The Effects Of Cocaine Addiction & Abuse On Your Body

What is Cocaine?

The coca plant produces cocaine, a potent stimulant mostly used for recreational purposes. It is most frequently offered as a fine white powder, but it is also occasionally discovered in solution and the smokable “rock” form known as crack cocaine. Coca plants are now grown in many places of the world, even though cocaine manufacture still mostly takes place in Central and South America. Despite being illegal, cocaine is still used worldwide due to the enormous profit margins involved with its supply. Coca trafficking and usage are major global problems that have led to significant instability in many areas.

Find out what impact cocaine can have on your physical and emotional health both immediately and over time. If you get in touch with Compare Rehab UK, you may learn helpful facts about recovery and learn about the assistance and treatments that are offered if you’re battling cocaine abuse or addiction.

The Influence of Ingestion Method on Adverse Effects

The short-term effects of cocaine are influenced by the mechanism by which it is administered:

  • Snorting can prolong the high while having somewhat delayed effects on the body.
  • Smoking or injecting has a quicker impact, with effects beginning in as little as 7 seconds and lasting only 5 to 10 minutes. Shorter-lasting highs typically have stronger side effects that can boost use and desire. This is why, especially when compared to snorting, crack cocaine is so extremely addictive.

Abusing it in combination with a number of other drugs can potentially increase health risks. Combining cocaine and alcohol can be extremely dangerous.

Short-term Effects of Cocaine on the Body

Cocaine can operate relatively quickly, depending on how it is consumed—for example, when it is smoked, snorted, or administered intravenously. Cocaine’s effects on the brain increase dopamine release. Dopamine is a chemical that helps the brain recognise pleasant emotions and “reward” the actions that first generated them. This rise in dopamine partly causes the perceived “high” of cocaine usage and its addictive potential.

Drug abuse sometimes starts because people want to feel more energised and less sleepy, which helps them focus when studying or working hard. It is occasionally used as a weight-loss tool since it reduces hunger. Some individuals use the substance in an erroneous effort to improve performance or achieve some other objective. Both of these possibilities have grim long-term consequences because they could lead to people being dangerously addicted to whatever temporary gains they were initially after.

Coke use can have the following direct physical impacts on the body:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature and heart rate
  • High blood pressure

Constricted blood arteries can cause an obstruction in the body’s blood flow, which can result in stomach pain, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. The risk of a heart attack can also increase due to the elevated heart rate and blood pressure as well as the limited blood flow through the arteries.

In addition to altering behaviour, cocaine usage directly raises dopamine levels in the reward centre of the brain. It can cause someone to become more erratic and violent as well as feel more self-assured and invincible, which might raise the possibility that they will engage in risky behaviour that puts them in danger of harm.

Long-term Effects of Cocaine on the Body

Cocaine abusers who take the drug frequently and for an extended period of time may develop a tolerance to it, requiring more of the drug to produce the same effects. The effects of cocaine on their physical and mental health may worsen if they take it more frequently or at higher doses.

The nose and mouth

The mucous membranes inside the nose are damaged when cocaine is snorted, leading to a dry environment with decreased blood flow. Heavy use can result in a person perforating their septum, which would cause the nasal structure to collapse. This can also cause major damage to the soft tissue and cartilage. The upper dental plate is another area where this might occur.

Cocaine usage can also cause a person to lose their sense of smell, as well as nosebleeds, difficulty swallowing, and general nasal septal irritation.

The heart

Cardiovascular damage: Cocaine and crack cocaine side effects include high blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and vasoconstriction throughout the body and in the brain. This is an indication of the person’s high levels of energy, anxiety, tension, and paranoia. Chronic cocaine and crack cocaine misuse can harm the cardiovascular system in a number of different ways, including:

  • Deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, and stroke are all caused by blood clots
  • Angina, or chest pain caused by constricted blood vessels
  • Myocardial infarction, often known as the loss of heart muscle due to oxygen deprivation brought on by insufficient blood flow
  • Elevated blood pressure that lasts forever
  • Tachycardia
  • Heart rate irregularity or arrhythmia

The most common cause of mortality for cocaine users is heart attacks. According to one study, it causes 25% of fatalities among those aged 18 to 45 who had misused cocaine or crack.

Breathing and respiration

Respiratory issues and pulmonary damage: Snorting cocaine can harm mucous membranes in the throat and upper respiratory system by passing through the nasal cavity, but smoking crack cocaine is more likely to result in severe respiratory issues. The capillaries that deliver oxygen to the rest of the body may be damaged and the alveolar walls of the lungs contract, preventing oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Freebasing cocaine is linked to a number of health problems, including chronic cough, increased risk of infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis, acute respiratory distress, asthma, and pulmonary oedema. Eosinophilic pneumonitis, also known as “crack lung,” can occur in those who abuse crack cocaine on a regular basis.

