Cocaine is abused by more than 1.5 million people in the United States, making it one of the most popular street drugs in the country.
Despite being illegal since the 1970s, cocaine remains popular for both one-off and long-term use, with many considering cocaine to be relatively harmless and less addictive than other drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine. While cocaine does have a lower addiction profile than some other drugs, its effects and addictive impact are harmful and result in the death, long-term harm, and permanent damage to thousands every year.
If you or a loved one is using cocaine, it’s important to know what cocaine is doing to you. Cocaine impacts every level of your psyche and physical body, and it will have long-term effects that impact you long after you stop using it. As an addictive drug, it can also cause users to become mentally and physically dependent to the point of taking over their lives. Understanding what cocaine does to you is important for your or your loved one’s long-term health and life satisfaction.
Short Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is a stimulant drug, which is snorted, inhaled, or injected to create strong euphoric effects, happiness, and a sense of control or power. Individuals often lose connection with reality, feeling sexually, physically, and personally more powerful and less inhibited. At the same time, individuals experience physical effects including increased heart rate, sweating, increased blood pressure and body temperature, and pupil dilatation. These effects can kick in within seconds and may last as long as 90 minutes. While not harmful for most people in the short-term, cocaine usage can cause reckless behavior, expose individuals to violent crime and trauma, and can cause heart attack or other problems in individuals with a weak heart or cardiovascular system. These effects can result in cocaine overdose and death, especially when mixed with other drugs.
This effect happens as the drug triggers the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine system, commonly known as the reward pathway. Cocaine stimulates dopamine production, triggering the reward system to regulate emotions and motivation in significantly larger doses than it would for something such as eating or exercising. This results in massive changes inside the brain over time.
Long Term Effects of Cocaine
While the short-term effects of cocaine have a relatively low impact on the health of the user, cocaine’s long-term effects are much more significant. Over recurring use, cocaine begins to affect the mind and body in distinctly harmful ways. For example, users may begin to experience hypertension, anxiety, paranoia, and a host of other symptoms. These can be broken down into long-term effects of cocaine on the body and the long-term effects on the mind.
What Does Cocaine Do to Your Body?
While cocaine is sometimes thought of as relatively harmless compared to drugs like heroin, its impacts on the body over the long-term can be significant. Here, route of administration, volume of use, and frequency of use, especially in combination with other substances, will dramatically affect the lasting impact of the drug.
For example, snorting cocaine results in physical problems in the nose and throat, including nosebleeds, hoarseness, chronically inflamed septum, runny nose, and a constant bloody nose. Smoking damages the lungs resulting in cough and potential emphysema.
No matter the route of injection, cocaine causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract through irritation and inflammation and by reducing blood flow to organs. The result is often significant weight loss, an inability to absorb nutrients, and the potential for chronic stomach problems.
Users also very frequently experience cardiovascular problems including an increased risk of stroke, heart inflammation, aortic ruptures, and even an inability of the heart to properly contract. Finally, cocaine impacts the brain, with some users experiencing hemorrhaging and bleeding in the brain.
What Does Cocaine Do to Your Mind?
Cocaine’s effects on the brain are considerable, as it primarily affects neurotransmitters in the brain. Persistent users will quickly develop tolerance for cocaine as the brain adjusts to different levels of dopamine in the reward system. While users have to take more cocaine to create the same results, which often results in addiction, these changes in the brain also impact mental and cognitive functions.
Long-term users experience impairments to attention span, impulse control, reward/punishment control, and even motor control. Users often experience increasing bouts of irritability and agitation, which can lead to anxiety and anxiety disorders, paranoia, panic attacks, and psychosis. In rare cases, psychosis is strong enough to develop into hallucinations.
Addiction and Dependence
Addiction and dependence balance the line between physical and mental side-effects and typically comprise both. Most individuals develop tolerance first, which leads to increasing doses and increasing the frequency of doses. This eventually leads to dependence, where the individual develops withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking cocaine, because the body has adjusted to its presence. If the individual stops using, they experience a crash, emotional blunting, and depression or anxiety as the brain has simply stopped producing enough dopamine on its own.
Dependence can lead to taking more cocaine and more frequently, which can lead to mental dependence and addiction. Here, individuals engage in harmful and recurrent drug use, even when expressing that they have to quit, when their drug use interferes with their lives, and when their drug use actively causes them harm.
If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine use, it’s important to seek out help. No one intends to become addicted to cocaine, but its long-term effects can be tragic. With negative effects on the mind and body, a cocaine user is slowly deteriorating, as their physical health fails, and their mental health follows. The longer you abuse cocaine, the worse and more permanent side-effects like anxiety and panic attacks, gastrointestinal damage, and changes in the brain become.
Getting help means first getting clean through a specialized cocaine detox program. Then to stay clean one should attend therapy and seek out counseling, typically through a licensed drug rehab center, where therapists approach addiction from a holistic approach. Modern cocaine addiction treatment works to tackle every aspect of the addiction, ranging from physical symptoms to mental dependence on the underlying behaviors and triggers behind the addiction.
If you or a person you know has a possible cocaine addiction or some other substance abuse problem, please contact Beginnings Treatment Centers today for an honest talk with one of our experienced and professional team. We can answer any questions you may have with no cost or obligation.