chronic cocaine use

What Chronic Cocaine Use Does To Your Body: 7 Health Risks Of Long Term Cocaine Use

With an estimated 1.5 million cocaine users in the United States, it isn’t hard to believe that this country has the largest market for the drug in the world.

Cocaine is a highly illegal stimulant that is often used at parties, but it is also one of the most addictive substances in the drug trade.

When abused, this drug can lead to some serious, even lethal, side effects that should be taken seriously.

Let’s talk about the effects of chronic cocaine use on the body and what to do about it.

7 Health Risks of Chronic Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is synthesized from the coca plant. Not only is it going to hurt your wallet, being a highly expensive drug, but it really takes a toll on the body in the long-term.

Here are just some of the long-term effects of cocaine.

1. Blood Clots

Blood clots are very dangerous because of what they can lead to, including pulmonary embolisms, strokes, and aneurysms. This one symptom leads to more health risks than any other on this list, so it is best to avoid anything that causes blood clots.

If you are using cocaine regularly, you should be checked for blood clotting before it is too late. 

2. Damage to Mouth and Nose

People who snort cocaine will quickly find mouth and nasal issues. With drier environments and less blood flow, the soft tissues in the nose will become damaged and eventually die.

This will expose the cartilage lining between nasal cavities, which is the septum. Once the septal cartilage is exposed, it too will die, creating a hole.

3. Brain Problems

Your brain is everything. It is who you are. While blood clotting alone will do a lot of damage to your brain, long-term cocaine use causes structural and functional deterioration of the brain as well as hemorrhaging and movement disorders.

Not only that, it can inhibit your ability to feel pleasure by limiting the number of dopamine receptors. 

4. Respiratory Problems

While nasal congestion is the most common issue to arise, even from short-term use of cocaine, that isn’t all.

Sinus inflammation, shortness of breath, wheezing, and even coughing up blood are common among long-term users.

5. Mental Health Problems

Anxiety and depression are extremely common with chronic cocaine use. The stimulant effects of the drug are likely to cause anxiety while the addictiveness and pleasure-inhibiting aspects are likely to cause depression.

Many people will find themselves trapped in this addiction, and the sense of hopelessness makes them feel like treatment isn’t an option.

For people with mental health issues who are also addicted to cocaine, there is also dual diagnosis treatment available.

6. Heart Attacks

Blood clots and anginas, unfortunately, lead to this road. Because of its effect on the bloodstream and its stimulant properties, this is a drug that is known to kill heart muscles from a lack of oxygen.

This is the most dangerous long-term effect, and it should not be taken lightly. Any heart problems like palpitations or murmurs should be reported to a doctor immediately.

7. Damage to Other Systems

We went over a lot of devastating effects, but it barely scratches the surface. Kidney failure, ulcers, sexual dysfunction, and more serious ailments can arise from chronic cocaine use.

Perforation of the stomach and intestines are possible, same with viral hepatitis that leads to liver damage. Whatever the case is, this drug is scary for long-term users and needs to be treated appropriately.


Once the problem has been established, the best possible option to continue with a healthy life is treatment. Let’s talk about how to seek treatment for you or a loved one so the road to recovery can start as soon as possible.

Finding Treatment For a Loved One

If you believe that a loved one is abusing cocaine, the time to help is now. If you are unsure they have a history with the drug, there are a few behavioral clues to look for.

If they are constantly lying about their whereabouts, stealing, or they have serious mood swings, then it may be time to confront them about the issue in a loving way.

An intervention is the most effective way to help somebody realize the problem and seek treatment. However, it has to be done correctly.

The most important step when talking to a loved one about the problem is to stage an intervention properly.

Not only that, the road to recovery takes a lifetime, so offering as much support as you can handle is the best way to help them achieve sobriety and maintain it.

Finding Treatment For You

If you are abusing cocaine, the problems only get worse the longer you go. The physical and mental health problems will eventually get out of your control.

