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How Cocaine Affects Your Body

by Landmark Recovery

February 1, 2021
long term methamphetamine use

Though not rising as rapidly as the opioid epidemic, cocaine use remains a significant problem in America.

1.5 million people report using cocaine in the last month with almost 1 million Americans dependent on the drug. 40% of the 1.3 million visits to emergency rooms for drug-related incidents, were due to cocaine use.

Today, we’ll highly explore the short and long-term effects of this drug on the bodies of those who abuse it.

What is Cocaine?

A woman thinking about what cocaine, and its effects are

Coke. Rock. Blow. Crack.

These are just a few of the names for cocaine.

Made from the coca plant that thrives in South America, this drug is illegal in the United States.

It is most commonly used as a fine white powder, but it can also come as a solid rock crystal.

There are a few ways that people can use cocaine, too. Most people snort the powder into their noses while others rub it into their gums. It can be dissolved in water and injected by a needle, too. Rock crystal cocaine is often heated, and users breathe in the smoke to get the effects. This is the most potent form, known as crack.

Like most illicit drugs, it is highly addictive and can cause a lot of health problems for those who use it.

How Does Cocaine Work?

When the user snorts, smokes, or injects the cocaine into their body, the drug floods the body with high levels of dopamine.

Dopamine is the chemical messenger that controls the reward centers in the brain. When a person uses the drug, these reward centers light up and the body experiences brief pleasure.

Cocaine can cause increased energy and make the user more alert, but it can also result in paranoia, irritability, and hypersensitivity to light and sound.

The effects don’t last too long, either. Different methods of using the drug will result in different lengths of time for the high to be experienced.

For those who snort cocaine, the high can last around an hour, while the high experienced by those who inject the drug will begin to fade after just 15 minutes.

Using cocaine can result in many short-term and long-term negative health outcomes for the user.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine use affects the body’s central nervous system which can result in a plethora of side effects that will vary between users.

In the short term, many users report the following side effects:

It can also cause a person to act irrationally or violently.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

With prolonged use, many other problematic effects will present. Some of these long term effects include:

  • Damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure leading to increased risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Infertility
  • Risky Behavior
  • Severe oral decay

How Cocaine Affects The Brain

As cocaine use progresses, using the drug can alter the brain of the user.

The overstimulation of dopamine can ruin the pleasure center of the brain making the user unable to feel happiness or pleasure.

Increases in the body’s sensitivity to stress are common as well. This results in irritability when the drug wears off and can lead to relapse and other bad behavior.

Additionally, cocaine use can cause brain damage by causing blood vessels to bulge, or by causing internal brain bleeds. The drug also greatly increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Mental Effects of Cocaine

Using also places people at higher risk for mental health problems. Some of these problems can include:

Dependence, Addiction and Withdrawal

As a person continues to use cocaine, they will build a tolerance to it. Over time, they will need a higher amount or a much shorter duration between uses to achieve the same high they are accustomed to. This results in dependence upon the drug, and addiction to cocaine.

Withdrawal from cocaine can be an arduous and often painful process. Withdrawal symptoms can include agitation, insomnia, hunger, and intense cravings. Beyond this, people withdrawing  tend to be highly irritable and extremely anxious.

What Comes Next for Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine use results in many negative outcomes that far outweigh any perceived benefits. Every hit increases the risk of addiction and overdose.

Addiction to cocaine or any substance is dangerous for your health and well-being. Treating the disease of addiction requires specialized care, and at Landmark Recovery we have the knowledge and skills necessary.

If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine use, please reach out to us as soon as possible. We are ready to help you heal your addiction and live a healthier life.

Contact us today to learn about the options available to you at Landmark Recovery or call us right now at 888-448-0302.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.