The following are signs of this condition:

  • Black sputum
  • Cough
  • Diffuse wheezing sounds
  • Pain
  • High white blood cells number
  • Increased body temperature

The brain

Consistent cocaine use can lower the quantity of oxygen the brain receives, which can cause brain damage and raise the risk of aneurysms. Cocaine also causes blood vessels to tighten. In addition, there are risks for strokes, seizures, cerebral atrophy (brain shrinkage), and cerebral vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels in the brain and/or spinal column).

Long-term use can also damage a person’s cognitive abilities, affecting things like their attention span, impulse control, ability to make decisions, and motor skills. In addition to having an adverse effect on one’s mental health, cocaine can age the brain and cause problems with long-term memory.

The digestive system

Damage to the gastrointestinal tract: Over time, various organ systems, including the stomach and intestines, may sustain indirect damage as a result of decreased blood flow throughout the body. The short-term adverse effects of this drug addiction include stomach pain, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. With time, these side effects will grow more severe, indicating necrotic bowel or the death of significant gastrointestinal issues. Due to changes in the pH of the stomach, people who battle cocaine addiction are also more likely to develop ulcers. Additionally, cocaine addiction can cause the large intestine to become inflamed and damaged, which can result in severe digestive issues and even death. This condition is known as ischemic colitis.

Your kidneys and liver

Damage to the liver: Chronic cocaine usage increases the chance of overdose, and cocaine overdose can harm the liver because the body is overloaded with poisons that the liver is unable to remove. There have been cases of acute liver damage leading to death, while most liver damage heals if the person recovers from the overdose or gets help quitting their cocaine addiction. Chronic liver damage is less likely unless the person mixes cocaine and alcohol, which can cause the liver to make cocaethylene, which amplifies alcohol’s depressive effects, increases aggression, pressures the heart, and damages the liver.

Damage to the kidneys: Long-term cocaine use can harm the kidneys in two different ways. First, chronically elevated blood pressure damages the kidneys by cutting off the blood supply. While low oxygen levels and high blood pressure can harm numerous organ systems, the kidneys are particularly vulnerable. Second, chronic cocaine use destroys skeletal muscles (rhabdomyolysis). As these muscles decompose, toxins are released into the body, flooding the liver and kidneys. Rhabdomyolysis has a late-stage complication called kidney failure.

Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases: Drug addiction and intoxication can impair cognition and decision-making, which may result in dangerous sexual behaviour, including exchanging sex for drugs and sharing needles. Because of this, cocaine users are at a high risk of contracting contagious illnesses like HIV and hepatitis C. (HCV). Additionally, because cocaine addiction weakens the immune system, illnesses spread through the body quickly.

The Risk of Cocaine Overdose

Although men are more likely to pass away after ingesting too much of the chemical, anyone might die from it.

Cocaine overdose can lead to:

  • Cardiac and respiratory arrest
  • Stroke
  • Sudden death

Another form of substance abuse occurs when it is combined with other harmful chemicals, such as alcohol or other narcotics. This behaviour increases the risk of an overdose. Heroin and cocaine together can be extremely lethal. This concoction, also referred to as a speedball, poses a significant overdose danger.

The impact of cocaine abuse and addiction on quality of life

The following are some major effects that cocaine abuse and addiction can have on a person’s quality of life, in addition to their physical and mental health:

  • Family issues
  • Academic failing
  • Financial issues
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Decreased occupational performance
  • Unemployment/job loss
  • Problems with the law
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Safety risks by doing things you wouldn’t usually do, like driving while intoxicated or committing theft to get drugs
  • Detachment from important aspects of life
  • Relationships deterioration as a result of the increased emphasis on drug usage
  • Maintaining use despite serious negative effects

Cocaine Addiction Rehab and Recovery

Compare Rehab UK will refer you to the best addiction treatment facilities across the UK. They can offer you professional help and support if you’re trying to get help for cocaine misuse or addiction.

Detoxification programmes can help you rid your body of substances, and residential treatment provides you with the chance to face your addiction and learn new coping skills.

After a residential stay, Compare Rehab UK can help you find secondary addiction therapies, day-care, and outpatient programmes that can serve as a beneficial “step down,” allowing you to start taking on new responsibilities while still receiving support from your professional team. Call us now on 0800 999 1083 for confidential help and to discuss treatment options.

Last Edited: September 14th, 2022
Clinically Reviewed: July 18, 2022
Clinical Reviewer

Michael

BACP accredited psychotherapist with 16 years experience working in mental health specialising in psychodynamic person-centred therapies treating those with a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, OCD and Addiction.