Cocaine Side Effects : Short & Long-term Health Problems - Rehab Guide

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine Side Effects

One of the most infamous of drugs, cocaine is sourced from the coca plant and is widely known for its short term high and addiction potential. Despite the drug’s notoriety, cocaine can have serious short-term and long-term effects that can produce enormous damage to the body.  Recreational cocaine use is extremely addictive, and it can have drastic side effects on your health.

Cocaine side effects on the brain

Cocaine is a potent stimulant that directly affects the central nervous system. Cocaine has both euphoric and stimulating properties, much like amphetamines, but they do not last long. There is increased alertness, excitation and a feeling of confidence and well-being.

Both the euphoria and addictive properties come from involving the reward circuits and dopamine systems of the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical in our brains that is released when we experience something pleasurable. In other words, dopamine makes us feel good. The more dopamine in our system, the better we feel. Unfortunately, cocaine disrupts and inhibits the brain’s ability to release dopamine.

As users continue to abuse cocaine, the brain begins to adjust to the unnatural release of dopamine. Over time, heavy users will become increasingly immune to any form of pleasure and will require larger doses to compensate. Brain damage may occur at some point, and the user may no longer be able to experience any form of pleasure without the use of cocaine. Individuals who reach this point often become hopelessly addicted to the drug.

The human brain is made up of white and grey matter with cocaine use primarily affecting the latter. Grey matter is home to the brain’s communicators—neurons. The purpose of the grey matter is to interpret information. As we age into older adulthood, the sections of the brain comprised of grey matter decrease. The reduction of grey matter is connected to cognitive impairments, memory problems, and dementia.

The loss of grey matter is a normal fact of life as we age, but cocaine hastens its decline. The University of Cambridge conducted an interesting study that demonstrated the grey matter loss in the average adult per year compared to that for cocaine users. The researchers believe it indicates that high doses of cocaine kill off brain cells.

Cocaine Side Effects

Age-related grey matter loss in healthy volunteers (right) versus cocaine-addicted volunteers of the same age (left).
Source: Dr Karen Ersche, University of Cambridge

What does cocaine do to your body

On top of potential brain damage, addiction can also lead to physical damage. Coke has the potential to disrupt the body tissues that it comes into contact with which can cause blood vessels to tighten and shrink. As a result, the tissues that rely upon these vital blood vessels may wither and die.

Immediately after cocaine use, users will exhibit the following physical side effects:

  • Increased pulse rate
  • Higher  blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dilated pupils

The dysphoric crash

The euphoric effect is later followed by a dysphoric crash which is a disagreeable feeling of fatigue, depression and anxiety. To avoid this, another dose is usually taken, and the cycle continues until the supply of cocaine is used up.

Short-term cocaine side effects

Many users also have unpleasant experiences along with euphoria. These side effects include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Unpredictable violent/aggressive behaviour
  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced appetite

These experiences can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few hours, depending on the dose and method by which the drug is taken.

Long-term cocaine side effects

Cocaine affects virtually every part of the body, and long-term use can cause a number of issues, ranging from minor irritations to fatal injuries. Long-term snorting of cocaine can result in stomach ulcers or damage to the intestines, but the most common side effects are:

  • Severe depression
  • Irritability
  • Chest congestion
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Memory lapses
  • Chronic cough
  • Violent behaviour
  • Suicide attempts
  • Seizures with loss of consciousness

Withdrawal effects 

Like all stimulants, the longer cocaine is used, the more the user needs to achieve the same level of excitement and euphoria. In the meantime, unpleasant withdrawal effects begin to accumulate. Long-term users say that although the drug no longer produces much of a ‘high’, they still cannot stay away from it. There is a persistent unsettling sense of craving the drug.

Withdrawal of cocaine produces the opposite of the high. After a cocaine binge, the user has feelings of apathy, irritability, depression and disorientation. He or she may sleep for long periods, be lethargic and drowsy ravenously hungry and have vivid dreams. These symptoms usually abate in a few days or weeks. However, like with many drugs, cravings for cocaine may endure for longer periods of time and could develop quickly, years after people have become clean.

Methods of Use: Injecting, Smoking or Snorting

Recreational use of cocaine is usually in one of three ways; snorting cocaine powder, smoking freebase or crack, or by intravenous injection of dissolved powder cocaine. Some users also apply it to the inside of the mouth and other parts of the body.

Side Effects Of Snorting Cocaine

Snorted cocaine is prepared by pouring a small quantity of the powder on a smooth surface such as a mirror. A sharp-edged tool, such as a credit card or razor blade, is used to chop the larger chunks into a fine uniform powder. The powder is then formed into thin lines. The drug is snorted by holding a tube to one nostril and sniffing. Snorted cocaine reaches the brain in one to three minutes and produces a high that lasts for half an hour or so.

