Cocaine is an intense stimulant known for its severely addictive nature. It, and its derivative crack cocaine, has devastated communities for decades, and its use has only recently started to decline. Its main effects include a euphoric rush followed by a period of increased energy and alertness. Depending on the method of intake, the effects can be almost instant and last for a few minutes to an hour. This is generally followed by a crash that can include fatigue and depressed mood.
There are often a set of negative effects that come with cocaine use. These side effects can include:
- Increased body temperature
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
- Muscle twitches
- Erratic behavior
- Anxiety or panic
There have even been rare cases in which first-time cocaine users suffer sudden death due to heart failure or seizures. There’s an especially high risk of dangerous side effects if the drug is taken with other intoxicants such as alcohol. Despite these risks, 14 percent of Americans try cocaine or crack cocaine every year.
Most people, however, will not be bothered by the short-term side effects, which typically fade soon after intake of the drug stops. The real concern is the long-term effects that can plague users after they become addicted to the drug. Cocaine is a powerful substance that can cause significant damage to a lot of different parts of the body.
Serious long-term effects of cocaine include:
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Tears and ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract
- Inflammation of the heart muscle
- Aortic ulcerations
- Chest pains
- Increased risk of stroke
- Bleeding in the brain
- Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease
- Memory impairment
- Cognitive problems
- Impaired motor function
Some of the physical issues like ulcerations and weight loss can be fixed and improved after an individual stops using cocaine, though it may take months to get back to normal. However, there’s evidence that many of the effects on the brain may be permanent if cocaine abuse goes on too long. When repeatedly exposed to a powerful drug like cocaine, the brain attempts to compensate for it by dulling or shutting down the receptors that the drug activates. Once intake of the drug stops, the brain no longer functions normally. Since cocaine activates centers associated with pleasure, people trying to quit cocaine often have a hard time experiencing any kind of pleasure and become very depressed. Some of these individuals never feel the same again.
Others have trouble with simple brain functions, including attention span, impulse control, and decision-making. Fine motor functions may even be impaired and hand tremors may continue to be a problem. This can even progress into Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to these problems, there are negative effects associated with the different types of intake. Cocaine is often snorted or injected, which can lead to the loss of the sense of smell, infection at the injection site, and other short- and long-term issues. The most pressing concern about intravenous drug use is the risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Due to the high number of associated long-term, and even permanent, health issues and the high risk of addiction, any cocaine use is inadvisable. However, those who do use cocaine can get help if addiction is suspected. Recovery is within reach if people take the first step to reach out for that help.