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Cocaine Abuse In Teens: Finding Treatment


holding cocaine

Cocaine, also known as coke, is a highly addictive, fast-acting nervous system stimulant. It is an illegal drug that is used recreationally. Cocaine is made from the leaves of a plant that is native to South America, called the coca plant. There are several different ways to ingest cocaine: via the nasal cavity (sniffed), intravenously (injected), inhaled (as a smoke or vapor) and/ or rubbed into one’s gums. The way the substance works in one’s body is by sending increased levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that carries signals between brain cells) to areas of the brain that reign pleasure, and the excess buildup of dopamine elicits feelings of energy, alertness and euphoria. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cocaine as a Schedule II Substance, which is defined as a drug “with a high potential for abuse with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Because cocaine is an illicit substance, the exact ingredients included in each batch are left solely to the discretion of the manufacturer. This means that the consumers have no way of truly knowing the precise potency of the substance they are ingesting, which can be incredibly dangerous. The effects of cocaine are typically felt within minutes after it has been ingested and its effects can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour long, depending on the method of ingestion.   

Signs and Symptoms

Every young person is different, and each teen that struggles with cocaine abuse is likely to exhibit a unique set of signs and symptoms. Some of the common signs and symptoms that could present in a young person struggling with cocaine abuse could include any of the following examples, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Panic
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nasal perforation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritation
  • Fearlessness
  • Extremely talkative
  • Heightened energy levels
  • Violence
  • Erratic behaviors
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Intense mood swings

Factors such as the length of time the teen abused cocaine, the potency of the cocaine abused, the method of ingestion, the personal health history of the teen abusing cocaine, whether the teenager simultaneously abused additional substances, the presence of any comorbidities, and the frequency of use will all contribute to the type and severity of symptoms exhibited in a teenager struggling with cocaine abuse. 


Cocaine works by affecting the way one’s brain naturally functions, and as such when abused can lead to detrimental long and short-term consequences on the developing brain of an adolescent, if left untreated. The first step in the treatment process for a young person who has abused cocaine will be to undergo detox, which cleanses the body of all abused substances. Depending on the needs of the teenager, continuing the recovery process by attending a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program may be beneficial. Several options are available that cater to young people in need of treatment for cocaine abuse. At Pacific Teen Treatment, we offer a residential treatment program that utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches. Some of the treatment modalities we incorporate into our treatment plans include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Pacific Teen Treatment works with each of its residents to create a tailored and unique treatment plan, catering specifically to each teen’s personal and nuanced recovery needs. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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