side effects of cocaine abuse

Struggling With Cocaine

That is someone talking about how quickly they felt the change in their life once they started using cocaine. It can happen quickly, not only because cocaine is a very addictive drug, but because the euphoria it creates goes away much faster than some other drugs.

It leaves people wanting more, which can lead to them doing more. What will that do to their lives, though? There are quite a few things to think about when it comes to short- and long-term effects of cocaine.

Short-Term Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine can be a powerful drug for making someone feel energetic and like they can just keep going. It produces euphoria (the “high” feeling) and energy and can make someone feel more alert.

There are four ways someone can take cocaine and each one produces different lengths of effect.

  • Orally: This could be by rubbing it along the gum line or just putting some on or under the tongue. The feeling of euphoria this way typically goes away after 30 minutes.
  • Nasally: By snorting cocaine someone will feel the euphoria and other effects for between 15 and 30 minutes.
  • Intravenously: This is what it’s called when someone injects cocaine into a vein and is one of the fastest ways to produce the euphoria associated with being “high.” Its effects generally only last for around five minutes.
  • Inhalation: Sometimes called “freebasing,” when someone smokes cocaine they could be feeling the effects for between 45 minutes and two hours.

Keep in mind each one of these methods and the length of the effect depends on how much cocaine a person is doing, plus other factors like whether someone has been taking cocaine for a long time.

Cocaine affects the part of our brains where dopamine is produced. Dopamine is a chemical our bodies use as a kind of reward, a way to tell us that something feels good and/or is worth our time.

Rather than dealing with the normal amount of dopamine that is released naturally, in proper doses, a brain under the influence of cocaine is essentially overloaded with dopamine. The euphoria of the “high” a person is feeling is due to this rush of dopamine.

Cocaine use can lead to incredibly short-term psychological and physiological effects, though. Because the euphoria may only last for 20 or 30 minutes, a cycle develops where someone is almost immediately looking for that feeling of euphoria again.

A study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine published quotes from people who were recovering from cocaine dependency and addiction, and they paint a very vivid picture of how quickly cocaine can become problematic.

One patient, talking about the feelings they went through when their cocaine rush was leaving, said, “I get restless and agitated and keep doing it. I dunno…it’s crazy.” Another said, “It’s the most horrible depression I ever got. The only thing to do is do more coke, but it doesn’t help…”

Two other brain chemicals cocaine affects are norepinephrine and serotonin. Each one is involved in controlling specific parts of our body’s functions, and each one responds in ways that have larger effects on a person’s mind and body.

Norepinephrine is related to controlling our body’s reactions to certain situations that require quick action, like when something dangerous happens near us and we need to react.

Serotonin is related to our sleep patterns, mood, and even whether we’re hungry or not. That means cocaine use can have short-term effects on all of these things. Someone who has just used cocaine may feel an increase in body temperature, their heart rate may go up, and they could even feel violent.

The violence has been shown to have at least some relation to the norepinephrine increase and what is called the “fight or flight” response. The last study referenced showed 55% of patients who use the crack form of cocaine—sometimes called cocaine “base,” which is smoked, hence “freebasing”—and have cocaine-related psychiatric problems can develop violent outbursts.

Long-Term Cocaine Side Effects

Using cocaine regularly can bring many possible changes to the body, but the first and most likely is what happens to a person’s brain. As you read already, cocaine affects how your brain releases dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

The danger of an overloaded “reward” reaction due to dopamine in someone’s brain can lead to long-term side effects like a person experiencing higher levels of stress, and also having an unhealthy and weakened mechanism for dealing with stress.

The National Institutes of Health did a study that showed how certain pathways in our brains are changed from long-term drug use. One reason the higher levels of stress and lower levels of stress tolerance become so dangerous is they often play a role in potential relapses.

That study also found long-term cocaine use can lead a portion of the brain changing, specifically the orbitofrontal cortex. That portion of the brain is related to decision-making and its deterioration might actually make it harder for someone to think about and understand the dangerous side effects and outcomes of relapse/drug use.