To prevent that, looking into treatment is the best option. Just remember, this isn’t an overnight battle. The key steps are admitting the problem, starting abstinence, and maintaining abstinence.

Maintaining abstinence is the longest and arguably most difficult portion of the process. Be sure to have plenty of support available to you after treatment.

Next Steps

The risks of chronic cocaine use are clearly devastating, and the risks of continuing are even worse.

Nobody can force you to quit, so if you are battling your addiction, it’s time to make a choice for the future of your health and your family.

Check out our treatment options and get started today.

cocaine use during pregnancy

Cocaine Use During Pregnancy: 9 Different Ways Cocaine Affects Your Unborn Baby

Did you know that 21% of people who try cocaine will eventually become addicted to it?

Similar to many other drug addictions, cocaine addiction doesn’t discriminate – and, unfortunately, this includes pregnant women. It is reported that 750,00 unborn children have been exposed to cocaine at some point in the last year.

This means that 750,000 fetuses have been exposed to this highly addictive and harmful drug. Whether it was short-term or long-term exposure, cocaine use during pregnancy can have dangerous effects on your unborn baby.

What exactly can happen to babies exposed to cocaine use during pregnancy? Check out the list below for 9 different ways cocaine can affect your unborn baby.

The Effects Of Cocaine Use During Pregnancy

Pregnancy already can be a difficult time for expecting mothers. Dealing with a cocaine addiction, on top of the normal concerns of pregnancy, can make it extremely hard. However, beating this cocaine addiction can mean life or death for your baby. Some of the common effects of cocaine use during pregnancy include:

  1. Miscarriage
  2. Birth Defects
  3. Placenta Abruption
  4. Intrauterine Growth Restrictions
  5. Premature Labor
  6. Stillbirth
  7. NAS
  8. Neurodevelopmental Issues
  9. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

1. Miscarriage

The devastating loss of your baby prior to 20 weeks gestation is considered a miscarriage. Cocaine use can increase your risk of a miscarriage during the first 5 months of your pregnancy. 

Cocaine can cause your blood vessels to constrict which leads to reduced blood flow. Not only does this negatively impact the mother but this decreased blood flow can also impact the baby.

If blood isn’t flowing to the uterus, it cannot receive oxygen or nutrients for the baby. This lack of oxygen and nutrients can lead to miscarriage.

2. Birth Defects

Cocaine birth defects include defects with the brain, face, eyes, heart, and limbs. Some common examples are cleft palates and missing limbs.

Congenital heart disease is another common birth defect found with cocaine usage during pregnancy. This can include a small hole in the heart, a leaky valve, issues with the heart muscle, or more. Some types of congenital heart disease can resolve on its own. Others, however, may need surgery and can lead to death.

3. Placental Abruption

Less than 1% of births in the United States suffer from placental abruption. However, if you use cocaine during your pregnancy, this increases your risks to 10-19%

What exactly is a placental abruption? During pregnancy, the placenta plays a critical role in supplying nutrients and oxygen to the baby. In order to do this, it must be attached to the side of the uterus.

When a placental abruption happens, the placenta detaches from the uterus. This typically happens suddenly and prior to delivery. This is dangerous as it cuts off the baby’s supply of nutrients and oxygen.

The mother can experience heavy bleeding due to a placental abruption that can lead to organ failure or a hysterectomy. For the baby, this can lead to premature birth and stillbirth.

4. Intrauterine Growth Restrictions

Intrauterine growth restrictions – or IUGR—happens to babies that experience slow growth in the uterus. Typically, babies that have IUGR will be smaller than the average baby in both weight and size. They may also suffer from microcephaly – a condition in which the baby’s head circumference is smaller than normal.

Studies have linked heavy cocaine usage to increased risk of IUGR. Since cocaine usage causes issues with the placenta, this can restrict the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are supplied to the baby. As a result, babies of mothers who use cocaine are often smaller in size due to malnutrition in the womb.

5. Premature Labor

When a pregnant woman continues to use cocaine towards the end of her pregnancy, this greatly increases the risk of premature labor. Premature labor is when you go into labor 3 weeks or more before your due date.

