Cocaine is a strong stimulant categorized as a Schedule II controlled substance, commonly abused as a recreational drug. While this infamous substance has been illegal for recreational use for decades, it hasn’t lost too much of its popularity on the illicit market. But do people really know how dangerous this drug is?
Cocaine not only harms the individual physically, but also harms their psychological and neurological health. Not to mention their personal and professional lives. So what are the side effects of cocaine?
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine: Short Term
This stimulant creates an intense but short-lived feeling of euphoria that is often immediately followed by some uncomfortable side-effects. This is typically why people who use the drug experience such intense cravings for more. Ultimately, there is an assortment of short term side effects of cocaine, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Contracted blood vessels
- Increased rate of breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
- Intense euphoria
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Intense drug craving
- Panic and psychosis
- Seizures and sudden death
That last one is especially important because this is something most people fail to realize about cocaine. The reality is, no matter how much of the drug is used or how often, cocaine can cause a stroke, heart attack, seizure or respiratory failure resulting in death with even the first use of a seemingly insignificant amount.
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine: Long Term
Like any other substance put into the body over an extended period of time, a powerful drug like cocaine can cause long term side effects. Some of these long term side effects are directly correlated to the method of use such as:
- Sniffing cocaine can damage tissues in nose, causing the loss of the sense of smell, sniffling, nosebleeds and hoarseness
- Injecting cocaine can cause infectious diseases and abscesses, or allergic reactions and collapsed veins
- Smoking cocaine can cause respiratory failure
Other more general long term side effects of cocaine include:
- Permanent damage to blood vessels
- Weight loss
- Severe tooth decay
- Sexual problems
- Reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women)
- Irritability and mood disturbances
- Increased frequency of risky behavior
- Delirium or psychosis
- Severe depression
- Tolerance and addiction (even after just one use)
- Liver, kidney and lung damage
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine: Health Risks
Cocaine is extremely destructive to the body. Just a few examples of how the side effects of cocaine ravage the body include:
- Heart health
Cocaine can impact you heart health in a number of ways. The drug causes inflammation of the heart muscle, increases heart rate and increases blood pressure while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart. This can lead to heart attack, even in young people without heart disease.
Cocaine can also trigger a deadly abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia.
The most common way cocaine is used is through snorting because the method sends the drug quickest to the brain to be absorbed. But snorting cocaine can cause a variety of serious lung issues, like:
Chronic cocaine users often have shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.
The side effects of cocaine on the brain can constrict blood vessels, resulting in strokes. Again, it can happen with even young people without other risk factors for strokes. Cocaine’s impact on the brain also causes seizures and can lead to bizarre or violent behavior. Chronic users can even experience bleeding inside the brain and swelling of the walls of the cerebral blood vessels.
Some studies have indicated that cocaine use also harms the gray and white matter in the brain, impairing cognitive functioning.
- Lungs and respiratory system
Snorting cocaine damages the nose and sinuses. Regular use can cause nasal perforation. Gastrointestinal tract. Cocaine constricts blood vessels supplying the gut. The resulting oxygen starvation can cause ulcers, or even perforation of the stomach or intestines.
Long term use of cocaine can cause sudden, overwhelming kidney failure through a process called rhabdomyolysis. Cocaine is also nephrotoxic, meaning users will do damage to the kidneys simply by introducing the substance into the body. In people with high blood pressure, regular cocaine use can accelerate the long-term kidney damage caused by high blood pressure.
The metabolite of cocaine called Cocaethylene also damages kidneys.
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine: Withdrawal Symptoms
Common withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Agitation and restless behavior
- Nerve pain
- Muscle aches
- Intense cravings
- Generalized discomfort or uneasiness
- Increased appetite
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Slowing of activity
All of the side effects of cocaine indicate that a safe medical detox supported by experienced professionals in the field of addiction treatment can be a pivotal turning point. While detoxing off of any drug can be a frightening concept for those who do not know what to expect, it often means the difference between a life worth living and suffering from a fatal illness.