The Health Effects of Cocaine Use

5 Serious Risks Of Cocaine Abuse

The Health Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Cocaine is one of the most common recreationally abused illegal drugs in the country. Many people do not realize the dangers associated with cocaine use.

1. Death Associated With Cocaine Abuse

Stimulating the CNS with a drug cocaine results in significant stress to the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system. Too much cocaine, either at once or over time, can result in cardiac arrest, heart attacks or failure, strokes, or seizures. All of which can result in death.

Additionally, cocaine is often cut with different substances that are widely unknown to the person abusing the drug. If an individual is allergic to a substance that has been added to cocaine, it could cause a deadly allergic reaction.

People abusing cocaine may make poor decisions that put themselves or others in danger. Hazardous situations that would be otherwise avoided can result in physical harm to the person, including death.

2. Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine activates dopamine pathways in the brain, often referred to as the “pleasure center”. Repeated activation of these pathways results in a rewiring of the brain that becomes dependent on cocaine.

Once dependent on cocaine, a person will feel compulsions to use more cocaine in order to feel the same level of excitement, and the brain will require cocaine in order to feel happy.

The cycle of addiction is dangerous and often needs rehab to address the nature of addiction and achieve sobriety.

3. Cocaine And Mental Health Issues

There is a strong connection between mental health issues and cocaine abuse. Individuals who are addicted to cocaine are continually activating dopamine in their brain, resulting in feelings of euphoria, self-confidence, alertness, and overall positive emotions.

Continued cocaine abuse can cause intense symptoms of mental health disorders, such as delusions, paranoia, anxiety, and anhedonia.

A person addicted to cocaine is at risk for severe depression if they stop taking cocaine. Some medical professionals believe the severity of depression is directly related to the level of cocaine addiction a person is experiencing. Cocaine is involved in a high number of suicides.

People seeking treatment for cocaine addiction commonly end up also receiving treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, delusion disorders, and symptoms of paranoia.

It is not well understood if cocaine exacerbates pre-existing mental health issues, or a person addicted to cocaine develops these mental health problems as a result of cocaine abuse. Regardless of cause or effect, cocaine has been connected with mental health diagnoses.

4. Cocaine And Health Problems

Cocaine abuse has several varying, unwanted side effects. When cutting with adulterants, cocaine can cause additional health risks.

Mixing cocaine with other drugs or medications can also result in a number of unwanted and dangerous side effects. Some drugs commonly mixed with cocaine include:

  • marijuana
  • benzos (Xanax, Ativan)
  • alcohol
  • ADHD medications (Adderall, Ritalin)
  • erectile dysfunction medication (Viagra, Cialis)
  • beta-blockers (Lopressor, Sectral)

Long-term cocaine abuse can also result in a number of health problems, due to the drug itself or the method of ingestion. For example, inhaling or smoking cocaine in different forms can lead to lung and breathing issues. Some other health risks include:

  • infections at injection sites
  • infectious diseases HIV or hepatitis from sharing needles
  • deviated septum and other nasal issues from snorting cocaine
  • damage to blood vessels
  • digestive tract damage
  • cardiovascular issues
  • ischemic colitis
  • brain damage or impairment from overstimulation

5. Cost Of Cocaine

While it is true that cocaine is an expensive drug, with costs averaging approximately $100 per gram, cocaine can cost a person much more than money.

Individuals have reported spending entire savings on cocaine, meanwhile losing jobs, friends, and family along the way. Cocaine addiction can result in a person abandoning responsibilities and obligations in order to continue to use cocaine.

The spiral into cocaine addiction can also lead to run-ins with the law, criminal convictions, and fines associated with being caught with cocaine. The costs of cocaine addiction can devastate an individual and their close family and friends.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

When a person is seeking treatment for cocaine addiction, they most often start with a detox facility. These locations can help a person taper off the cocaine, or provide alternative medications to ease the discomfort of withdrawal.

Once detox is complete, an inpatient rehabilitation program is encouraged. During that time, an individual will explore the reasons for addiction, as well as ways to maintain and continue sobriety.

Contact us today so we can help find the path best designed for you or your loved one. Sobriety is achievable, and we can help.


The Dangers of Casual Cocaine Use

The Health Effects of Cocaine Use
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Is there really such a thing as casual cocaine use? Because of cocaine’s powerful impact on brain functioning, it is highly addictive both psychologically and physiologically.

