Users snort the drug as is, sprinkle it over marijuana and smoke it, dissolve it in water and inject it, turn it into crack rock and smoke it in a pipe, and combine its use with every other drug available, including alcohol.Unfortunately, a number of health problems and medical emergencies can result, including:
- Stroke and/or heart attack: Compared to people who have never used cocaine, the risk of stroke and heart attack is much higher among cocaine users. Why? Harder arteries, higher blood pressure, and thicker heart muscle walls as compared to those who have never used the drug may be the reason. In fact, chronic abusers of cocaine were 35 percent more likely to have a hardened aorta and 8mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure as compared to the general, non-cocaine-using public.
- Overdose: Cocaine side effects, especially when combined with other drugs of abuse, can cause seizures, heart failure, respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhage, and/or stroke. There are no medications available to “save” a cocaine user who inadvertently overdoses on the drug. In many cases, overdose can lead to lifelong brain damage and impaired cognitive and/or physical function or death. The risk of overdose is increased by using large amounts of the drug in a short period of time, underlying medical issues, and using other illicit substances at the same time. There has also been some evidence to suggest that injection drug use and smoking cocaine may indicate a higher risk of overdose as compared to snorting the drug.
- Addiction: When a person uses cocaine, it causes the dopamine levels in the central nervous system to rise and stops dopamine from being reabsorbed, creating an excess of this feel-good chemical. This triggers the pleasure and reward system in the brain and is responsible for the high felt by the user. Though this high may only last for 5-30 minutes, depending upon how it is ingested, the feeling can be intensely addictive. Many feel able to take on anything and experience no pain or depression. Unfortunately, use of the drug and repeating this action of dopamine release can lead to long-term changes in the brain. When this happens, the urge to use the drug can increase, making use almost compulsive – one of the signs of an addiction.
- Other medical risks: Smoking cocaine can lead to respiratory issues like coughing, shortness of breath, bleeding in the lungs, and other lung disorders. Snorting the drug can lead to a lost sense of smell, chronic runny nose, chronic nose bleeds, difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness. Injection drug use can increase the chance of contracting a blood-borne disease like hepatitis C and HIV.
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
- Stomach cramping and nausea
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Emotional issues, including anxiety, paranoia, and mood swings
- Even more medical risks: There are physical changes that occur in the brain with long-term cocaine use – including a loss of grey matter, according to one study. In addition, poly-drug use can increase the complications experienced by the user. For example, in one study, 44 percent of young people who took part also abused cocaine – which may contribute to a higher risk of developing a lifelong addiction to any drug.
Treatment for Cocaine Abuse and AddictionIf cocaine use and abuse are becoming a problem for you, treatment can help. Medical detox as well as long-term therapeutic treatment can help you to stop using cocaine – and all substances – safely, while learning how to live a more healthful life. Contact The Recovery Village now for more information.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.