Cocaine and Crack Abuse

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

How do health-care professionals diagnose cocaine addiction?

There is no one test that determines that someone has cocaine-use disorder with complete certainty. Therefore, health-care professionals assess for these disorders by thoroughly gathering medical, family, and mental-health information. The practitioner will also either conduct a physical examination or ask that the person's primary-care doctor do so. The physical examination usually includes lab tests to assess the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has a medical problem that includes mental-health symptoms.

In inquiring about mental-health symptoms, mental-health professionals are often trying to find out if the person currently or previously suffered from depressive and/or manic symptoms, as well as whether he or she experiences anxiety, hallucinations, delusions, or some behavioral disorders. Health-care practitioners may provide those they evaluate with a questionnaire or self-test to screen for substance-use disorders. Since some of the symptoms of cocaine-use disorder can also be exhibited in other mental illnesses, the mental-health screening helps assess whether the person has bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or other psychotic disorders, a personality or behavior disorder like narcissistic personality disorder or a behavioral disorder like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Any condition that is associated with sudden changes in behavior, mood, or thinking, like bipolar disorder, a psychotic disorder, borderline personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder (DID), may be particularly difficult to tell apart from some symptoms of cocaine abuse or dependence. To evaluate the person's current emotional state, health-care experts perform a mental-status examination, as well.

In addition to providing care that is appropriate to the condition and to the individual in need of it, assessing for the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur (comorbid/dual diagnosis) with cocaine-use disorder is important in promoting the best possible treatment results. Dual diagnosis of cocaine-abusing or addicted individuals indicates the need for treatment that addresses both disorders in an integrated way by professionals with training and experience with helping this specific group of people.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/25/2016

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