Premature labor is very risky for your baby. Babies born prematurely have lower rates of survival. The earlier they are born, the less likely they are to survive.

On top of this, those that do survive tend to have more long-term issues. This includes cerebral palsy, autism, vision issues, and intellectual disabilities. 

6. Stillbirth

24,000 babies are stillborn each year. This means that the baby passes away before or during the delivery. This tragic event is every mother’s worst nightmare.

In a recent study, scientists found that cocaine use increases your risk of stillbirth by over 2%. While this may not seem like a very large percentage increase, it is still a risk that you shouldn’t want to take. 

7. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

When a pregnant woman uses cocaine, the drug crosses the placenta and enters the bloodstream of the baby. This means as the mother uses cocaine throughout her pregnancy, so is the baby. As a result, the baby can also become physically addicted to the drug.  

Once the baby is born, the baby will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. This includes fever, vomiting, feeding issues, and possible seizures. 

8. Neurodevelopmental Issues

Cocaine usage during pregnancy can also lead to neurodevelopmental problems for babies as they grow older. This can include learning disabilities and behavioral issues.

There also have been links to cocaine usage during pregnancy to children with ADD and ADHD. They’re more likely to have issues in the classroom and struggle as they grow older. 

9. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Unfortunately, another tragic effect of cocaine usage during pregnancy is the increased likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In a study completed from 1988 to 1992, SIDS was more likely to occur in infants that had been exposed to cocaine during pregnancy. 

While SIDS is considered an unexplained death of a baby, it is evident that drug exposure during pregnancy can greatly increase the risks.

Seek Help Today

If you’re suffering from cocaine addiction, don’t be afraid to seek help today. Cocaine use during pregnancy is a serious concern for the baby but the sooner you stop, the better chance your baby has at a healthy life.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to us at 1st Step Behavioral Health. We have decades of experience in treating addiction with highly-trained professionals.  

long-term effects of cocaine

Understanding the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine users experience a short-lived and intense high that is followed by severe depression, nervousness, and cravings for more of the drug. The desires mean one is likely to get addicted and keep using the drugs for many years.

Thus, most of the cocaine users will end up suffering from the long-term effects of abusing this drug. A recent study shows about 1.7 million young adults of age between 18 and 25 in the U.S. abuse cocaine.

This is equivalent to one out of every twenty young adults across the nation. Therefore, understanding these effects is critical to creating awareness to encourage addicts to seek immediate treatment

Keep reading to learn the long-term effects of cocaine and why you should not abuse it.

The Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Usage

1. Oral and Nasal Deformities

Snorting cocaine constricts blood vessels and lowers the flow of oxygen to the nasal tissues. As you continue to use cocaine, the low oxygen levels eventually damage the lining of the nasal septum.

As the damage continues, the septal lining and underlining cartilage die. At this stage, a hole may develop in the septum, and the entire nose may collapse.

Large holes can also develop at the roof of the mouth resulting in nasal regurgitation. This is where the food you eat flows back out through the nose. These holes can be corrected through surgery.

The user may also experience nose whistling, difficulty in swallowing, and hoarseness.

2. Pulmonary and Respiratory Conditions

Smoking cocaine causes damage to the pulmonary and respiratory systems. Cocaine smokers get an immediate high as the drug reaches the brain without delay. The quick stimulation exposes the addicts to problems such as lung damage and bleeding.

The users also experience symptoms mimicking those of pneumonia. These include breathing difficulties, intense chest pain, and in some cases, the user ends up developing pneumonia.

3. Cardiovascular Damage

Cocaine causes the user to experience high energy, anxiety, stress, and paranoia. In the long-term, consumption of cocaine can damage the circulatory system through:

  • Irregular heart rates
  • Chest pain from tightening of blood vessels
  • A permanent increase in blood pressure
  • Blood clotting that can lead to heart attack and stroke
  • Death of heart muscles due to lack of oxygen and poor blood flow
  • Rapid resting heart rates 
  • Irregular heart rates

Users of cocaine are highly susceptible to heart attacks. According to research, 25% of the deaths of cocaine users aged between 18 and 45 are as a result of a heart attack.

