The Short and Long-Term Effects of Cocaine on the Body

Cocaine is an addictive and dangerous drug that can cause both mental and physical damage. The more times a person does cocaine, the more cocaine they need to get the same feelings.

The Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine affects the central nervous system because it is a strong stimulant. Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected. It causes the brain to release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain.

Dopamine is commonly known as the feel-good hormone that affects our brain’s reward system. Cocaine causes the brain to be flooded with dopamine, which alters the brain reward system. This causes the user to need more and more cocaine to get the same high each time. This is called chasing the high.

According to AION Health, “..cocaine addiction usually affects adults 18 to 25 years of age, with 1.4% reporting they had cocaine in the past month.” Unfortunately, users are becoming younger, with 2.2% of high school seniors using cocaine in 2018.

It is not always easy to know if someone is using cocaine. The signs of cocaine use include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • White powdery substance around nostrils
  • Bloody noses occurring frequently without reason
  • Runny noses or constantly sniffling
  • Change in eating habits or going a long time without eating
  • Insomnia or staying up for hours and hours
  • A newfound confidence
  • Hyperactivity or erratic behavior
  • Mood swings like depression, euphoria, and irritability
  • Paranoia

Short-Term Health Effects of Cocaine

Snorting cocaine takes longer to affect the user and can last as long as an hour. Smoking cocaine is more immediate, and can be intense for 5 to 15 minutes.

The short-term effects include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Other short-term health effects include:

  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Hallucinations

If a person uses a large amount of cocaine, the effects can even include erratic or even violent behavior. When a person is “coming down” from the drug, they can feel depressed and anxious. This can lead to the person doing almost anything to get more cocaine. The depression can be so severe that it can lead to suicide.

The Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Long-term use of cocaine disrupts the chemistry of the brain, especially the reward center. With repeated use of the drug, the brain will adapt so that the reward center becomes insensitive to natural rewards like food, relationships, and other natural rewards.

Repeated use of cocaine can cause other long-term health issues that include:

  • Damage to the blood vessels in the brain and the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Destruction of the nasal passages if snorted
  • Malnutrition, weight loss, and muscle loss
  • Dental problems
  • Reproductive damage and infertility for both men and women
  • Severe depression
  • Smoking cocaine can cause respiratory failure
  • Kidney, liver, and lung damage

Not only will it cause health issues to the body’s organs and circulatory system, but it can also cause mental problems including severe depression, paranoia, and the inability to feel pleasure without the drug. The sooner a person quits, the sooner their body and brain chemistry can begin to heal.