Cocaine is a highly addictive recreational drug, and this has got everything to do with the intense high that it produces in its users, almost immediately after exposure to it. Thus, it is no wonder that cocaine is so very widely abused by people of all age groups despite the fact that manufacture, possession, and use of this drug is strictly illegal.
However, most of the addicts spend little or no time considering the many harmful cocaine side effects that repeated exposures to this drug can cause to them in both the short and the long run. Thus, it becomes essential to become more aware regarding all the different effects of cocaine to gain a better perspective regarding their addiction.
The intense kick that cocaine produces in its users is by fudging with their dopamine pathways, which is responsible for the sensation of reward and motivation in humans. Blocking and disrupting its function leads to lack of motivation in the absence of this drug, which is the true reason behind the highly addictive nature of cocaine. Moreover, chronic users face the problem of sensitization which means that they need to take an increasingly higher dosage of cocaine to derive the same level of satisfaction that they used to earlier with a much lower amount. Cocaine harms its users in both the short and long term, and it becomes essential that users learn to identify those cocaine side effects to use a wakeup call for their addiction problem.
Short Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine produces an intense feeling of pleasure, euphoria, and ecstasy, which lasts only as long as the drug remains in the bloodstream in a high enough concentration. However, the truth is that this intense feeling or ‘High’ lasts only for about an hour or so, irrespective of the route of administration of this drug. Moreover, such a high feeling is followed by intense depression, loss of motivation, edginess, and even suicidal tendencies. Thus, the addict feel compelled to opt for binging upon this drug to sustain the feeling of euphoria. This leads to an ever-greater dependence on this drug, and a risk of overdose that can produce serious side effects of cocaine with more dangerous and often fatal consequences.
Among the most common short term effects of cocaine include an increase in the heart rate, and the blood pressure, while also a marked rise in the body temperature. The increase in heart rate is combined with an increased rate of breathing to produce the feeling of fidgetiness and hyperactivity in the cocaine addicts. In addition to this, cocaine causes contraction of the blood vessels and dilation of pupils immediately after exposure to it. Moreover, addicts always run the risk of suffering from convulsions and seizures due to overdose of cocaine that can result in death, even in a single instance.
The feeling of intense euphoria that cocaine causes in its users immediately after its consumption is the reason behind its popularity as a recreational and mood-altering drug. The feeling is caused by the blockage of the dopamine pathways in the brain, which triggers the reward centers and gives rise to the pleasurable sensation. This drug can also produce sensation of tactile hallucination, which tends to give rise to the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin surface. Thus, the immediate effects of cocaine include creation of hallucination, eccentric behavior, and hyperexcitability in its users. However, this behavior is present along with a growing sense of irritability and bizarre behavior in the addicts.
The intense high of snorting, smoking, or injecting cocaine is followed by an even more intense feeling of depression, anxiety, paranoia, and a growing craving for more of this drug. Addicts also tend to forgo their meals and drinks during the high state, and this can lead to malnutrition and dehydration for the chronic users. Moreover, there is a marked loss of appetite and disturbed sleep patterns once the effects of this drug starts to wear off. Users may also develop a feeling of nausea, as well as, fear and psychosis as part of the short term effects of cocaine. Addicts become dependent on this drug for feeling energetic, and become lethargic and short of motivation in its absence. Thus, cocaine causes a whole heap of harmful effects on the health, as well as, the personality of its users over the short term.
Long Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine long term effects for chronic addiction to cocaine can give rise to a wide range of health conditions including those affecting both the mind and the body, to cause severe disruption to their lifestyle and career. Long term effects of cocaine include permanent damage to the different blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs such as the heart and brain. Damage to the blood vessels and other effects of this drug often leads to development of high blood pressure of hypertension. This hypertension is often the cause behind instances of heart attacks and brain strokes in chronic addicts, which often turn out to be fatal. In addition to that, chronic users of cocaine also experiences severe damage to a number of other vital organs such as lungs, liver, and the kidneys.
