Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Across America, roughly one million people are affected by a diagnosable cocaine problem. Many of these people suffer from a full-blown addiction to the drug. Others suffer from damaging, non-addictive cocaine abuse. In both cases, the end result is a serious decline in the ability to function in everyday life.
Cocaine addiction produces a variety of harmful effects. Even if you don’t become addicted, the drug can negatively affect your health in numerous ways. You can develop problems even after a brief period of cocaine use.
And if you keep using the drug, new, longer-term problems may begin to appear. Some of those short- and long-term effects are emotional or psychological. Others have a significant impact on your physical well-being.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine Effects on the Mind
For new users, the most immediate effect of cocaine use is the powerful form of pleasure called euphoria. This euphoric feeling often motivates people to continue taking the drug. (Euphoria levels fade in longer-term users. If you are addicted, you may eventually get no pleasure at all from taking cocaine.)
Other effects that tend to encourage further cocaine use include:
- A greater sense of energy and drive
- Higher levels of mental alertness
- An increased sense of confidence or self-worth
However, many of the short-term mental effects of cocaine are not nearly as desirable or pleasant. That includes such things as:
- Anxious feelings
- An irritable mood
- A sense of panic
- A paranoid mental state
People who take high doses of the drug may also become aggressive or violent. In addition, they may display other kinds of unexpected or erratic behavior.
Cocaine Effects on the Body
All users of cocaine experience certain short-term physical effects. The main examples of these effects include:
- Pupil dilation
- A spike in normal blood pressure
- A faster heartbeat
- A higher-than-usual body temperature
In addition, you may experience bouts of vertigo, as well as muscle tremors or twitches. You can also develop much more serious health issues. These potential issues include changes in your normal heart rhythm. They also include headaches, stomach pain and nausea.
Short-term use of cocaine can also lead to an overdose. This occurs when the amount of the drug in your body interferes with key organ systems. As a rule, the main impact is on your heart and blood vessels (i.e., your cardiovascular system). Specific issues that may occur include:
- A heart attack
- A stroke
- Cardiac arrest, i.e., complete stoppage of your heart
In addition, some people suffering an overdose experience seizures or lose consciousness and go into a coma. Other possible symptoms of a cocaine overdose include such things as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in your chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Intense feelings of paranoia, anxiety or panic
- Sensory hallucinations
You may also experience something called excited delirium. People affected by this delirium go into a highly agitated state of extreme confusion. Unless the condition is diagnosed and treated, it can progress until you stop breathing. You can easily die from excited delirium.
Cocaine overdoses are especially frightening for a key reason: They don’t depend on the amount of the drug in your system. Some people overdose after taking only small amounts of cocaine. On the other hand, some people don’t overdose after taking amounts that are many times larger.
The method of use also doesn’t necessarily matter. Overdose risks are highest for people who inject the drug. However, significant risks still exist for people who smoke or snort it.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine Effects on the Mind
When you take cocaine over and over for longer spans of time, it begins to change how your brain works. Two changes, in particular, are notable. First, repeated exposure to cocaine will make your brain less sensitive to its euphoric effects. This state is known as tolerance. When you develop tolerance, you will need to take more of the drug before you feel any euphoria.
Simultaneous to growing tolerance is an increased sensitivity to cocaine’s negative mental effects. These effects are the same as those associated with short-term use of the drug. However, they may appear more quickly and take a more severe form.
Negative feelings are especially common in people who go into cocaine withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when your brain doesn’t receive the amount of the drug that it now expects to get. It begins when you stop using cocaine or start taking it in lower amounts.
The problem is made worse by the impact of cocaine tolerance. The following example helps explain this: To offset rising tolerance and re-experience euphoria, you take cocaine in higher amounts.
In turn, this makes you more likely to experience negative mental effects. So, to avoid those effects, you take more cocaine. This vicious cycle describes the dilemma of many people addicted to the drug.
Eventually, some long-term cocaine users develop symptoms of psychosis. This is the same condition that affects people with schizophrenia. It can trigger hallucinations, a delirious mental state and a lost sense of reality.
Separate from any risks for psychosis, impaired mental function is common. This impairment may damage your ability to:
- Control your impulses
- Think clearly
- Pay attention
- Make good decisions
- Remember things
Cocaine Effects on the Body
Some of the long-term physical effects of cocaine are related to the way in which the drug is used. If you inhale cocaine through your nose, possible effects include:
- A recurring runny nose and/or nosebleeds
- Swallowing difficulties
- Damage to your sense of smell
- Chronic sinus inflammation
- A perforated nasal septum
If you inject the drug, the list of potential problems includes:
- Infections in your skin or underlying tissues
- Vein collapse
- Vein scarring
- Increased chances of exposure to bloodborne illnesses like hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS
If smoke cocaine in the form of “crack,” known physical risks include:
- Persistent coughing
- Worsening respiratory symptoms in people with asthma
- Increased odds of developing a lung infection
- A dangerous condition called respiratory distress
If you swallow cocaine, you may severely damage the health of your bowels.
Other potential long-term physical effects are not related to how you take cocaine. The list of these issues includes malnutrition and serious weight loss. It also includes:
- Chest pain that mimics the effects of a heart attack
- Heart muscle inflammation
- A stroke not associated with an overdose
- Diminishing heart function
- A rupture of the aorta, you body’s largest blood vessel
Cocaine and Oral Health
Long-term use of cocaine can also damage your oral health. One possible issue, related to snorting the drug, is a hole in the roof of your mouth. People who rub cocaine on their gums may develop lesions on this tissue. Many people who use cocaine habitually grind their teeth together. This can lead to serious tooth damage. It can also lead to muscle and joint pain in your jaws. Cluster headaches are also possible.
Cocaine and Appearance
Over time, the physical effects of cocaine use can significantly alter your appearance. Some people develop saddle nose, a condition caused by collapse of the nasal bridge between your eyes. Worn-down teeth and gum tissue lesions may also change your outward appearance. In addition, a hole in the roof you mouth can interfere with your normal ability to speak.
The chance of overdosing is ever-present in long-term cocaine users. This is true, in part, because you grow more sensitive to the drug’s toxic effects over time. When you combine that higher sensitivity with higher levels of use, the danger of an overdose becomes clear.
In addition, overdoses remain unpredictable, no matter how much or how little cocaine you take. A dose that you had no problem with yesterday could very well kill you today.
As noted earlier, addicted users can go into withdrawal if they stop using cocaine or decrease their intake. The list of possible cocaine withdrawal symptoms includes:
- A general sense of feeling unwell
- Intense cravings for more of the drug
- Vivid nightmares
- Restlessness and agitation
- A steep drop in your energy levels
Many of these symptoms will disappear if you stop using the drug for a few days or weeks. However, there’s a good chance that your cocaine cravings will persist for months. Feelings of depression may also last for extended amounts of time.
In some cases, they may lead you to think about self-harm or suicide. For these and other reasons, addicted people seeking sobriety should enter a supervised detox program.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Active treatment for cocaine addiction can begin once supervised detox is completed. Several evidence-based forms of therapy have been proven to be effective, including:
- Motivational Incentives
- Contingency Management
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT
- Therapeutic communities
A self-help group like Cocaine Anonymous will add another important resource to your addiction recovery plan.
Get More Information on How Cocaine Addiction Can Affect You
Want to learn more about the many harmful effects of cocaine addiction? A call to the experts at The Discovery House will help you get all the information you need. And if you or your loved one are ready for addiction treatment, we’re also there for you. We combine the very best in modern cocaine rehab with customized plans that treat you as an individual. Call us today or contact us through our convenient online form.