Snorting damages the nasal tissues and causes chronic irritation. The tell-tale runny nose of the user is due to the irritation of the mucous membranes lining the nose. Prolonged snorting leads to nasal ulcers and perforated septum. Snorting cocaine can have especially dire consequences as it can lead to lesions, tumours and trauma to the nose, palette, and mouth. Those who swallow cocaine may experience intestinal issues. In severe cases, the intestines can become starved of blood and can potentially bunch up and block flow. They may even grow too thin and weak to function properly and may burst as a result.

Side Effects Of Smoking Cocaine

Smoking cocaine or freebase can cause bleeding in the lungs when the small blood vessels burst. Many cocaine smokers develop a cough and chest pain that worsens with deep breathing. They may cough up phlegm that is black or tinged with blood. Smoking cocaine can risk causing the lungs to fill with fluid from injury to the small vessels lining the air sacs.

Smoking cocaine has the fastest effect producing an effect with 10 seconds and a peak in 3 to 5 minutes which lasts about 15 minutes. Because the high of smoked cocaine is so short and intense, it is especially addictive.

When purchased on the street, the drug is very often diluted or “cut” with any number of other chemicals like detergents, amphetamines and silicon. Those who use this impure cocaine, risk developing addiction and overdosing, as there is usually no way to determine which hazardous ingredients are being ingested.

Intravenous injection 

When the drug is injected, it takes 15 to 30 seconds to produce its effect, which peaks in 3 to 5 minutes. The euphoric feeling can last from 15 to 30 minutes. With chronic injections into the skin, side effects can cause severe vasoconstriction (constricted blood vessels) that may prevent blood from flowing into the tissue, resulting in severe tissue damage.

Cocaine side effects on the body can include severe allergic reactions, and increased risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis, heart infections or sepsis (a blood infection). Since the drug is often ‘cut’ with toxic substances, it can cause abscesses, collapsed veins and even damage to the heart, liver, and brain.

Identifying someone who struggles with cocaine 

Cocaine Side Effects

It can be difficult to identify someone who may be struggling with cocaine dependency. In many cases, family members and friends only discover their loved one is struggling with addiction after they’ve been hospitalised.

Because the drug is a stimulant, users tend to have boundless amounts of energy. They can work faster and harder than everyone around them, and they’re usually very peppy. However, this “peppiness” tends to have a certain unusual edge to it. The person may seem jumpy and a bit manic at times. Try to look out for these signs if you suspect someone of using cocaine.

If you identify any of the following withdrawal symptoms and it’s suddenly replaced by boundless energy, there is a possibility that side effects may be a contributing factor to that person’s behaviour.

Helping a cocaine addict

The first step to helping an addict is to voice your concerns. Let them know you’re worried about them and you’re there to help them. Tell them how their addiction is ruining the relationships around them and driving people away. Offer to help them find the professional help they need to get their lives back on track. Let them know they will always have your support through thick and thin.

If they’re un-receptive to your offers to help them, let them know you will always be there for them and let them have their space. After all, you can only help those who want to help themselves. However, if they wish to receive treatment but don’t know what to do, we will be happy to refer them to one of many qualified clinics that will aid them in overcoming their addiction.

Addiction Treatment and Rehab

There comes a time for a coke addict when the drug stops working – a time when the coke, the other drugs and all the madness become unbearable. By then you just can’t stop, so you keep on using because although it’s killing you, it has become the most important thing in your life. When you observe cocaine side effects & possible signs of cocaine dependency, you should take immediate action to ensure you receive proper treatment. There are many programmes that can help individuals who seek liberation from addiction.

If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine use, we can refer you to a professional clinic that has fully dedicated teams at the ready to provide help and support. These clinics are staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, support workers and therapists.

Services include inpatient programmes that span from short-term to long-term care. Several programmes even provide housing projects that assist in long-term sobriety. There are many highly qualified drug rehab clinics spread across the UK that can help you or a loved one overcome your cocaine dependency. Remember, the first step to overcoming cocaine is the acceptance that you need help.

Breaking free from cocaine addiction is possible

Recovering from cocaine dependency isn’t easy. It takes a strong will and hard work to overcome the addiction. Cocaine can completely overwhelm your ability to think for yourself. It’s a disease that slowly eats away at your will to resist, and eventually, you become a slave to the drug. If you suffer from cocaine use, seek the help you so desperately need before it’s too late.

Contact us by email or phone Rehab Guide now on 02072052845



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