Cocaine long terms effects result in a lot of harm to a number of other organs depending upon the method that addicts use for taking this drug. Thus, those addicts who prefer to snort cocaine often tend to suffer from destruction of nasal tissues, and perpetually runny noses. Similarly, those users who opt for smoking their cocaine often suffer from respiratory failures. On the other hand, addicts who rub the powder form of cocaine on their gums and teeth often have to deal with severe form of tooth decay. Injecting the drug intravenously is considered the most harmful choice of administration makes the addicts vulnerable to infectious diseases and abscesses because of contaminated syringes, and can lead to transmission of HIV as well. Moreover, chronic addicts often have to suffer from severe bouts of sexual problems, which include reported instances of infertility and loss of sexual appetite in both men and women.
Heavy and prolonged exposure to cocaine increases instances of delirium or psychosis, which makes a person behaviorally unpredictable and increases chances of risky and potentially harmful behaviors. The long term cocaine side effects include development of severe depression in the absence of the drug, with growing dependence on it making the addict desperate enough to resort to any activity to ensure it continued supply. Thus, chronic cocaine users often tend to resort to criminal activities, and even murder to ensure their daily quota of this drug. Growing tolerance to cocaine exacerbates this problem because this means that chronic users require an increasingly high dosage of the drug to elicit the same intensity if euphoria and pleasure than they previously required.
Chronic addiction to cocaine can ruins one’s life through shear depression and loss of motivation, which often borders on making a person suicidal. Moreover, it results in weight loss through malnutrition, and severely disrupts one’s career prospects. Thus, the long term effects of cocaine are disastrous for the chronic users, and its real danger lies in its addictive nature that can entrap a person with a single use.
A study in 1997 in the ‘Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal’ conducted a survey among 158 drug users on the use of ecstasy, cocaine powder, and amphetamines to study the adverse effects of drugs. Results show diverse effects of these different drugs with 30% to 55% reporting at least one severe adverse effect (cocaine 30%). Cocaine users felt several problems including anxiety, depression, mood swings, paranoia, and panic attacks after their cocaine use. They also reported sleep and appetite disturbances as some of their common problems.
A study in 2013 in the ‘Appetite Journal‘ looked to see if cocaine use resulted in appetite suppression. They conducted a cross-sectional case-control comparison among 65 volunteers to justify this characterization. They assessed eating behaviour, dietary intake, and estimation of body composition. Results of the tests showed that cocaine users had reported eating higher levels of dietary fat and carbohydrates, but their fat mass had reduced significantly. More weight gain was then anticipated when cocaine addicts had breaks in their drug use.
Another study in the ‘Journal of Analytical Toxicology’ saw tests on 246 patients with cocaine associated chest pain. Results showed that of the 246 patients with cocaine associated chest pain, 14 had heart attacks, and two deaths occurred.
These studies suggest that cocaine use can bring about or increase the rates of having mental health problems like: anxiety, depression, mood swings, panic attacks, appetite disturbances etc. Lose of appetite was also noticed in both studies indicating that cocaine can suppress the appetite. However, addicts then may experience increased weight gain, once they had breaks in cocaine use, which may be due to hormonal changes that could occur during the use of cocaine. Apart from the increase in mental health problems, cocaine use has also shown a high number of people reporting to hospital with chest pains and heart attacks. So overall, although cocaine use can provide a temporary ‘high’ to an addict, it can also lead to having a whole host of long term health problems, and even early death in some cases.
If any of the above information has encouraged you to stop a drug addiction that you may have, then why not check out some of these quitting tips.
Cocaine and Crack – Book by Krista West – 2008
Adverse effects of stimulant drugs – 1997 – Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal – by Williamson S, Gossop M, Powis B, Griffiths P, Fountain J, Strang J (PubMed)
Eating behavior & body weight in Cocaine dependent men – 2013 – Appetite Journal – by Ersche KD, Stochl J, Woodward JM, Fletcher PC.
Cocaine-associated Chest Pain – 1994 – Academic Emergency Medicine Journal – by Hollander JE, Hoffman RS, Gennis P, Fairweather P, DiSano MJ, Schumb DA, Feldman JA, Fish SS, Dyer S, Wax P