It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. But they can also be the window to spotting a serious problem: Cocaine addiction.

Derived from the Coca plant, cocaine is seen by many as a recreational drug that isn’t addictive. This is a misconception. Cocaine is highly addictive. It is a stimulant that comes in both:

  • powder form (Cocaine), which is usually snorted or rubbed into the gums; and
  • crystallised rock (Crack Cocaine), which is usually smoked or injected.

Cocaine usage is high both in the UK and United States, particularly in the 18-25 years age group, but anyone of any age can fall into substance misuse and this can lead to cocaine addiction. The mental health and physical side effects are serious. Cocaine abuse can cause death through stroke or cardiac arrest as well as long-term physical and mental health problems such as anxiety, fatigue, depression and a general disintegration of career, relationships and finances.

Cocaine affects the nervous system and the brain, which can lead to addiction. People will then take it more often and in higher quantities to either: regain the Dopamine/happy effects that the brain craves, or alleviate the side effects of cocaine withdrawal. This begins the cycle of cocaine addiction which can result in long-term physical and mental health problems.

Spotting the signs of cocaine abuse as early as possible is vital and one of the most obvious and first signals is a phenomenon called Cocaine Eyes.


What Are Cocaine Eyes?

Cocaine abuse has both short-term and long-term effects on the eyes, i.e., the immediate effects of Cocaine on the eyes when it is snorted, and the long-term eye damage that can be caused by Cocaine addiction.

The immediate signs of ‘Cocaine Eyes’

The signs that can be seen immediately after ingesting cocaine are:

  • Pupil dilation (known as cocaine pupil).  Many drugs cause the pupils to shrink but because cocaine is a stimulant, it has the same effect on the brain as the “fight or flight” reaction, which causes the pupils to dilate and look larger than normal. This dilation inhibits the eyes’ ability to filter light exposure and can cause soreness and redness. So, anyone who has smoked or snorted cocaine will become very sensitive to light and may wear sunglasses, even on a dull day or indoors.
  • Bloodshot Eyes. When cocaine is snorted or smoked it causes the blood vessels to restrict and raises blood pressure. This happens in the whole body, but is actually visible in the eyes as they appear red and bloodshot. Again, people will often wear sunglasses to hide bloodshot eyes.
  • Cocaine addiction causes blurred vision, which may present as someone rubbing their eyes or not making focused eye contact. Their eye movements may also become erratic and unfocused.

Spotting any of these symptoms regularly could be a sign of drug addiction and the time to seek help through cocaine rehabilitation.

How Does Cocaine Affect The Eyes In The Longer Term?

Over time cocaine abuse can affect the eyes and cause long-term serious problems, such as:

• Nystagmus: One of the most noticeable effects of long-term use is rapid eye movements known as Nystagmus. Cocaine abuse affects the muscles, nerves and brain signals that control eye movement and this can result in uncontrolled, rapid movements in one or both eyes.

• Cycloplegia: Almost the exact opposite of Nystagmus. Cycloplegia paralyses the ciliary muscle and causes problems with focus and blurred vision which can be another effect of cocaine use.

• Keratitis: Damage to the central nervous system and brain weakens the blinking reflex and this can lead to scratching, and ulcerated eyeballs, causing blurred vision in sustained cocaine abuse. This can also happen if the user rubs their eyes while taking cocaine.

• Yellowed eyes due to Jaundice: Cocaine can damage the liver and cause Jaundice. This makes the skin and eyes look yellow.

• Glaucoma: Cocaine raises blood pressure and this increases the pressure in the eye. This can lead to a serious eye disease called Glaucoma — a major cause of blindness.

• Retinopathy: Cocaine is mixed with other substances such as talc and so when it is snorted or smoked over a longer time, these build up and crystallize in the eyes, particularly the retina. This can cause serious problems with sights such as blurred vision and even blindness.

• Bulging eyes: Longer term, cocaine abuse can cause the eyes to bulge. Known as Exophthalmos, this can affect vision and perception.


What Are The Other Signs And Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction?

The eyes are a key indicator in spotting cocaine addiction, but there are many other signs and symptoms of substance abuse, these include:

• Nausea

• Raised blood pressure

• Loss of appetite

• Agitation or seeming “wired”

• Fast heart rate

• Insomnia

• Fatigue

• Tremors and muscle twitching

• Mental health problems caused by cocaine abuse

• Digestive problems

• Cardiac arrest and stroke

• Behavioural changes


Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction

The effects of cocaine abuse are physical, mental, social and financial and it ruins lives, but drug detox and cocaine rehab produce excellent outcomes. Treatment options and cocaine rehab include:

• Detoxification: The side effects of withdrawal make it difficult to break the cycle of cocaine abuse, but drug detox can help. Medications ease withdrawal symptoms. This usually takes place at a residential cocaine rehab centre.

• Cocaine Rehabilitation: This usually takes place in residential drug rehab facilities to ensure constant support and supervision. It combines cognitive and talking therapies as well as treatment of health and mental health problems associated with cocaine abuse and cocaine detox.

• Group therapy (inpatient drug rehab and outpatient): Talking to people with a shared experience of cocaine addiction provides essential support and motivation. It also plays a vital role in relapse prevention.

Aftercare: Cocaine detox and rehab produce excellent results, but for long-term freedom from substance misuse, aftercare is a necessity. This involves group therapy, behavioural therapy and ongoing support to stay free of cocaine addiction and prevent relapse.


Get Help Today!

Cocaine addiction ruins lives, but the cycle can be broken… today!  At Ocean Recovery we provide expert and individual cocaine detox and residential rehabilitation and aftercare. So, if you or a loved one is struggling with Cocaine addiction, contact us today.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: March 15, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.