Young adults who use the drug occasionally with friends may not be aware of the dangers of cocaine, including both short- and long-term effects of cocaine on the body and mind.

So-called casual cocaine use not only has the potential to lead to addiction, but can also be life threatening.

While marijuana and alcohol are more commonly used among young adults, cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction in young adults are steadily trending upward.

Results from the most recent research on nationwide drug trends shows that rates of cocaine use have been increasing among young adults over the past five years.

They are now the highest they have been in a decade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

How Casual Cocaine Use Can Lead to Addiction

Cocaine stimulates a flood of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, creating intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

One of the biggest dangers of cocaine is how easily it can develop into addiction. The drug can change the brain after just one use, catalyzing strong cravings.

Hence, what begins as casual cocaine use can quickly increase to regular usage and then to a substance use disorder.

In addition to its immediate effects, cocaine appears to create long-lasting changes in the structure and function of the brain. Over time, these changes affect gene expression and nerve cell structure.

Moreover, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that weighs risk and makes informed decisions—becomes impaired by ongoing use, further increasing the risk of cocaine addiction in young adults.

As an individual’s tolerance increases and they use more and more of the drug, the effects on the brain also increase.

As Alan I. Leshner, PhD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes the dangers of cocaine when discussing casual cocaine use, “Every drug user starts out as an occasional user, and that initial use is a voluntary and controllable decision.

But as time passes and drug use continues, a person goes from being a voluntary to a compulsive drug user.

This change occurs because over time, use of addictive drugs changes the brain—at times in big, dramatic, toxic ways, at others in more subtle ways, but always in destructive ways that can result in compulsive and even uncontrollable drug use.”

The Rising Rate of Cocaine Abuse Among Young Adults

NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study tracks drug use trends among US adolescents and young adults. The most recent report, published in 2019, found that 6.5 percent of young adults (ages 19–30) used cocaine at least once in the 12 months before the survey. This represents a significant increase from the all-time low of 3.9 percent in 2013.

For ages 21–26, the rate was even higher: 7.5 percent of this age group reported annual use. Men and women used the drug at similar rates: Annual usage rates among college students were 6.1 percent in men and 5.5 percent in women.

Among 23- to 26-year-olds, 10 percent of men and 6 percent of women reported annual use in 2019.

Interestingly, while about 14 percent of young adults reported using cocaine at least once in their life, 25 percent say their friends used the drug.

“This recent continued increase, at least for those in their early to late 20s, suggests a possible resurgence in cocaine use since the relapse that started in the early 1990s,” the report stated.

While rates of cocaine use in young adults are lower than other drugs, such as marijuana, researchers believe that it remains a significant public health issue as a result of the acute medical and psychological effects of cocaine.

40% of young adult say it would be easy for them to access cocaine if they wanted to.

Why Young Adults Engage in Casual Cocaine Use

The psychological effects of cocaine include enhanced feelings of energy and confidence, as well as reduced inhibitions. As a result, young adults who suffer from an anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or low self-esteem may use cocaine as a way to feel more comfortable in social or sexual situations.

Peer pressure plays a role in casual cocaine use as well. The NIDA report found that a high percentage of young people disapprove of cocaine. But in a social situation where others are doing the drug, they may find it hard to refuse.

Moreover, the researchers suggested that generations that are not familiar with the dangers of cocaine abuse—which were widely publicized in the 1980s—are less wary of the drug and thus more prone to experiment with casual cocaine use.

Furthermore, young adults may think they’re “too smart” to develop a dependence on the drug. They may not realize how quickly cocaine acts on the brain’s dopamine receptors, and how the euphoric psychological effects of cocaine “train” the brain’s reward system to crave the drug, leading to cocaine addiction in young adults.

The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse

Even casual cocaine use can be severely detrimental both physically and mentally. In addition, there are both short- and long-term effects of cocaine.

In the short term, cocaine use can have the following effects:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Higher respiration rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Heightened startle reflexes
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, touch, or sound.

The physical and psychological effects of cocaine over time use include:

  • Headaches
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea and abdominal pains
  • Violent or risky sexual behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Intense anxiety or paranoia
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Loss of smell and nosebleeds as a result of snorting cocaine
  • Bowel decay as a result of oral consumption
  • Sudden death, from high doses.

