Although cocaine is widely known as a dangerous, potent stimulant – it’s still often used recreationally for its intense euphoric effects.

Cocaine is notorious for its high potential for addiction and the range of physical and psychological effects it can induce. But, amongst these effects is a less well-known symptom of cocaine consumption – and it’s known as cocaine eyes.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about cocaine eyes.


What Are Cocaine Eyes?

Cocaine eyes refers to the notable changes that happen in the appearance of a user’s eyes shortly after consuming cocaine. The most prominent of these changes is pupil dilation.

This is medically known as mydriasis, and it’s where the pupils remain unusually large, even when in bright environments. This reaction results from cocaine’s stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which also triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response.

What this leads to is that cocaine use affects various involuntary body functions – including the size of our pupils.


Do Impacts On the Nervous System Cause Cocaine Eyes?

Yes, the effects of cocaine eyes result from its impact on the central nervous system. In fact, cocaine is a stimulant that mostly affects our central nervous systems.

So, in relation to the eyes, cocaine use can cause pupil dilation (mydriasis), which is a result of the drug’s stimulating effects on the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system is responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response, which includes pupil dilation.

This response enhances the ability to see in low-light conditions. However, in the case of cocaine, it is an unintended side effect of the drug’s broader stimulatory effects on the body.


Key Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use Involving the Eyes

When someone uses cocaine, their eyes can show several clear signs due to the drug’s impact on the nervous system.

Here are some other important things to look out for:

  • Pupil Dilation: Cocaine causes pupils to get much larger. This is more intense and lasts longer than the normal dilation from being in a dark room or feeling excited.
  • Bloodshot Eyes: The eyes might look red. This happens because cocaine makes the blood vessels in the eyes tighten up, causing redness.
  • Rapid Eye Movements: The person’s eyes may move quickly and uncontrollably, a condition known as nystagmus, which shows the drug’s effect on the brain.

These symptoms can appear within minutes and might last up to an hour, matching the time when cocaine is most active in the body. Dilated pupils, however, can last for days in some cases.


Other Physical Signs of Cocaine Use

Cocaine drug abuse affects more than just our eyes. It can cause a broad range of negative consequences on our bodies, that can also serve as indicators of use.

Short-term effects include:

  • A significant increase in heart rate
  • A runny nose
  • Mood swings, which can result in out-of-character behaviours
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating

With prolonged use, individuals might also experience severe weight loss, persistent nosebleeds from snorting, and a marked deterioration in dental health. In severe cases, chronic cocaine users also risk gastrointestinal decay and ulcers due to reduced blood flow.

Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms

Unfortunately, when it comes to cocaine, the psychological and behavioural changes associated with cocaine use are often significant.

Users abusing cocaine typically include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch, and excessive excitability.
  • Talkativeness
  • Social confidence
  • These side effects can quickly turn into:
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Aggression

Long-term cocaine use can lead to profound psychological disturbances, including hallucinations and paranoia.


Health Risks Associated with Cocaine Use

The health risks linked to cocaine use are severe and sometimes fatal. Acute risks include cardiac arrest and seizures due to the intense burden on the cardiovascular system.

Long-term use can lead to chronic ailments such as heart disease, lung and optic nerve damage, and liver failure. Cocaine can also cause lasting changes in the brain, affecting areas responsible for how we make decisions and memory, as well as the way we regulate our emotions. It can also potentially lead to permanent psychological disorders.

Retinal vascular occlusive disease is also a risk caused by chronic cocaine use. It’s a condition in which the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) become blocked or narrowed.

This blockage can happen because cocaine causes the blood vessels to become smaller. When these vessels in the retina are affected, it can lead to a decrease in blood flow.


What to Do if You Recognise Cocaine Pupils in Someone

If you suspect someone is using cocaine, it’s really important that you approach the situation with care and empathy. So, this will mean avoiding confrontational language and instead expressing concern for their well-being.

Encourage them to speak with a health professional and inform them about the various treatment options available, including therapy, medication, and support groups.

It’s important to support their journey to recovery, emphasising that recovery is a personal process and that they don’t have to face it alone.


Reach Out for Support Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction or substance abuse, reach out to us today.

We are able to find comprehensive professional treatment options for managing withdrawal symptoms, and we’ve helped many in achieving lasting recovery with further treatment options to ensure that the psychological aspects of addiction are addressed.

Call us today on 0800 012 6088.


  • [1] The most prominent of these changes is pupil dilation -
  • [2] mydriasis -