When someone uses cocaine regularly they can develop a tolerance, meaning they’ll need more and more cocaine to produce the same effects a smaller amount once did. This is one way dependence might develop, where a person’s body becomes used to the level of dopamine and the “rush” or euphoria cocaine gives, and they rely on it for those reasons.

On the opposite side of that is something called “sensitization,” where even a small amount of cocaine can lead to anxiety or convulsions. Both sensitization and tolerance are generally dangerous because they can be first steps toward accidental overdoses and/or addiction.

Long-term use can also lead to someone bingeing, where they use large amounts in small periods of time. Studies have shown that large doses can actually produce hallucinations, and/or “full-blown psychosis,” which is losing touch with reality and being unaware of what is going on.

Also, each method of consuming cocaine can come with its own long-term effects.

  • Snorting: Can lead to regular nosebleeds, trouble swallowing, and losing the sense of smell
  • Smoking: Lung damage that can lead to trouble breathing, also produce or worsen asthma, and potentially dental problems as well
  • Injecting: Potentially contract HIV or Hepatitis C if using unclean needles, and at risk for having reactions to other substances mixed with cocaine, which could lead to death

There are a lot of long-term side effects from cocaine. Some of the worst include malnourishment brought on by a total loss of appetite, deterioration of the heart and cardiovascular system, and even bleeding in the brain.

Along with those physical side effects, however, there are even more mental side effects that can come with long-term cocaine use. Other studies have shown that patients dependent or addicted to cocaine can suffer from specific cognitive effects.

Long-term cocaine use can lead to having trouble using your hands for what are called “motor tasks,” things like opening doors, picking up objects, and buttoning shirts. Memory loss and trouble with impulse control were also noted, making it harder for some recovering from cocaine use to find comfort while they moved past their substance use.

Getting Help For Your Cocaine Use

If you are already thinking about cocaine addiction treatment, Vertava Health Mississippi has help ready for you. The struggles of getting past an addiction and maintaining long-term recovery can feel impossible to overcome, but that’s why we use evidence-based treatments that are powered by your strength.

Our inpatient program offers medically-supervised detox in a comfortable setting, surrounded by people who care, and are willing to be there for you during your entire stay. We know dealing with cocaine withdrawal is daunting, but we are 100% dedicated to making sure you walk back into your life prepared for how long-term recovery will feel.

It’s not just about how your body will feel, though, it’s about your mind and your emotions. You will leave with a better understanding of yourself, of why you felt certain ways, and how you can go forward with healthy thoughts and behaviors. We use a form of therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to address all of these things, an evidence-based treatment shown to produce fantastic results with managing stress and regulating your emotions, which can help with relapse prevention.

We know you have the strength and the dedication to make your recovery happen. Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if it’s just to ask us questions. Someone is always here and ready to talk, so give us a call at 844-551-7335 and let’s start your recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do The Side Effects Of Cocaine Last?

Short-term side effects can last as long as two hours or as short as two to five minutes. If someone has been doing cocaine for a long period of time, however, the effects can end up lasting for much, much longer. Withdrawal and the urge to do cocaine can end up lasting for seven to eight months. Other physical and psychological effects, if bad enough, can become permanent.

How Do You Get Rid Of Cocaine Side Effects?

It depends on the side effect and how long someone has been doing cocaine. There are some side effects that can become permanent, depending on the severity of the cocaine addiction. When it comes to short-term and long-term side effects that are temporary, there are two main ways: time and treatment. By enrolling in a medically-supervised detox program you can manage the struggle of withdrawal symptoms and do so safely. As for time, severe cocaine addictions will end up producing long-term withdrawal effects for anywhere between five to eight months, generally, including urges to do more cocaine and potentially depression and general sadness.

What Vitamins And Minerals Are Good To Lessen The Side Effects Of Cocaine?

This really depends on someone’s personal situation. If you feel like vitamins and minerals are appropriate and can help you, consult your doctor before taking anything. Consuming any substance without consulting your doctor is very dangerous because there are medications that can interact with each other and cause severe problems. This is particularly important to remember if you are currently enrolled in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) plan or are taking prescribed medications for medically-supervised detox. Starting or stopping medications abruptly or beginning any other regimen, including vitamins and minerals, without consulting a doctor is dangerous.