Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can cause both short-term impact and long-term health effects for its users. In 2021 alone, around 1.7% of the population over twelve reported using cocaine within the past 12 months. That includes around 1.5% of high school seniors. Around 0.5% of the US population over 12 suffers from a cocaine use disorder.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant derived from coco leaves. Usually, cocaine is distributed as a white powder. However, it can also be sold in white or off-white “chunks” that look similar to rocks.
Outside its raw form, cocaine is usually “cut,” or combined, with other substances, including options like table sugar or a local anesthetic. In some cases, cocaine may end up cut with other hard substances, which may increase the dangers associated with use. A common combination is cocaine and heroin which can lead people to an intense substance use disorder.
In addition, cocaine in rock form is considered crack cocaine. People smoke crack to feel a more intense effect from the substance. Crack is highly addictive to people who use it.
What are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine?
People who use cocaine may report several short-term symptoms, including:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Higher energy levels
- Mental alertness
Using larger amounts of cocaine may create several damaging short-term mental and physical effects, including tremors, vertigo, increased blood pressure, paranoia, panic, or anxiety. Users may also suffer from muscle twitches or erratic behavior. In some cases, cocaine users may suffer from an increased risk of violent behavior.
Short-Term Cocaine Withdrawal
With short-term use, cocaine withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, agitation, cravings, and insomnia may appear within hours of the last dose and can last for several days. Professional help and medical detox may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent relapse.
Dangerous Side Effects of Cocaine
In addition to the emotional side effects of cocaine, users may experience a variety of potential health effects. Some patients suffer from immediate heart disturbances, including heart attacks. While rare, death can occur with the first use of cocaine. Other potential dangerous side effects may include:
- Abdominal pain
Patients who combine cocaine with other substances, including alcohol, may have a higher risk of suffering from devastating side effects or death. As with many other addictive substances, there is a risk of a cocaine overdose when abusing the substance. Stimulant drug use can increase a person’s heart rate and disrupt heart rhythm.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine?
As with many drugs, the brain gradually adapts to cocaine use so that the body requires increasing amounts of the substance to create the same neurological effect, or high. In many cases, users will continue to pursue the same high they experienced when they first started using cocaine, which may cause them to develop a higher tolerance and higher risks.
Often, users will go on cocaine intake binges: times when they use cocaine regularly for long periods, often in increasingly higher doses. Binges can increase the negative side effects of cocaine, including a higher risk of panic, paranoia, or psychosis. Binge-using cocaine may also lead to an increased overall risk of overdose.
Long-Term Cocaine Use Dangers
Using cocaine long-term can further increase the risk of several damaging symptoms.
- Decreased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, increasing the risk of ulcers.
- Significant weight loss or malnourishment due to lack of appetite from regular cocaine use.
- Heart damage, including an increased risk of a heart attack. Some users also note increased chest pain which may feel very similar to a heart attack.
- Increased risk of stroke.
- Neurological challenges, including an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
- Decreased attention and memory.
- Decreased impulse inhibition, can lead to a higher risk of dangerous decisions, including decisions like mixing cocaine usage with another drug.
Cocaine users suffer from a high rate of addiction and may have a high risk of going back to use later in life, even if they have successfully abstained for a long period. Because of the high danger of relapse, users may need to work extensively with a rehabilitation center to increase the odds that they will develop successful coping mechanisms that will help them abstain from future cocaine abuse.
Long-Term Cocaine Withdrawal
Long-term cocaine dependence can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, agitation, cravings, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, and seizures which can last for several weeks or even months. Professional help, medication-assisted treatment, and long-term therapy are necessary to manage symptoms and prevent relapse.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
Regular use of cocaine can cause several problems. In many cases, family members may notice increased excitability or considerable mood swings. Patients suffering from cocaine addiction may also notice several other key symptoms.
- Cocaine users may suffer from unexpected weight loss. Often, cocaine use will interfere with overall appetite, increasing the odds that users will lose weight, sometimes rapidly.
- Often, cocaine users will withdraw socially. They may show a lack of interest in the activities that they enjoyed before or the people they used to spend time with. Parents of teens addicted to cocaine, in particular, may notice that the teen shows an increased need for privacy, including considerable separation from friends and loved ones.
- Patients who use cocaine may show several physical symptoms, like dilated pupils, increased nosebleeds, and a regular runny nose.
- Cocaine users may show a higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors, including increased use of other drugs or alcohol or engaging in activities that could potentially increase the risk of physical harm.
- Often, family members will observe changes in sleeping patterns. Cocaine users may suffer from insomnia when using cocaine or may sleep for longer periods when between binges.
Cocaine users, like other drug users, may also have a heavy focus on obtaining more of their preferred drug or making arrangements to get high. They may spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about those activities or planning the next time they will have access to cocaine.
Detox & Inpatient Treatment for Cocaine Abuse
During the detox process, medical supervision and support can go a long way toward helping users move through the detoxification process successfully as well as reducing the discomfort often associated with the detoxification process. Cocaine withdrawal can cause several symptoms, including increased depression, fatigue, lack of pleasure, and anxiety. Supervised detox can help patients through those symptoms.
Following detox, inpatient treatment can help patients immerse in the pursuit of recovery, removing them from their triggers and allowing them to work through the early sobriety process in an isolated environment. That immersion can help improve the odds of positive outcomes. During an inpatient treatment program, patients with severe symptoms can focus on an individualized substance abuse treatment program that will increase the odds of a full recovery.
At Inland Detox, you will find addiction resources and a team of dedicated professionals who will help guide you through the detox or addiction treatment process.