The Risks and Dangers of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine-Addiction

Cocaine is one of the most addictive and abused substances in the world. People regularly need addiction treatment for it.

It’s commonly known as a party drug, used by those in the age group between 18 and 25. But cocaine can easily become a dangerous habit, especially if you use crack cocaine.

Cocaine is damaging to your health, causing damage to your nose and even other major bodily systems. In addition, cocaine is also damaging to your mental health and your lifestyle.

If you have a cocaine addiction or you suspect a loved one has a problem, it’s important to know the dangers behind cocaine addiction.

Short-Term Effects

Whether or not a user is addicted to cocaine, they will experience a number of short-term effects. While some of these aren’t inherently dangerous, they can interfere with the user’s life. Here are some examples.

Insomnia

High energy is a symptom of cocaine use. Cocaine causes a rush of dopamine in the central nervous system. This also stops the brain from reabsorbing dopamine.

This causes constant energy and alertness, which also prevents the user from sleeping.

If the user only takes cocaine occasionally, their sleeping pattern will eventually go back to normal. But long-term use can cause a circadian rhythm interruption, making it difficult for the brain and body to relax.

Lack of Appetite

One of the first physical signs of cocaine addiction is severe weight loss. That’s because cocaine causes a lack of appetite. In addition, cocaine also suppresses the body’s ability to store fat.

Increased Heart Rate

Cocaine has several negative effects on the heart, which we will discuss later. One of the cocaine short-term effects is a temporary increase in heart rate.

Cocaine inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine in neurons. This causes exaggerated sympathetic nervous activity. This causes increased heart rate as well as increases the force of the heart muscles as it contracts.

The Health Dangers

As one abuses cocaine, their body will start to react to their addiction. Here are ways cocaine can damage your health.

Nose Problems

Snorting cocaine is the most common way to consume the drug. The drug enters our bloodstream quickly so the user immediately feels a rush of euphoria. They will feel happy alert for a half hour and sometimes even longer.

As one abuses cocaine, their nose will start to endure the damage of the drug. It’s normal to experience short-term side effects such as a runny nose or the sensation that your nose is stuffy and clogged up.

Over time, cocaine causes long-term damage to the nose. Users can experience frequent nosebleeds and even loss of smell. Some may also suffer from cartilage damage in the nose. This can lead to nose deformities.

Brain Damage

Over time, cocaine disrupts our brain’s natural production of dopamine. This leads to the user feeling depressed (we will discuss mental health later on).

One study found cocaine users lose grey matter in the brain quicker than those who don’t abuse cocaine. Gray matter reduction can result in cognitive ability changes, memory problems, and dementia.

Cocaine could also cause brain cells to cannibalize themselves. A study did tests on mice and found cocaine causes a process called autophagy in the neurons, meaning the cells were eating themselves from the inside out.

While autophagy is typically beneficial, cocaine-induced autophagy causes brain cells to throw away vital cell components such as the mitochondria.

Lung Damage

Users can also develop an addiction to crack cocaine, which is the free base form of cocaine hydrochloride. It’s said to be more addictive than even traditional powder cocaine.

Crack cocaine is typically smoked and can cause severe lung damage.

The lung damage is not only due to the drug itself but also to the toxic ingredients combined with the cocaine. When heated, crack cocaine produces toxic fumes that the user inhales.

It’s common for users to experience what’s called “crack lung.” The user will suffer from symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Long-term effects of crack lung can cause respiratory failure, acute pulmonary disease, as well as other lung-associated ailments.

Blood Vessel, Vein, and Artery Damage

Cocaine users risk developing vascular disease, which is an abnormal condition of the blood vessels.

Cocaine can also damage the veins and arteries. Short-term effects can cause migraine headaches, such blood flow to the brain is restricted. With long-term use, the user risks developing blood clots. This can lead to a seizure.

Heart Damage

One of the most severe physical effects of cocaine abuse is heart damage. Many cocaine users don’t realize they developed a heart problem as a result of drug usage; some of these ailments show no symptoms.

One in five cocaine users has a condition called myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Myocarditis can cause short-term effects such as chest pain and severe problems such as heart failure.

This ailment can also trigger heart attacks. One-quarter of non-fatal heart attacks from patients less than 45 years old are cocaine users.

Death

The biggest risk a cocaine addict faces is death. Many of the ailments caused by cocaine are fatal. Some also increase the user’s risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.

In addition, the user also risks overdose. Since cocaine is a stimulant, it can cause irregular heartbeats which can turn fatal.

Mental Health Issues

As mentioned previously, cocaine causes changes to the brain and increases in neurotransmitters and other chemicals.

This is why cocaine users experience intense euphoria and energy. Unfortunately, long-term use interferes with the way your brain naturally produces these chemicals, resulting in mental health issues. Here are a few to be mindful of.