Cocaine addiction in young adults over an extended period of time can result in the following effects of cocaine on the body and mind:

  • Permanent damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain, leading to heart attacks or strokes
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Destruction of the tissues in the nose
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Sexual health issues, such as infertility
  • Mood disturbances
  • Auditory or tactile hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Clinical depression.

When to Seek Help for Cocaine Abuse

There are a number of warning signs indicating that casual cocaine use has progressed to cocaine addiction in young adults. These include physical, behavioral, and psychological effects of cocaine on the body and mind.

Physical signs: Nosebleeds, respiratory issues, changes in eating or sleeping habits, intense cravings for the drug, withdrawal symptoms (such as chills, aches, fatigue, and fever) when not using the drug

Behavioral signs: Financial problems, missing work or school, borrowing or stealing money, losing track of life goals, aggressive or abusive behavior, withdrawal from family and friends

Mental health signs: Personality changes, depression, anxiety, paranoia, mania, delusional thinking

Because the dangers of cocaine are so significant and the withdrawal symptoms from cocaine abuse can be severe, including depression and suicidal ideation, it’s essential to seek professional help in order to safely detox from the drug. Subsequently, treatment can support young adults to understand the mental health issues driving their cocaine abuse, and help them to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Newport Institute’s Approach to Treatment for Cocaine Addiction in Young Adults

Newport Institute’s integrated model of care addresses the underlying causes of cocaine addiction in young adults. other types of substance abuse, cocaine abuse is a manifestation of mental health issues.

Drug use becomes a way for young adults to self-medicate anxiety, childhood trauma, PTSD, depression, or another mental health disorder.

 Once a young adult is no longer physically dependent on the drug, they can begin to explore the root causes of their self-destructive behavior.

Young people who choose to heal with Newport Institute are given individualized treatment plans that incorporate evidence-based clinical and experiential modalities, ranging from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR to yoga and meditation.

With the guidance of compassionate clinical and medical experts who specialize in treating this age group, young adults learn skills for processing emotions and calming the nervous system.

In addition, they build authentic connections with self, peers, mentors, and family, reversing the isolation and loneliness that are so prevalent among this generation.

“In order to achieve sustainable recovery, young people need to understand and address the internal and external conditions that set the stage for drug abuse,” says Newport Executive Director Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD. “Rather than looking at symptoms alone, we guide young adults to dig deeper so they can create the foundation for a thriving, substance-free life.”

Contact us today, to find out how we can help you or your loved one.


Cocaine’s Side Effects, Long-Term Effects & Signs of Addiction

The Health Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that impacts multiple organs in the body, leading to a wide variety of side effects and symptoms. Understanding how cocaine affects a person can help you understand the many risks involved with its use. It can also help you identify signs that a friend or loved one may be using the drug.

Article at a Glance:

  • Cocaine can cause physical signs twitching, dilated pupils, sniffing and a runny nose.
  • Cocaine can cause short-term effects high blood pressure and increased heart rate. These effects can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other medical emergencies.
  • Cocaine can cause long-term damage to the body and mind.

Cocaine Effects on the Body

Because cocaine is a stimulant, it can have a variety of short- and long-term effects on both the body and the mind.

The drug’s short-term effects often start immediately after use and subside within a half-hour. Smoking or injecting cocaine leads to a fast, strong high that lasts for up to ten minutes.

Conversely, snorting cocaine leads to a slower, weaker high that lasts for up to 30 minutes.

Some of the short-term effects of cocaine on the brain include:

  • Alertness
  • Euphoria
  • Energetic feelings
  • Extreme sensitivity to sight, sound and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness

Cocaine’s short-term physical effects on the body include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Large pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches

Some of cocaine’s physical effects can lead to medical emergencies :

  • Heart attack
  • Ruptured arteries
  • Miscarriage
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding in the brain

Cocaine Overdose Signs and Symptoms

Cocaine tolerance develops quickly. When this occurs, a person constantly needs to take larger amounts to feel the same familiar effects. Though no amount of cocaine is “safe” to take, the drug can be more dangerous in larger doses and put you at risk of an overdose.

Regardless, anyone who uses cocaine is at risk for an overdose. An overdose is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. You will not get in trouble for saving someone’s life by seeking medical attention for their overdose.

