Cocaine use is toxic to a person’s kidneys. Find out if cocaine use causes kidney stones and how to identify the signs and symptoms of having kidney stones.

Yes, cocaine can indirectly cause kidney stones because the drug impacts your body’s fluid level. Your kidneys need a specific amount of fluid to function correctly and prevent kidney stones. Cocaine causes the kidneys to work harder, thus increasing the likelihood that kidney stones develop. Additionally, cocaine use is known to be toxic and can affect kidney health in other ways.

Article at a Glance:

Kidney stones are uncomfortable experiences that most people would like to avoid. Cocaine use can increase the chance that kidney stones develop. Consider the following key points regarding cocaine and kidney stones:

Cocaine can indirectly cause kidney stones

Kidneys are the body’s natural filter for toxins

Cocaine dehydrates the body and increases blood pressure

Your kidney must be functioning properly to stop the formation of kidney stones

Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water each day to help prevent kidney stones

Eat a diet low in salt and high in calcium to help prevent kidney stones

How Does Cocaine Cause Kidney Stones?

Cocaine causes kidney stones in two ways:

  1. The first is by increasing how much urine your kidneys produce. This increase is why a person using cocaine urinates more than usual.
  2. Second, cocaine causes your kidneys to release chemical signals that increase your blood pressure. Cocaine does this by tightening your blood vessels, which causes your blood to push harder against your vessels and heart. Your kidneys then have to filter a faster-moving, thicker fluid and are exposed to more harmful toxins in a smaller amount of time.

Ultimately, the two impacts cause both mechanical and chemical damage to your kidneys. Your kidney must be functioning properly to prevent kidney stones, which it can’t with these stressors.

Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

Because of the uncomfortable symptoms of kidney stones, most people are going to want to avoid experiencing them in the first place. The following tips can help people reduce their chance of for developing kidney stones. This advice can be followed by anyone but has been tailored specifically for someone who uses or abuses cocaine.

  1. Drinks lots of water: Drinking water helps dilute your urine and reduce kidney stones. It is also important because cocaine dehydrates those who use it. Try to drink about eight standard 8-ounce cups of water per day (someone might need a lot more if they are using cocaine).
  2. Avoid foods that form kidney stones: Avoid foods high in oxalate. This food group includes beets, french fries, nuts, potato chips, and spinach. Also avoid foods high in phosphates like milk products, beans and nuts.
  3. Eat less salt: A high-salt diet causes more calcium to be filtered through the kidneys. You should limit total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. This amount is hard to visualize, so pay attention to the sodium content of your foods. Since cocaine users eat less food, this advice may not be as applicable.
  4. Get plenty of calcium: Make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. This attention helps ensure that calcium and oxalate stay out of your kidneys and do not form stones. Calcium in your diet binds oxalate in the stomach and intestines before it can get to the kidneys. Eat a diet high in calcium. If this is not feasible, consider calcium supplementation.

What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are common, but it is important to treat them when they happen. Always seek medical assistance if any symptom is severe. Signs of kidney stones include:

  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain while urinating
  • Waves of pain that fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain in the groin and lower abdomen
  • A persistent need to urinate
  • Pink, red or brown urine (this can also be a sign of muscle breakdown by cocaine)
  • Severe pain below the ribs in the side and back
  • Urinating more often than usual
  • Urinating in small amounts

Kidney stones can pass on their own without medical help. However, cocaine use might be causing other damage to the kidneys. So if you experience kidney stones while using cocaine it is important to seek medical help.

About The Kidneys

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are smalls stones that form when calcium and oxalate mix together in your kidneys. Normally there is enough fluid and the correct amount of calcium in your bloodstream that kidney stones are not an issue. However, when these fluid and calcium levels change, kidney stones form.

How do the kidneys work?

Kidneys filter toxins and harmful chemicals out of your blood. Your blood is located in your blood vessels. Since your kidneys are a filter for your blood, the amount of fluid and how fast it moves through your bloodstream impacts how well your kidneys work. Drugs and diseases can impact the kidneys’ health, which is why some people require dialysis to help their body filter out excess salt, liquid and toxins.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for cocaine addiction, we can help. With facilities located across the country, The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment programming tailored to each patient’s unique needs. To take the first step toward recovery, give us a call or contact us online.

a man with a beard wearing glasses and a hoodie.
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
a male in a white lab coat and tie.
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Goel, N. “Cocaine and Kidney Injury: A Kaleidoscope of Pathology.” Clinical Kidney Journal, 2014. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Solan, Matthew. “5 Things That Can Help You Take a Pass o[…]Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, February 2018. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Van der Woude, Fokko J. “Cocaine Use and Kidney Damage.” Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, March 2000. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Watson, Stephanie. “8 Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones.” Healthline, 2017. Accessed August 20, 2020.

Kidney Stone Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, & Prevention.” American Kidney Fund, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2020.

Treatment for Kidney Stones.” The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center, 2017. Accessed August 20, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.