4. Digestive Diseases

Abuse of cocaine increases the risk of developing blood clots. Clots block blood flow, and this can cause perforations in the stomach and intestines. As a result, users are likely to get stomach and intestinal ulcers.

In the short-term, a user may experience symptoms such as constipation, reduced appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms start within one hour or 48 hours of using the drug.

5. Liver Damage

Many people abuse both cocaine and alcohol with the belief that the two substances will prolong the euphoric effects of cocaine. However, mixing the two is very dangerous.

These substances can combine to form cocaethylene, a compound which develops in the liver when cocaine and ethanol are present in the blood. Cocaethylene causes liver and heart damage when it accumulates in the system over a long period.

Cocaine usage increases heartbeat, and if one combines the drug with alcohol, they may suffer cardiac arrest. Luckily, liver damage is reversible if one seeks treatment and stops abusing the drug.

6. Brain Damage

When blood vessels are constricted, the amount of oxygen reaching the brain is reduced. This can cause brain damage. There is also an increased risk of swelling of blood vessels due to damage to the vascular walls that feed the brain.

Cracking of cocaine can also cause:

  • High fever
  • Brain shrinking
  • Inflammation of blood vessels in the brain or spine
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Problems in decision-making, understanding of vocabulary, problem-solving, and learning
  • Mood disorders due to changes in the production and absorption of neurotransmitters 

Smoking of cocaine can cause long-term memory loss and is likely to trigger Alzheimer’s if one smokes it longer.

7. Kidney Problems

Cocaine abuse has been linked to tubular, glomerular and vascular injuries, acute kidney injury, and chronic kidney disease. In some cases, it causes malignant hypertension.

When cocaine and heroin are combined, they increase one’s risk of getting hepatitis, HIV, and other chronic illnesses that can cause kidney diseases.

8. Diseases and Infections

Cocaine users sometimes share needles when injecting themselves with drugs. This increases the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and other infectious diseases.

Cocaine also causes psychological problems such as impaired judgment. As a result, users engage in risky sexual behaviors that can lead to the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

When cocaine weakens the immune system, the body’s ability to defend you against diseases is reduced. This makes you prone to various diseases and health conditions. 

9. Effects on Unborn Baby

Using cocaine while pregnant may cause premature delivery. It increases breathing problems and heightens the risk of giving birth to an underweight baby. 

Cocaine can cause the death of infants below one-year-old. It also increases the risk of neglect during pregnancy. Furthermore, once the child is born, they may grow facing abuse, poverty, and mental and physical problems.

10. Social Problems

Cocaine users find themselves in random places with random people whom they believe are friends. Such friendships are cocaine-induced and only last as long as they stay ‘high’.

Cocaine users spend lots of money on drugs while neglecting their family. When there is no money, they end up borrowing and living in debt. Some even engage in crime to fund their growing addiction to the substance. 

Since cocaine use impairs the user’s judgment, it may cause unnecessary fights, irresponsible sexual behavior, and other social problems.

There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel

Have you or your loved one been using cocaine? Are you facing some of the long-term effects of cocaine? There is light at the end of the tunnel.

At 1st Step Behavioral Health, we provide drug addiction treatment and will help you or your loved one get on the road to recovery. Contact us today to book an appointment.

addicted to cocaine

Spotting a Problem: Warnings Signs a Loved One is Addicted to Cocaine

With more than 1.5 million coke users in the U.S. today, not all of them are as obvious as others.

If you don’t realize your friend or family member is addicted to cocaine, you should forgive yourself because so many addicts work hard to hide it. The signs of a coke addict don’t all look the same, but there are some basic patterns that we find in just about everyone addicted to the drug.

Here are four ways to spot a coke addiction if it’s taken over the life of a loved one.