Depression

To understand why cocaine causes depression, we must understand its effects on dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which transports information between neurons. It’s a part of our brain’s reward system, which is why users feel the rush of euphoria when using cocaine.

Cocaine is said to kill off vital brain cells and neurons that induce happiness. This makes it difficult to experience euphoria without cocaine.

As one abuses cocaine, they develop a tolerance to it. The dopamine levels don’t increase as much as they previously did, causing the user to take more cocaine.

In addition, the “come down” is also more severe. This is because the body doesn’t naturally produce dopamine the same way it used to. This causes the user to abuse cocaine more frequently to feel that same rush of euphoria.

Without cocaine, the user can experience severe depression. This commonly occurs during cocaine withdrawal, though the depression can linger. If depression is severe, it can lead to suicide.

Anxiety

On the other hand, long-term cocaine effects can also cause anxiety.

Cocaine affects the production of many neurotransmitters, one of which is norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is associated with our fight-or-flight response, a response activated by stress and anxiety.

Users can experience anxiety during their “high” because of the intense increase of fight-or-flight neurotransmitters. Anxiety is also a common side effect during withdrawal.

After the cocaine effects wear off, your brain is trying to recover. This can shock your brain and your body, causing added anxiety.

Long-term cocaine use also causes side effects that fall in-line with anxiety side effects. Examples include insomnia. It’s also common to experience severe effects such as delusions and paranoia.

Lifestyle Effects

Cocaine not only affects us on a physical and mental level but cocaine addiction also interferes with our daily lives. Here’s how one’s life changes when they develop a cocaine addiction.

Relationship Changes

Cocaine addiction causes a myriad of problems in all relationships — family, romantic relationships, and friends alike.

Cocaine interferes with social health. The addict becomes dependent on the drug and will often withdraw from social situations. Addicts also withdraw as an attempt to hide their addiction.

In addition, they will start spending more time with other addicts rather than those who don’t use the substance.

This can put a strain on loved ones, especially family.

It also becomes more difficult for cocaine users to maintain healthy and rewarding relationships. Since cocaine interferes with their mental health, cocaine addicts don’t find pleasure in being around loved ones.

The many behavior changes that cocaine addiction causes can also interfere with healthy relationships. The addict may become agitated and angry, putting further strain on relationships.

Money

A gram of cocaine costs $60 on average. Addicts with a high tolerance will need to ingest multiple grams daily, resulting in spending thousands a week on cocaine.

This is where functioning addicts come in. Many cocaine addicts are able to hold down a job while suffering from addiction. Unfortunately, most of the money they earn goes toward cocaine.

What about addicts who can’t hold down a job? If they don’t have the money on-hand, they usually resort to stealing. Many of these addicts end up homeless and starving because they can’t afford a home or food.

Arrest

Cocaine is an illegal substance. That means you risk arrest for using cocaine. Keep in mind, your sentencing and the amount of arrest time depends on how much you’re possessing and if you have a past criminal history.

Sentencing is heightened for those who are selling or transporting the drug.

Why Cocaine Is Addictive

If cocaine and crack cocaine are such dangerous substances, why do people continue to abuse them? That’s because cocaine is one of the most addictive substances in the world.

When cocaine enters the users’ bloodstream, the user feels a rush of euphoria, unlike anything they’ve ever felt before.

As the user continues abusing cocaine, they develop a tolerance and it becomes difficult to achieve that euphoria.

This causes them to not only continue using cocaine but they also use the substance in higher quantities.

This is when cocaine addiction occurs and the user risks developing detrimental effects on their mental and physical health. This is also when lifestyle changes start occurring.

In addition, the body becomes dependent on cocaine; for example, the brain will stop producing dopamine on its own since it’s used to the high dopamine increase caused by the cocaine.

The brain signals the need for cocaine in order to produce dopamine, which is why cocaine is also addictive on a physical level.

About Cocaine Addiction Rehab

Are you or a loved one addicted to cocaine? Don’t worry, there are treatment options available. It’s recommended you start treatment to prevent any of these harmful effects.

You have a wide selection of treatment program options, each with the same end goal — to treat cocaine addiction and ensure the addict recovers from any withdrawal symptoms.

Most addicts take advantage of residential treatment, which is when you temporarily live at the facility. The individual has access to health providers who can monitor and treat their withdrawal symptoms.

Residential treatments also offer counseling.

Counseling helps treat any of the mental effects of cocaine addiction, can identify triggers that caused cocaine use, and counseling can also help ensure the individual doesn’t take to cocaine abuse again.

Treat Your Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction comes with many dangerous side effects. The user will first experience short-term effects.

As the user continues their habit, a variety of harmful mental and physical side effects occur. Death is the most detrimental effect. In addition, the user will also endure some serious lifestyle changes.

Are you ready to treat your cocaine addiction? Our facility is based in Stuart, Florida. Learn more about us here or call (877) 978-3125 and how we can help.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5757372/ 

 

 

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.