What Are Cocaine Eyes? | Signs & Symptoms | Cocaine Pupils

According to NIH, cocaine abuse among young adults between 18 and 25 years remains relatively high. Many young people are exposing themselves to various risks — including violent behavior, addiction, and health risks. Therefore, identifying early signs of cocaine abuse opens up the door for getting your loved ones the help they need.

For starters, the central nervous system (including the brain and eyes) is directly affected by substance abuse. Cocaine, in particular, has physical effects on the user’s eyes — commonly referred to as cocaine eyes. Here is all the information you need for more insight into cocaine pupils, signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse, and treatment options.

Cocaine Eyes — Everything You Need to Know

Commonly known as cocaine pupils, cocaine eyes refer to the appearance of the pupils after taking cocaine. While some common drugs pinpoint the pupils (makes them appear smaller), cocaine dilates them (makes them appear larger). Because cocaine is a stimulant, it encourages the release of brain chemicals and endorphins in large amounts. The user’s eyes react by enlarging the pupils, thus leading to what is known as cocaine eyes.

When the pupils dilate, they become sensitive to light. Therefore, wearing sunglasses when it isn’t bright can be an indicator of cocaine use. It will help to look out for sunglass use in odd situations.

Apart from pupil enlargement and sensitivity to light, the eyes may also seem bloodshot or red. It is a common phenomenon that occurs with cocaine users due to irritation from cocaine vapors. The expansion of blood vessels in the eyes is also a key contributor to the color change. Finally, you might notice an irregular or unfocused eye movements until the effects of cocaine wear off.

Cocaine Effects on The Eyes

Did you know that cocaine can cause severe damages to vision and eyes? It can also cause long-term effects depending on the route of administration and severity of use. Understanding the main effects of cocaine on the eyes will help get your loved one appropriate help.


Excessive use of cocaine will damage the liver, thus leading to jaundice. The user will experience yellow-colored skin and eyes. Long-term cocaine use, on the other hand, may lead to liver failure. Therefore, it is vital to seek immediate medical help.


Widely referred to as rapid eye motion, nystagmus results in a permanent shift in eye movement. The user experiences uncontrolled eye movements in either one or both eyes. Cocaine causes this disorder by destroying muscles, nerves, and brain tissue associated with eye control.


Cocaine users are more likely to suffer from glaucoma (one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S). Because cocaine affects blood pressure, it leads to a long-term increase in eye-fluid pressure. Therefore, its users are more susceptible to glaucoma.


When smoking cocaine, the vapors and fumes may numb the eye. The blinking reflex gets suppressed, thus drying out the eyes. In the long run, the users will experience damage because the eyes are left exposed to the elements. Foreign particles and vapors can easily scratch the eye surface or kill cells, thus leading to scarring, ulcers, and permanent blurred vision.

Talc Retinopathy

When injecting or snorting cocaine, it is cut with talcum powder. Therefore, it can lead to the buildup of yellow/white crystal deposits in the retina. Note that these blockages often cause serious health problems such as blindness.

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Other Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use

Since cocaine is a stimulant, users may appear as excited, energetic, or talkative. Equally, these individuals are more sexual or social because they are more outgoing. Other symptoms may include delusional thoughts, aggression, and hallucinations. Below is an extensive list of short-term signs and symptoms of using cocaine:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Heart attacks
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms or tremors
  • Raised blood pressure

Long-term cocaine users exhibit symptoms such as agitation, depression, weird cravings, and exhaustion. A deteriorating social life or career is central among the telltale signs that your loved one may be an addict. Other indicators might include burned fingers or lips (for those smoking cocaine) and track marks (for those injecting cocaine).

Treatment Options for Cocaine Addiction

Avoiding permanent eye damage due to cocaine abuse starts with stopping its use. However, it is never as easy as it might seem. Cocaine users need professional treatment and support from their family and friends. Here are some of the treatment and rehab options that can help your loved one deal with cocaine addiction.

Group Therapy

Peer support groups provide a comfortable and safe environment for addicts to share their feelings and thoughts with people who can relate to their struggles. Users get motivation and mutual support in their journey towards stopping cocaine abuse. It is particularly vital for individuals who prefer group settings rather than one-on-one sessions.  

Medical Detoxification

Coping with cocaine withdrawal symptoms can be somewhat tricky without medical supervision. Medical detox is a treatment process that helps take you off cocaine with minimal side effects. It can be performed in different settings, including clinics, outpatient/inpatient facilities, and more.

Behavioral Therapy

An addict’s thoughts and feeling toward cocaine use is crucial in their journey towards sobriety. Behavioral therapy is all about examining and adjusting one’s attitude and feelings towards cocaine. Motivational interviewing, for example, helps patients identify how addiction strains their relationships and hinders them from achieving their goals. According to one study, cognitive behavioral therapy is most effective for substance abuse treatment.

Inpatient/Outpatient Treatment

Round-the-clock treatment in a rehabilitation facility is recommended for long-term users of cocaine. However, you also get the option of structured treatment sessions while living at home. The choice usually comes down to the severity of your case.

Get Professional Help

If you or your loved one has an addiction to cocaine, it’s not the end of the world. However, it is vital to ensure you or your loved ones start the journey towards recovery on the right foot. At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, we are committed to helping you find suitable treatment options that align with your recovery goals and financial situation. Ensure you contact us today to get expert help from a team of specialists in cocaine addiction.

National Institute on Drug Abuse – What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight! 

National Institute on Drug Abuse- How is cocaine addiction treated? 

National Center for Biotechnology Information – The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy