User Reviewed

How to Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine

Three Parts:Spotting Physical SignsIdentifying Behavioral SignsKnowing What Steps to Take

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that can cause significant health problems, including overdose and death. Since signs of cocaine abuse are similar to the symptoms of other health issues, it can be difficult to tell whether someone is using cocaine. If you're concerned that your family member, friend or colleague may be using cocaine, know what physical and behavioral signs to look out for.

Part 1
Spotting Physical Signs

  1. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 1
    Look for white powder on the person's nose and belongings. Cocaine is a white powder that is commonly snorted through the nose. Look for a powdery residue on the person's nose and face. Even if the person has wiped away traces from his or her body, you might spot a residue on the person's clothing or on household surfaces.
    • Check for items under the bed or under a chair that may have been used as a flat surface for snorting.
    • The person may explain that the residue is powdered sugar, flour or another harmless substance. If you see it more than once, especially in an unlikely place (like on a magazine under the bed), it's probably not powdered sugar.
  2. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 2
    Notice if the person sniffs frequently or always has a runny nose. Cocaine is hard on the sinuses, and can cause a perpetual runny nose. Heavy users often sniff as though they have a cold, even if they don't demonstrate other signs of being sick.
    • Touching or wiping the nose frequently is another sign that the person may be a cocaine user.
    • After a prolonged period of heavy use, a cocaine user can experience nosebleeds and internal nose damage.[1]
  3. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 3
    Check for bloodshot eyes. Since it's a powerful stimulant, cocaine causes a person's eyes to look red and bloodshot, just as well as marijuana. See if the person's eyes look red and watery at odd times of the day. Cocaine causes sleep loss, so the person's eyes will look especially red in the morning. [2]
  4. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 4
    See if the person has dilated pupils. Cocaine causes the pupils to look wide and dilated. Notice the person's pupils to see if they look strangely dilated, even in a room that's well lit. Since having dilated pupils makes a person's eyes more sensitive to light, you may see the person wearing sunglasses to protect sensitive eyes.
    • Dilated pupils last only as long as the actual high, so this physical sign is easy to miss.
    • Many other types of drugs also cause dilated pupils. The presence of unnaturally dilated pupils does not necessarily indicate cocaine use.[3]
  5. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 5
    Look for needle marks on the person's body. Serious users sometimes dissolve cocaine and inject it using a needle. Pay attention to the person's hands, forearms, feet and legs, and look for small puncture wounds that indicate a needle was inserted there. If you see tiny "track marks," the person may be using cocaine.
  6. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 6
    Look for drug paraphernalia. Cocaine can be snorted in powder form, smoked as crack cocaine, or directly injected. There are various items involved in its administration that you may find.
    • White powder on mirrors, CD cases or other surfaces.
    • Rolled up dollar bills, pipes, crack spoons, small plastic bags.
    • Lemon juice or vinegar can be mixed with cocaine to produce a more intense rush.
    • Sometimes heroin is taken at the same time as cocaine. This is known as 'speedballing.'[4]

