Injecting cocaine is associated with various risks, such as higher rates of addiction and serious health issues like HIV or cardiac problems.

Yes, it is possible to inject cocaine, which is often referred to as “shooting” cocaine. In most cases, however, this is even riskier than snorting or smoking the drug. This article will highlight some of the common side effects and dangers of this shooting cocaine intravenously.

Dangers of Cocaine Cutting Agents

When cocaine is purchased on the black market, it is typically a fine, white powder that people snort. Cocaine is also often cut with other substances, which can range from flour or cornstarch to dangerous chemicals or substances. Drug dealers cut cocaine with these substances in order to increase their profits, since fillers like flour allow them to include less cocaine in each package that is sold. Some dealers will also mix cocaine with heroin, a product which is referred to as a “speedball.”

Cutting agents raise the risk levels of using cocaine, especially when a person injects the drug.

Risks of Addiction

Intravenous cocaine use is dangerous because it’s more likely to lead to addiction, and it can also cause serious physical and behavioral side effects. In fact, researchers have known for years that injecting cocaine is more dangerous than snorting or smoking it. A 1994 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who injected cocaine were more likely to become addicted. They also used the drug more frequently and in larger amounts when compared to people who snorted or smoked cocaine.

See Also: Cocaine side effects

Behavioral Side Effects

Some of the behavioral side effects of shooting up cocaine include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Confusion
  • Depression

Cocaine works on areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling pleasure and reward. In particular, cocaine affects a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Cocaine, whether it’s injected or snorted, increases the availability of this neurotransmitter in the brain. This then stimulates reward activity, which changes brain chemistry and creates an addiction.

Physical Side Effects of Injecting Cocaine

There are also specific physical risks linked to injecting cocaine. Injecting cocaine can cause skin and blood vessel linings to deteriorate. In addition, cocaine purchased on the streets often includes additives. These additives can cause a residue to build up along the blood vessel passages. When this happens, injecting cocaine can lead to eventual cardiac problems. There is also the risk of both bacterial and viral infections when injecting cocaine, as well as the risk of contracting dangerous or deadly diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

To summarize, injecting cocaine is linked to the following physical health risks:

  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of addiction
  • Skin infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Serious diseases like HIV/hepatitis C

Summing up: Dangers of Injecting Cocaine

People often inject cocaine because it delivers the most intense high, but it’s extremely dangerous. In fact, injecting cocaine is arguably the most dangerous way to use this drug.

Cocaine use in any form carries many risks, including paranoia, hallucinations, aggression and sudden cardiac problems. When someone injects cocaine, the dangers increase because they’re more likely to become addicted and face health issues like HIV and other infections.

The high that comes from injecting cocaine may be faster and more powerful than the high from snorting it, but the crash is also more severe and can include symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue and paranoia. It’s never a good idea to use cocaine, but shooting cocaine is even riskier than snorting or smoking the drug.

If you or a loved one live with cocaine addiction or are using cocaine recreationally and want to stop, it’s time to seek professional help. The Recovery Village provides care to those struggling with the use of cocaine and other drugs. Reach out to one of our knowledgeable representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is cocaine?” July 2018. Accessed June 21, 2020.

The University of Arizona. “Chemistry.” Accessed June 21, 2020.

Gossop, Michael; et al. “Cocaine: Patterns of use, route of admin[…]erity of dependence.” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1994. Accessed June 21, 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.