Symptoms of a cocaine overdose can include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bloody nose
  • Headache
  • Paranoia
  • High body temperature
  • Extreme sweating
  • Severe agitation, restlessness or confusion
  • Itching
  • Vision problems, including blurry vision or complete vision loss
  • Diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Delirium

If you notice one or more signs of a potential overdose, contact 911 immediately.

Long-Term Health Effects of Cocaine Abuse

In addition to short-term health effects, cocaine can also cause long-term health issues. These long-term health concerns can be both physical and psychological in nature.

Long-term physical health effects may include:

  • Permanent blood vessel damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Sexual problems, including infertility in both men and women

Long-term psychological effects may include: 

  • Paranoia
  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Psychosis and hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Confusion and Disorientation

Long-term cocaine use also affects general cognitive abilities, including: 

  • Attention
  • Impulse control
  • Memory
  • Decision-making
  • Motor function

Long-term effects can also vary depending on how the person is abusing cocaine. Snorting, smoking, injecting and taking cocaine orally can all have different long-term consequences.


Over time, snorting cocaine can lead to health problems :

  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Problems with swallowing


Over the long term, chronically smoking cocaine can lead to lung issues :

  • Chronic cough
  • Asthma
  • Problems keeping enough oxygen in your blood
  • Lung infections, such as pneumonia


Over time, injecting cocaine can increase your risk for health concerns :

  • HIV, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases
  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Scarring
  • Collapsed veins

Ingesting Orally

It’s uncommon for cocaine to be used orally because it takes longer to get high via this route. However, oral cocaine use can still cause dangerous, long-term side effects, such as severe bowel decay caused by reduced blood flow to the intestines.

Signs of Cocaine Abuse

The signs of cocaine abuse are similar to the signs of other drug use. The first signs of cocaine abuse may seem minor, but they can escalate as a person’s addiction continues to develop.

Signs that your loved one is abusing cocaine may include:

  • Strange and unusual behavior
  • Keeping secrets or giving suspicious answers to questions
  • Leaving early, showing up late or missing obligations entirely
  • Increased impulsivity
  • Financial troubles
  • White stains on clothes, belongings or skin

Cocaine is not cheap. In order to fund a cocaine habit or addiction, many people must go to extreme lengths to pay for the next binge. This can mean repeatedly asking for money, stealing from friends or family members, taking on extra jobs, taking out loans, selling their possessions or beginning to sell drugs themselves.

It’s not uncommon for people with cocaine addiction to empty their savings accounts or retirement funds to pay for their drug use. As cocaine use progresses, it can result in a series of life-altering outcomes that should be red flags and prompt immediate attention. These include:

  • Quitting or getting kicked school
  • Leaving or getting fired from a job
  • Bankruptcy or serious debt
  • Lost friendships and relationships
  • Trouble with the law

A common thread among those who use cocaine is the unpredictable and extreme changes in mood. A loved one who develops a cocaine addiction can become distant and unrecognizable from the person you used to know. This can make it difficult to address their behavior or confront the situation that’s unfolding. The more these symptoms pile up, though, the more urgent the problem becomes.

If you suspect someone you love is struggling with cocaine use, The Recovery Village is here to help you find the appropriate care for your loved one. Contact us today to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment programs that can work well for your loved one’s needs.

  • Sources
    • Egred, M., Davis, G.K. “Cocaine and the heart.” British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2005. Accessed September 6, 2021.
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” May 2016. Accessed September 6, 2021.
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Health Consequences of Drug Misuse: Mental Health Effects.” June 2020. Accessed September 6, 2021.
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Cocaine DrugFacts.” April 2021. Accessed September 6, 2021.
    • Richards, John R.; Le, Jacqueline K. “Cocaine Toxicity.” StatPearls, July 19, 2021. Accessed September 6, 2021.
    • Cleveland Clinic. “Cocaine (Crack) Addiction.” October 11, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021.
    • Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse.” April 2020. Accessed September 6, 2021.
  • Medical Disclaimer

    The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

    We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

    View our editorial policy or view our research.

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Cocaine | FRANK

The Health Effects of Cocaine Use
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A white powder stimulant that is normally snorted or rubbed into the gums.

Also called:

There are three types of cocaine: coke, crack and freebase.

  • Coke looks a fine white powder
  • Crack looks small lumps or rocks
  • Freebase looks a crystallised powder

Cocaine powder has a bitter ‘chemical’ taste and smell, while crack cocaine can smell burnt plastic or rubber.

