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Cocaine is a potent stimulant derived from the South American coca plant.

With almost 2 million current cocaine users in the United States, what causes so many people to use such a demonstrably dangerous substance?

Well, this is largely due to the powerful but fleeting high cocaine delivers. Users feel a strong desire to recreate this sensation, leading to a pattern of abuse.

Before we outline what to expect from a cocaine high, some basics about South America’s most infamous export.

Cocaine 101

Pure cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant indigenous to South America.

The vast bulk of cocaine is produced in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. The drug is manufactured in clandestine labs in these source countries. Drug cartels then send ton after ton of this powder through South and Central America and into Mexico. From here, the cocaine makes its way into the US and onward to other markets worldwide. Global demand for cocaine is insatiable.

In the United States, the medical community started utilizing cocaine as a local anesthetic back in the late nineteenth century.

The drug emerged fully on the recreational market by the 1960s. By 1970, the DEA placed cocaine under Schedule II of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).      

Cocaine had a reputation as a drug for the rich and famous through the 1980s until the crack epidemic ravaged the US and changed the landscape of cocaine use at the same time. Suddenly, $10 rocks of crack made cocaine accessible to anyone, filling inner cities housing projects with addicts, and filling prisons with drug offenders.

So, what causes so many people to dabble with cocaine when abusing the drug is so dangerous? The nature of the cocaine high is what causes users to abuse the drug, chasing something that is never delivered.

What Is The Cocaine High?

For most cocaine users, the high is the driver for using the drug. Whether you’re a first-time user, a habitual user or you’re in the early phase of cocaine addiction, cocaine use hinges on that soaring high.

When you take cocaine, the substance triggers psychological and physical changes. Some of these changes can be chalked up to the way the drug impacts your brain and CNS (central nervous system). Others changes are the result of personal feelings you bring to the cocaine experience.

Despite commonalities in the way people experience the cocaine high, the effects differ from person to person and are also contingent on the environment and your state of mind.

How Rapidly Does Cocaine Take Effect?

The method of delivery influences the speed of cocaine’s action. The quicker the drug enters your bloodstream, the quicker you’ll feel its effects.

Smoking or injecting cocaine delivers noticeable effects within seconds. When you smoke or ingest the drug, by contrast, it takes from one to three minutes to kick in.

How Long Does the Coke High Last?

As you might expect, the delivery methods that get cocaine into your system quicker also allow the effects to wear off more rapidly.

The effects of snorting or ingesting cocaine last just 15 to 30 minutes. When you smoke or inject cocaine, the effects last no more than 5 or 10 minutes.

Not everyone experiences the same intensity and duration when it comes to the cocaine high. Occasionally, residual effects linger for an hour or two after use.

Other variables that impact the length and duration of cocaine high include:

  • The amount of cocaine you consume
  • Whether you have consumed alcohol or other substances

The backlash comes in the form of a cocaine comedown. Over the following few days, you might feel tired and irritable. Insomnia commonly occurs.

We’ll look next at the main psychological and physical effects characterizing the cocaine high.

Psychological Effects of the Cocaine High

  • Excessive self-confidence
  • Intense euphoria
  • Increased sociability

Excessive self-confidence

Taking cocaine often bathes users with a false sense of self-confidence. Since this grandiosity is based on no actual accomplishment, it often creates social friction.

As with many aspects of using this drug, when the effects of cocaine wear off, you’ll be left feeling worse about yourself rather than better. This leads to repeated use.

This excessive self-confidence often manifests in reckless behaviors.

Intense euphoria

Perhaps the key draw of cocaine is the extreme sense of euphoria the drug induces. Your brain will be stimulated and rewarded in the same way as if you had accomplished something.

As outlined above, it’s the fleeting nature of this high that leads so many people into the problematic use and abuse of cocaine, desperately attempting to recreate the initial high.

Increased sociability

When you take cocaine, you’ll feel more energetic, and you’ll also feel more sociable. This makes the drug attractive for people with social anxieties, and for those feeling lethargic due to depression.

Users typically become more talkative and more outgoing. This can overspill into hyperactivity and overexcitement at one extreme, and anxiety and paranoia at the other end.

Physical Effects of the Cocaine High

Cocaine delivers a variety of physical effects, including:

  • Overall feeling of stimulation
  • Changes to breathing
  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling very hot or very cold
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chills

How Addictive is Cocaine?

Cocaine has a strong potential for abuse and addiction.

The drug acts as a dopamine/ serotonin/ norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, but what does this mean in plain English? Well, cocaine causes the brain to release so-called feel-good chemicals. Over time and with sustained use, you may find your brain receptors become desensitized as a result of this manufactured dopamine rush.

Cocaine, then, is no different to many drugs. Repeated use can permanently alter the reward circuit in your brain, as well as triggering other structural changes. Users then take more of the drug to achieve the same effects and to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Fortunately, cocaine use disorder is treatable.

What Comes Next

Although cocaine is strongly addictive, you shouldn’t experience intense physical withdrawal symptoms as you detox.

Here at Landmark Recovery, our treatment programs for cocaine use disorder focus on helping you to break the psychological chains tethering you to this drug. With evidence-based psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), you’ll learn to identify what makes you crave cocaine. You’ll also learn healthier coping skills so you can minimize your chances of relapse.

We’ll help you create the foundation for long-lasting recovery. Call our team of recovery specialists 24/7 at 888-448-0302.

About the Author

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Will has been a copy writer and content creator for Landmark Recovery since 2021. Will specializes in writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective.

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