Part 2
Identifying Behavioral Signs

  1. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 7
    See if the person seems unnatural. Cocaine gives users a feeling of euphoria,the person may seem happy for no apparent reason. . Compare the person's behavior to his or her normal state to determine if cocaine or other drug use might be causing the person to act differently.
    • You may also notice the person laughing more often.
    • Sometimes people become abnormally aggressive or impulsive when they're high on cocaine. Hallucinations may also occur.
    • The hyperactivity lasts only as long as the person is high, which can be anywhere between twenty minutes and two hours.
  2. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 8
    Notice if the person keeps leaving the room. Since a cocaine high only lasts a short period of time, it's necessary to use it frequently to maintain a feeling of euphoria. Cocaine users excuse themselves frequently to use more. If the person keeps going to the bathroom every 20 or 30 minutes, this may be a sign he or she is using.
    • Of course, there are many other reasons someone might need to go to the bathroom frequently. Look for other signs that cocaine use might be the reason, such as a sense that the person has something to hide.
    • You may also see the person leave the room with someone else every so often. Watch for furtive glances exchanged between people who may both be using cocaine.
  3. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 9
    See if the person has decrease in appetite. use.[5]
  4. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 10
    Watch for the after-effects. When someone is coming down from a high, especially the day after using a lot of cocaine, he or she may feel lethargic and depressed. See if the person has trouble getting out of bed or demonstrates extreme moodiness the day after you suspect he or she used cocaine. If you notice a pattern of lethargy, it's possible the person is using.
    • In many cases a cocaine user will stay isolated from others after using cocaine. If the person shuts the door to his or her room and won't come out, this could be a sign.
    • Some people use sedatives or alcohol to combat the effects of cocaine and help them fall asleep.
  5. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 11
    Observe long-term changes. Long-term drug users risk becoming increasingly dependent on cocaine. Seeking the next high becomes a priority and other obligations in life may suffer. Look for the following signs that someone is a long-term, heavy user:
    • Repeat users may develop tolerance to the drug and require increasing dosages to get the desired effect. They may be using as frequently as every ten minutes and indulge in week long binges.
    • They may become secretive, unreliable and dishonest. They may exhibit dramatic mood swings, depression, or psychotic behavior, due to the neurological effects of the drug.
    • They may neglect family or work responsibilities, and even personal hygiene. There may be a new group of friends and social contacts who also use cocaine.
  6. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 12
    See if the person has financial problems. Cocaine is a very expensive drug. Heavy users will need a big income in order to keep up the habit. Since work life often suffers, the person's financial situation can quickly become a problem.
    • The person may ask to borrow money, without being explicit about what it will be used for.
    • In extreme cases, an individual may resort to stealing or selling personal possessions to fund a drug habit.

Part 3
Knowing What Steps to Take

  1. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 13
    Speak up about your concerns. It's much better to say something than to stay silent. Tell the person you've noticed he or she is using cocaine and that you're concerned about his or her health and well-being. Say you want to help the person overcome his or her habit or addiction.
    • Don't wait until the person has hit rock bottom. Cocaine is too dangerous for that. Don't allow it to "run its course" or go unchecked.[6]
    • List specific examples to help you "prove" that you know the person has used cocaine. Be prepared for the person to deny using .
  2. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 14
    Get help if the person is your family member. If the person you're worried about is your child or a close family member, make an appointment with a drug counselor to get help right away. Dealing with a potential cocaine addiction is not something you'll be able to handle on your own.[7]
    • Find a counselor who is skilled in dealing with addictive behavior.
    • A family therapist or school counselor could also be helpful.
  3. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 15
    Don't resort to threats and intimidation. Ultimately, the person in question will have to take the initiative to stop. Attempting to control the situation using threats, bribes, and extreme punishments probably won't work. Invading the person's privacy, taking away responsibilities, and arguing with the person while they are high will probably just make things worse.[8]
    • Lay down enforceable consequences (like taking away his or her allowance or driving privileges) but don't make hollow threats you can't enforce.
    • Try to figure out what the underlying problem is. Work with a counselor to determine what's causing this behavior.
  4. Image titled Tell if a Person Is Using Cocaine Step 16
    Avoid blaming yourself. Whether the person you're concerned about is your child or someone else, self-blame is unhelpful. The person's cocaine use is about him or her, not you. You can't control the person's decisions; all you can do is be supportive and encourage him or her to get help.[9] Letting the person take responsibility for his or her behavior is essential when it comes to making a recovery.


  • Recognizing the symptoms of cocaine addiction can be the first step in seeking help. Naturally it can be upsetting, moreover if the user is a loved one. Never stop supporting them and don't lose hope, as there are plenty of treatment options that may help them get clean and sober.


  • A cocaine overdose can cause heart attack or seizures, brain hemorrhage due to increased blood pressure, dangerous rise in body temperature, renal failure, delirium, convulsions and death. Many of these things can even occur after just one use of the drug. A cocaine-induced heart attack or full respiratory failure can occur in a first time user or an addict with an established tolerance.

Article Info

Categories: Recreational Drug Use