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Why is Cocaine So Addictive? 4 Reasons It’s Hard to Resist

Jan 2, 2022

Any conversation about drug addiction needs to include a mention of the brain’s ability to build up tolerance to it. This is a key part of how addiction begins and grows. Cocaine use is no different.

Why are so many people drawn to cocaine? What makes it enticing to try, use, and keep using? Today, we’ll look at the factors that make cocaine highly addictive, even after only a few uses.

Why is Cocaine So Addictive?

Cocaine is highly addictive for several reasons. The positive reinforcement, in the form of euphoria, excitement, and alertness, is one of them. Cocaine’s intense but brief high is another as it can lead to additional use immediately. As a person’s tolerance to the drug increases, their use of higher amounts can contribute to developing a substance use disorder, too.

Four Reasons It’s Hard to Say No

1. Cocaine’s addictive quality comes, in part, from positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement from cocaine use can show up in a variety of ways. These results are usually the ways that the drug makes the user feel. After snorting cocaine, an individual may feel excited, wide awake, energetic, confident.

These results may be desirable for someone in a job where being “on” non-stop is considered important. For someone who’s shy or withdrawn, these results may make them confident enough to talk to strangers. In either case, there’s a sense for the user that something good happened that could only happen through the drug use itself. Unfortunately, these feelings are often followed by a “crash” where feelings of depression, anger, and irritability can be magnified.

2. Cocaine’s high, especially from snorting, typically lasts only a short time.

The high from snorting cocaine begins anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes later. Once it begins, it can feel quite intense. Then, 30 minutes after those intense feelings begin, they lessen. The high can appear to be over very quickly.

The pattern of behavior to get that intense high back is to snort more cocaine immediately or a short time later. It can become repetitive anytime the drug is used, especially if it’s not in short supply. That repeated use can increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.

3. Cocaine tolerance can increase quickly, leading to use of higher amounts.

With regular cocaine use, tolerance builds over time. The result can be someone using more cocaine in each instance to achieve the same high. They may even begin using the drug more frequently during the week.

Tolerance to any drug is pivotal in the development of a substance use disorder. With cocaine, the dependence can be both physical and psychological. The body and brain seem to crave the substance. Also, a person may feel compelled to use the drug to deal with social situations or other stressful circumstances.

4. Cocaine often gets mixed with other highly addictive drugs.

Use of multiple addictive drugs can be a recipe for polysubstance abuse. Cocaine users tend to use other addictive drugs, including heroin or alcohol, at the same time. These other drugs can increase the seemingly positive short-term effects of cocaine use.

The symptoms of cocaine addiction are wide-ranging. They can include anxiety, paranoia, mood swings, and insomnia. Other symptoms that may develop are high blood pressure, nausea, excessive sweating, and breathing problems. Mixing cocaine and heroin can be especially dangerous for a person’s respiration as breathing may slow down to a dangerous level.

Cocaine addiction is treatable.

It’s important to emphasize the need for treatment to recover from cocaine addiction. A medically-supervised detox as a first step can help a patient prepare for a residential program. Working in individual therapy and group sessions are fundamental parts of treatment for cocaine use.

People whose substance use is connected to mental health needs can also benefit from inpatient treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment provides the care for a patient with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, or another mental health concern. Treating both substance use and mental health at the same time in an integrated program can improve the chances for sustaining recovery beyond the end of a residential stay.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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