Almost 1.9 million Americans have used cocaine in the last month. Cocaine is one of the most popular drugs available on the street and is associated with the party culture and the ‘high-life.’
But while users get caught up in the short-term buzz around cocaine, they neglect both the long and short-term effects of cocaine on the body and the brain. Let’s take a closer look at how cocaine gets on to the streets and some of the more sinister effects of cocaine use.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is extracted from the leaves of a species of coca plant found in South America. People have chewed on the leaves of the plant for thousands of years due to the stimulating effects. It also suppresses your appetite.
Once the leaves of the coca plant have been harvested, they are soaked in gasoline, along with a cocktail of other chemicals including:
- Caustic soda
- Sulphuric acid
A residue forms, which is then dried until it becomes what we know as pure cocaine. By the time cocaine reaches the consumer, it has usually been cut with other powders to boost profits for the cocaine dealers.
Most of these other powders are relatively harmless, such as caffeine and aspirin. However, potentially harmful substances such as Levamisole and laundry detergent are becoming more commonly used in cutting cocaine.
Cocaine is most commonly snorted, but can also be rubbed into the gums, smoked or dissolved, and injected.
The Short-Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is popular due to its short-term effects. It works by sending huge amounts of dopamine to areas of the brain that control reward and motivation. This results in most users experiencing sensations of:
- Increased alertness
- Numbing of mental and physical pain
This ‘high’ lasts for around 15-30 minutes. As a result, cocaine often accompanies binge drinking and other substances. Cocaine is often used as a ‘pick me up’ while using other drugs.
Aside from the psychological effects that cocaine has on its users, there are also several physical effects of cocaine, including:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
Once the drug wears off, many users report experiencing a crash. As with anything in life, when we experience highs, we increase the contrast between them and our resting state. Higher highs mean lower lows.
Users experiencing a cocaine crash may experience:
- Increase in anxiety and tension
- Mood swings
Short-Term Dangers of Cocaine
One of the biggest risks when using cocaine is not the cocaine itself, but the large number of substances that are often used to cut cocaine. Levamisole, which we mentioned earlier, is used to treat worm infections in livestock.
Some of the effects of taking Levamisole laced cocaine include:
- Agranulocytosis: a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough of a certain type of white blood cell
- Retiform purpura: dark red or purple patches that can lead to necrosis of skin tissue
- Arthralgias: stiffness and pain in the joints
This is not to say that using pure cocaine is free of risks. Using cocaine will constrict the blood vessels, increase heart rate, and heighten blood pressure. This may lead to nausea and stomach aches but can also increase the chance of suffering from a heart attack.
While we most commonly associate an increase in dopamine with feeling good, the sudden change brought on by cocaine use can cause individuals to become erratic and violent. The increased confidence is also more likely to see individuals partake in reckless behaviors.
Other short-term negative effects of cocaine use include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle twitches
Prolonged use of cocaine will cause the brain to adapt to it, meaning that larger amounts will be needed to get the same high from the drug. Larger amounts of cocaine will increase the chance of potential short-term dangers.
The Long-Term Effects of Cocaine
As the brain becomes more adapted to the presence of cocaine, the neural circuits involved in stress also become more sensitive. This increases the number of negative side effects when not using cocaine. These most often present themselves as psychological and physiological changes, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired thinking
- Reduced sexual arousal
- Suicidal tendencies
- Vivid nightmares
- Increased appetite
These withdrawal effects, along with the increased craving for the drug, are what lead to addiction. If you find yourself using cocaine more regularly and the withdrawal effects become increasingly worse, then it might be time to consider treatment for your potential cocaine addiction.
As the dose of cocaine increases, so does the chance of suffering from the toxic effects of cocaine. Ultimately, this can lead to an overdose, as well as put users at a much higher risk of suffering from strokes and seizures. In 2017, almost 14,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose involving cocaine.
Long-Term Physical Effects of Cocaine
Regularly snorting cocaine will damage the mucous membranes inside the nose. Eventually, this can lead to damage to the septum. It is not just a question of the abrasiveness of the drug when it is snorted, but it also reduces blood flow.
The most common side effects indicating that this is happening are:
- Frequent nose bleeds
- Frequent sinus infections
- Runny nose
- Scabbing inside the nose
- Whistling sounds when breathing through the nose
As damage to the nasal structure continues, the areas that run alongside the nose also begin to take a hit. Long-term cocaine use can eventually lead to damage to the hard palate. Eventually, visible holes can begin to form in the top of the mouth.
Regular use of cocaine will also cause damage to the airways as the mucous membranes become damaged. This can lead to lung damage and other respiratory conditions.
Cocaine also damages several other organs in the body. It has a toxic effect on the cardiovascular system and reduces blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to ulcerations and malnourishment.
The Overall Impact of Cocaine
Cocaine is a highly addictive and expensive drug. As well as the physical and physiological side effects of using cocaine, it is also likely to have a detrimental effect on all areas of a user’s life.
When a drug becomes a primary focus for an individual, it is natural for their well-being and social life to suffer as a result. Addiction therapy helps individuals reconnect with what is important to them as they learn to understand and conquer their drug addiction.
The most effective way to reduce the short-term effects of cocaine and beat a cocaine addiction is by entering a drug rehab facility. Healthy Life Recovery treatment center offers a holistic approach to drug recovery. By mixing different proven therapies along with exercise, nutrition, and a sense of community, we can help you beat your cocaine addiction. Make the first step by contacting us today.