1. Watch Their Mood

If you find that someone is erratic, unpredictable, and terribly defensive when you confront them, they might be hiding a drug addiction. Someone who uses cocaine to extreme excess is much different than a casual user or someone who uses it once at a party.

When you use cocaine for the first time, it usually makes you feel more social and chatty. Some people can become more vibrant and confident in ways that they usually aren’t. However, that high is met with a severe low that is hard to manage as people get deeper into their addiction.

When someone is coming down off of a binge or a serious high, they usually become hostile and can even avoid engaging in conversation. The residual effects of cocaine are hard to deal with. Some people turn to alcohol, while others begin to treat the low with more cocaine, which is when the cycle of addiction takes hold.

If you notice someone you care about and otherwise know very well is subject to extreme mood swings, it’s likely they’re struggling with cocaine addiction.

Figuring out how to spot a coke addict is hard during the early phases, as the addict might seem more friendly and outgoing than normal. However, when there’s a negativity to follow, that’s how you know addiction is present. If someone tries to quit, these symptoms might come with even greater extremity.

2. Extreme Financial Despair

Cocaine is a hard drug for anyone of limited means to even start to engage with. It’s out of reach for even many casual users, which is sometimes one of the reasons more people don’t become addicted. However, for those who become addicted, they’ll start to find a way to fund their addiction and their obsession with the drug.

The impact of the drug makes it hard for the average office worker to maintain employment while taking it. Movies like Wolf of Wall Street show us people with lots of expendable income taking the drug and being able to maintain highs for a long time. In a work environment like the stock market, extreme highs and lows are masked as just part of the job.

However, if you’re working a pretty standard job where things aren’t so extreme, it’s going to be clear that you’re on a drug. It can cause your supervisors or your colleagues to avoid working with you. You’ll end up paying for your addiction via decreased income and even job loss.

People who need to feed a habit start turning to crime. They’ll commit fraud or even steal to feed the addiction. If this starts to happen, it means the addiction has gotten in the way of your loved one’s ability to make decisions.

3. Look for Physical Changes

When someone is using any kind of chemical, it’s natural for the brain to change. Abusing a drug like cocaine for a long time is going to upset the natural balance of chemicals in your brain. Your ability to feel happiness, sadness, or excitement in any normal way is going to be jumbled up.

The people in an addict’s life are going to be the first to know that something is wrong when they see that their loved one is high. They’ll find that they don’t have much emotion at all when they’re not high and that they might seem manic and overjoyed when they are.

Ongoing use starts to change the body of the person who is addicted to cocaine. Regular use tears up the nasal cavity and leads to chronic nosebleeds, which become more obvious as the user does it more and more. They can even end up with bowel problems, as the bowels get gangrene.

Over time, cocaine addicts might even lose their sense of smell. The structure of their nose can even change is they snort enough of it. Look at comedian Artie Lange for an extreme way that your face can change.

4. Mental Health Can Deteriorate Fast

While addicted to any drug, your sense of reality can deteriorate fast. People lose touch with what matters, become focused on and obsessed with strange things, and can even start to become extremely paranoid. When coke addicts begin to worry that someone is doing them wrong, they can go to an extreme place emotionally.

Cocaine and crack users or freebasers experience exacerbated mental health deterioration. If there were any mental health issues present previous to the addiction, they’re going to be much worse once they’re addicted. Even when they’re not using, they’re going to still keep experiencing those problems that come with addiction.

Cocaine users are going to need a serious mental health assessment once they’re clean. There will need to be a dual diagnosis to address the addiction-related problems and the underlying issues. When someone is plagued with the irritability, insomnia, and fatigue that follow coke addiction, it’s hard to parse through the issues.

Don’t Be Surprised When a Loved One Is Addicted to Cocaine

When someone becomes addicted to cocaine, they’re not alone in that there are millions of people who’ve struggled with this very addiction in their life. It’s not an easy addiction to kick and hard to treat, but still very possible to get over.

When someone overdoses, check out our guide to understanding just how that happened.