Cocaine is a central nervous system drug used recreationally for its euphoric effects. Because cocaine binds to the reward and gratification sensors in the brain, it creates an affirmative association with the substance.
Cocaine comes with a wide variety of side effects and a high risk of addiction.
Key Facts About the Risks of Cocaine
As cocaine is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs globally today, the risks are oftentimes either ignored, overlooked, or underplayed. People who regularly use cocaine are at increased risk for the following:
- Respiratory infections
- Cardiovascular infections
- High blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal disease
There are also nonmedical risks, such as short attention spans, psychological dependence, neglecting responsibilities, financial problems, and more.
According to a study published by Drug and Alcohol Dependence, an estimated 663,000 young adults ages 18 to 25 were first-time cocaine users in 2015. This was the highest number among young adults reporting such outcomes since 2008.
The same study conveyed that treatment admissions for cocaine use increased by as much as 230 percent to 325 percent from 1992 to 2005 among adults.
The omnipresence of cocaine in popular culture may be a factor in its popularity. According to NPA Digital Medicine, from 2010 to 2017, song lyrics referencing cocaine increased by 190 percent.
What Are the Side Effects of Cocaine?
Cocaine use comes with numerous side effects.
Over 500,000 Americans sought medical help from emergency rooms in 2011 for the use and or misuse of cocaine. This accounted for more than 40 percent of all emergency visits involving illegal drugs.
There are many short-term and long-term side effects involved with the use of this drug.
Long-Term Side Effects
Long-term side effects of cocaine use include physical and mental damage. The physical side effects include the following:
- Cardiovascular damage
- Sinus damage
- Bloody and runny nose
- Deviated septum
- Respiratory damage
- Brain damage
Mental side effects associated with cocaine use often show up as anxiety, depression, mood swings, inability to solve problems, poor decision-making, psychosis, auditory hallucinations, and an inability to understand information.
Short-Term Side Effects
Short-term side effects associated with cocaine use can also be physical and mental. They include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Bloody nose
- Excessive sweating
Short-term mental effects include paranoia, hostility, euphoria, over-excitement, as well as engaging in drug-seeking behavior.
How You Ingest Cocaine & Its Impact on Risks
The way cocaine is used has an impact on the risk involved. Cocaine is most often either snorted, smoked, or injected.
Although snorting cocaine is considered the least risky for developing an addiction when compared to other methods of use, snorting cocaine can still cause extensive damage to the olfactory organs and destroy your sense of smell. Most people begin use by snorting cocaine.
Smoking cocaine is accomplished by applying heat to crack cocaine or freebase cocaine. This method puts individuals at risk for a chronic cough, worsening asthma, respiratory distress, and lung diseases, such as pneumonia.
Liquifying cocaine and injecting it directly into the bloodstream is another method of using cocaine. This method puts individuals at a higher risk for addiction and liver problems, scarred or collapsed veins, skin infections, and contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, or other blood diseases.
Injecting cocaine also puts individuals at a higher risk of developing cocaine addiction as well as overdosing.
Mixing cocaine with other drugs can come with a variety of consequences and can amplify the negative effects of each drug used. For example, cocaine and alcohol both react within the liver. This puts additional strain on the liver, heart, and other organs.
Cocaine is also often mixed with heroin and/or opioids, which have opposing effects on the central nervous system. This can cause adverse effects like respiratory failure, coma, overdose, and even death.
What Are the Signs of a Cocaine Overdose?
Signs of cocaine overdose include the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme anxiety, paranoia, agitation, and panic
- Elevated heart rate
- Rise in body temperature or excessive sweating
- Head or chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
If you believe that you or someone you know has been abusing cocaine or has a drug dependency issue, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Generally, treatment options include support and supervision during detox, comprehensive therapy, and aftercare support. The best course of action is to use a multidisciplinary approach where different therapeutic approaches are used based on individual needs.
- Trends and Correlates of Cocaine Use and Cocaine Use Disorder in the United States From 2011 to 2015. (November 2017). Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
- Estimating the Incidence of Cocaine Use and Mortality With Music Lyrics About Cocaine. (June 2021). NPJ Digital Medicine.
- Cocaine: An Updated Overview on Chemistry, Detection, Biokinetics, and Pharmacotoxicological Aspects including Abuse Pattern. (April 2022). Toxins.