Both the long- and short-term effects of cocaine can cause an array of physical and psychological effects.
While some damage triggered by sustained cocaine abuse is reversible, the long-term abuse of cocaine or crack cocaine often leads to irreversible effects.
Like all addictive substances, the best way to avoid the long-term effects of cocaine is not to use the drug at all.
Maybe it’s too late for that, though, and you are already abusing this potent and addictive stimulant. If so, you should consider engaging with formal addiction treatment before you develop an all-consuming cocaine addiction.
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine?
Any type of cocaine use, whether short-term or for extended durations, is associated with a battery of side effects.
Abusing cocaine can lead to serious heart attacks, even in young and otherwise healthy individuals.
Taking large quantities of cocaine is linked to instances of erratic, hostile, and sometimes violent behavior.
The other main side effects of cocaine use are as follows:
- Raised heart rate
- Increased blood pressure levels
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Impaired sexual function
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine
Using cocaine, whether by snorting, smoking, or injecting, leads to the following short-term physical effects:
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling very cold or very hot
- Excessive perspiration
- Changes to breathing
- The feeling of intense stimulation
The effects of cocaine kick in rapidly, even more so when injected or smoked in the form of crack. When you take cocaine, more dopamine is released in your brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) associated with positive mood and rewarding the behaviors leading to those feelings.
The high experienced after using cocaine is accompanied by the following desirable effects:
- Intense feelings of euphoria
- Inflated self-esteem and self-confidence
- Elevated mood
- Increased energy levels
Much like other addictive substances, cocaine use is also associated with a variety of adverse and unwanted short-term side effects, including:
How Long do Effects of Cocaine Last?
If you snort cocaine, the effects last for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. When you smoke or inject cocaine, on the other hand, the effects wear off very quickly, in as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Residual effects may persist for an hour or two.
The amount of cocaine you consume and the addition of any other addictive substances like alcohol will impact the length of the cocaine high you experience.
For several days after using cocaine, you can expect to feel irritable and fatigued. Insomnia is commonplace.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine
Like all forms of substance abuse, abusing cocaine can lead to a range of social, psychological, and financial issues.
Additionally, abusing cocaine long-term will increase your risk of developing certain chronic health conditions.
By engaging with cocaine addiction treatment, you can save yourself a huge amount of money while at the same time preventing irreparable damage to your body and mind.
The long-term abuse of cocaine can impact the following areas of your body:
- Respiratory system
- GI tract
- Immune system
Smoking cocaine can cause acute respiratory problems. Smoking crack causes your lung’s blood vessels to constrict, and this destroys the alveolar walls, reducing the efficiency of oxygen delivery to your bloodstream. This can lead to the following problems:
- Acute respiratory distress
- Pulmonary edema
- Enhanced risk of infections like pneumonia or tuberculosis
- Chronic cough
The chronic abuse of crack cocaine or freebase can lead to the development of crack lung (eosinophilic pneumonitis).
If you use cocaine long-term, this causes a decrease in blood flow throughout your body, indirectly damaging your organs.
The abuse of cocaine leads to a heightened risk of developing an ulcer because of the altered pH levels in the stomach.
Abusing cocaine can also trigger the following:
- Inflammation of the large intestine
- Ischemic colitis
If the large intestine becomes inflamed, this can cause serious digestive problems and can be fatal if untreated.
If you are addicted to cocaine, you will be more likely to contract and transmit infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Cocaine abuse also depresses the immune system, meaning the disease will spread quickly throughout your body.
Research shows that abusing cocaine leads to damage to the nose and mouth.
Snorting cocaine damages the nose’s mucous membranes. The soft tissue is damaged over time and then dies completely. This exposes the septum (the cartilage lining between the nasal cavities). Septal perforation causes the whole structure of the nose to collapse, potentially introducing breathing problems. Plastic surgery may sometimes but not always correct this issue.
Chronic cocaine abuse damages the kidneys in these two ways:
- With your blood pressure permanently increased, the loss in blood flow can trigger kidney damage.
- The skeletal muscles in your kidneys are destroyed. This causes toxins to enter your body, possibly causing kidney failure.
The long-term abuse of cocaine raises your risk of overdosing on cocaine. This often causes liver damage as the body becomes flooded with toxins. This damage is largely reversible if you stop using cocaine.
Mixing cocaine with alcohol can lead to chronic liver damage. Your liver starts to produce cocaethylene, a metabolite formed when cocaine mixes with ethanol (alcohol) in the liver.
Studies show that abusing cocaine causes the following forms of heart damage:
- Irregular heart rate (arrhythmia)
- Chest pain (angina)
- Blood clots triggering pulmonary embolism, stroke, heart attack, or deep vein thrombosis
- Permanently increased blood pressure levels
- Myocardial infarction
Of all those who die after abusing cocaine, the most common cause of death is a heart attack.
Effects of Cocaine on the Brain
Cocaine causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, leading to reduced oxygen flow to the brain and possible long-term brain damage, as well as increasing your risk of an aneurysm.
Abusing either cocaine or crack cocaine long-term can cause the following brain issues:
- Raised risk of dementia
- Shrinking of the brain (cerebral atrophy)
- Mini strokes
- Mood disorders
- Inflammation of blood vessels in the spinal column and brain (cerebral vasculitis)
- High fever (hyperpyrexia)
- Mobility issues due to tremors and muscle weakness
- Altered functioning of the prefrontal lobe and the temporal lobe triggering problems with memory, problem-solving, and decision-making
- Increased risk of developing a mental health disorder
Chronic cocaine abuse causes changes to the structure and the function of your brain, leading to many issues concerning emotional and psychological functioning.
Research indicates that using cocaine long-term can increase the risk of:
- Experiencing psychosis
- Developing depression
- Inflaming existing anxiety issues
- Developing other substance use disorders
Overcome Cocaine Addiction at The District Recovery Center
Even those with severe stimulant disorders like cocaine addiction often find that outpatient treatment offers sufficient support and structure for a full recovery.
Unlike alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder, there are no medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of cocaine use disorder. Fortunately, though, cocaine addiction is primarily psychological, allowing for many evidence-based behavioral interventions to help you overcome your addiction to cocaine.
Here at The District Recovery Center, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of cocaine addiction. We offer programs at all levels of intensity, from a standard outpatient program (OP) through to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or a partial hospitalization program (PHP).
Our gender-specific rehab programs allow you to focus completely on your recovery without the distraction of mixed-sex groups.
If you have cocaine use disorder with a co-occurring mental health condition like depression or anxiety, we can help you attack both issues simultaneously with our dual diagnosis treatment program.
At The District Recovery Center, you can access the following therapies:
- Counseling (individual and group)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Holistic therapies
- Vocational development
- Family therapy
When you complete your cocaine addiction treatment program here at The District, we will ensure you have a robust relapse management strategy and aftercare plan in place so you can embrace sober living, thriving instead of simply surviving. Make this a reality today by reaching out to TDRC at 844.287.8506.