples may include calling in sick to work on their behalf or defending their drug use to other people. By enabling the cocaine addict’s behaviours, you’re not helping them to take any responsibility for their actions, which can lead to their cocaine addiction becoming worse. ‘Tough love’ can feel hard to practise but ultimately, it’s the best thing you can do to help someone with a cocaine addiction address their issues and take steps towards getting better

Specialist cocaine addiction rehab at Priory

Our expert psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other addiction professionals are committed to delivering cocaine addiction treatment.

Our cocaine addiction treatment programme at Priory offers:

  • A free, no-obligation addiction assessment – this gives you the chance to meet with one of our addiction treatment experts to develop an understanding of the rehab journey
  • A medically assisted drug detoxification – this is the process by which all traces of cocaine are removed from a person’s system in a controlled environment. We’ll make sure that the person is as comfortable as possible throughout this process and will help to minimise any withdrawal symptoms they experience
  • Residential, day care or outpatient treatment options, depending on the level of support needed
  • Group therapy, family therapy and 1:1 therapy programmes
  • A wide range of therapeutic techniques, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness
  • Access to both on and off-site 12-step support groups
  • Free aftercare for 12 months following treatment (aftercare is provided for life following treatment at Priory Hospital Roehampton)
  • Free family support for 12 months following treatment (family support is provided for life following treatment at Priory Hospital Roehampton)

For more information on the specialist addiction treatment that we can provide at Priory, please visit our approach to addiction treatment page.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Ian Nnatu (MB BS, PG DIP (CBT), MSc, FRCPsych, MRCPsych) Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London

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