Pediatric Cocaine Abuse Follow-up

Updated: Apr 14, 2016
  • Author: Anthony J Weekes, MD, RDMS, RDCS; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Further Outpatient Care

Close medical follow-up is important for any comorbid conditions (eg, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV counseling and testing).

Refer to a behavioral and developmental pediatric specialist, if available.


Further Inpatient Care

Admit patients who have any of the major toxicologic complications of cocaine use or when inpatient drug counseling is deemed necessary.



Predicting whether a given adolescent will experiment with drugs is difficult, as is determining which individuals who experiment will proceed to abuse or dependence. Parents can lessen the chance of a child or adolescent developing a substance abuse problem by providing positive role modeling, open communication, and education on the nature and dangers of drug use. Children who abuse drugs have increased risk for involvement in crime, violence, and unprotected sex and its attendant consequences. Such involvement negatively impacts not only the individual but also family, friends and acquaintances, and society as a whole. Risk factors for developing a drug problem include the following:

  • Depression

  • Low self-esteem

  • Family history of substance abuse

Early recognition of warning signs and intervention are crucial to avert a serious drug habit. Parents should be made aware that these findings might suggest other problems and indicate the need for referral to a primary care physician and a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Warning signs include the following:

  • School - Drop in performance and/or interest, increase in absences, problems with discipline

  • Social - Change in friendships, fewer prosocial activities, problems with police

  • Emotional - Withdrawal, mood swings, very argumentative behavior, depressed state, low self-esteem, irresponsibility, apathy, poor judgment

  • Physical - Weight loss, fatigue, frequent ailments, glazed/red eyes



Parents should be made aware that early warning signs listed above might suggest other problems. Referral to a primary care physician to exclude medical causes is recommended. A more encompassing evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist is then indicated.


Patient Education

Provide patients with information about the serious dangers cocaine use poses to their health, and present a candid picture of cocaine's effects on their psychosocial functioning.

Discuss the high risk of relapse and the efforts necessary to combat relapse.

Adolescents are more receptive to nonjudgmental discussions. Address an adolescent's sense of immortality by emphasizing the powerful dangers of cocaine and addiction.

Behavioral and developmental pediatric specialists serve an important role in dealing with the volatile and/or difficult to understand child or adolescent.

For excellent patient education resources, see eMedicineHealth's patient education articles Cocaine Abuse, Drug Dependence and Abuse, and Substance Abuse.