Most people snort cocaine – they crush it into a fine powder, divide it into lines and snort it through the nose. This is the most common way to take cocaine.

Snorting cocaine can damage your nose, especially if it’s not been chopped very finely. Some people find that switching between nostrils helps, and some people rinse out their nostrils with water or saline solution after taking it.

By smoking it as crack or freebase

Crack or freebase can be smoked through a glass pipe, tube, plastic bottle or in foil, but this is less common.

By injecting it

Powdered coke and crack can be prepared to make a solution for injecting, which is much more dangerous than snorting or smoking cocaine.

Taking cocaine can make you feel:

  • happy
  • excited
  • wide awake
  • confident
  • on top of your game

It can also:

  • make your heart beat faster
  • raise your body temperature – so you feel hot
  • stop you feeling hungry
  • make you feel sick
  • make you need to poo
  • make you anxious and panicky
  • make you paranoid
  • make you so confident that you do things you wouldn’t normally do (which might be risky)

Cocaine affects people differently, but most users become:

  • chattier
  • more animated
  • more confident

Some people become:

  • overconfident and arrogant
  • agitated
  • restless
  • edgy

Cocaine can increase your sexual desires too, and some people take it to have more intense sex, but taking lots of cocaine can actually reduce your sex drive.

Generally speaking, a user’s sex drive should go back to normal once they stop taking cocaine excessively.

How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.

When snorted, cocaine can take from around 5 to 30 minutes to kick in, whereas the effects of smoking crack are almost instant.

How long it lasts

The initial high from cocaine doesn’t last that long, around 20 to 30 minutes – although this depends on the purity of the cocaine and the person’s tolerance. You might still experience some physical effects after the high has gone, such as a faster heart beat.

The effects of smoking crack are even shorter lasting, around 10 minutes, with the peak lasting for about two minutes after smoking it.

After effects

Some people find that cocaine makes them feel down, anxious and paranoid the next day, or longer.

Cocaine can be detected in a urine test for up to 3 days after snorting it.

How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.

  • Cocaine is risky for anyone with high blood pressure or a heart condition, but even healthy young people can have a fit, heart attack or stroke after using the drug.

  • The risk of overdose increases if you mix cocaine with other drugs or alcohol.

  • Over time, snorting cocaine damages the cartilage in your nose that separates your nostrils. Heavy users can lose this cartilage and end up with one large nostril and a misshapen nose.

  • Taking cocaine when pregnant can damage your baby, cause miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight.

  • Regularly smoking crack can cause breathing problems and pains in the chest.

  • Injecting cocaine can damage veins and cause ulcers and gangrene. Sharing needles or other injecting equipment can spread HIV and hepatitis infections too. It's also easier to overdose from injecting cocaine.

  • Speedballing (injecting a mixture of cocaine and heroin) can have fatal results. A form of heroin called white heroin, is easily mistaken for cocaine and people have died or been hospitalised after snorting it thinking it was cocaine.

Regular use of cocaine can make people feel:

  • depressed
  • run-down
  • anxious
  • paranoid

Cocaine can bring previous mental health problems to the surface too, and if a relative has had mental health problems, there might be an increased risk for you.

Social risks

Frequent users find they begin to crave more of the drug – so it can become an expensive habit to keep up with.

Environmental risks

Cocaine doesn't just damage the people who take it. It wrecks the communities that it's grown in and leads to deforestation. Find out more about how cocaine wrecks communities.

The purity of cocaine goes up and down depending on the market.

A wrap of cocaine powder can be cut with many things, such as sugar or starch, but benzocaine is the most common.

Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic that produces a numbing effect similar to cocaine, but without the cocaine high.

Mixing drugs is always risky but some mixtures are more dangerous than others.

Alcohol and cocaine together can be particularly dangerous, for example. Once they mix together in the body they produce a toxic chemical called cocaethylene.

Cocaethylene stays in the body much longer than cocaine or alcohol alone, and this increases the damage done to the heart and liver.

Yes, cocaine is very addictive. This is because regular use changes the way the brain releases dopamine, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy.

Cocaine is mostly known for causing psychological dependence (addiction), but users can sometimes continue to use cocaine just to overcome the negative after effects of using. This can lead to a binge pattern of use and increase the risk of dependence.

Class: A

  • This is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.

  • Possession can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

  • Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.

If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.


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