Cocaine is a highly dangerous and addictive drug. It is brought into the U.S. typically from South America where it is extracted from the coca plant. Though natural, it has the ability to cause significant short-term and long-term damage to the brain and a person’s overall physical health. Understanding the long-term effects of cocaine may be critical to those who need to see the importance of no longer using this substance.
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What Are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine?
How does cocaine affect the nervous system? When a person takes cocaine, which is a stimulant drug, it causes a significant change in the way the brain and organs work, often within a matter of minutes. The body reacts to it by speeding up its function to meet the demand. This often includes:
- Increasing blood pressure
- Increasing heart rate
- Breathing rate increases
- Body temperature elevates
All of this occurs as the body and brain try to ramp up function as stimulants do. Yet, as that happens, it creates numerous risks. Some of the short-term effects of cocaine can be deadly. For example, heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory failure can all occur when the body cannot keep up with that demand. Brain seizures can also occur, often limiting a person’s ability to remain conscious.
Other changes happen, too. For example, a person using cocaine is at an increased risk of contracting AIDS/HIV or hepatitis as a result of sharing needles to inject cocaine, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Cocaine’s effect does not typically last long. Within a short time, the heart and breathing rate return to normal. A person is still at risk for immune system failures and other complications at that point, but in the short term, cocaine effects reduce.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine?
A person with cocaine addiction facings those short-term risks every time they use. That means every use of cocaine can trigger a fatal overdose. However, even if that does not happen, cocaine impacts nearly every facet of a person’s health.
Psychological changes and risks
Psychological risks are some of the most pronounced in those who have a cocaine addiction. When a person uses cocaine over time, it impacts the function of the nervous system, including the brain itself. What happens as it makes changes to the structure of the brain and the way the nervous system reacts to its presence. Over time, a person becomes dependent on the drug, which means they feel physical pain and withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
A person using cocaine over time may be more likely to engage in erratic and even violent behavior. Some people become paranoid and unable to tell reality from misconceptions. They may also begin seeing hallucinations. A common one is called coke bugs, in which a person feels as though they have insects crawling on their skin or the feeling of bugs on them.
Additionally, a person is likely to suffer cognitive declines as a result of addiction. This may mean they are more likely to be confused and have struggled to make decisions. Many people struggle with anxiety and depression as a direct result of these cognitive function changes. Sometimes, a person may pull away from family and friends or may lose interest in food, relationships, or sex.
A condition called cocaine psychosis can develop as well, similar to meth psychosis. In this condition, a person loses touch with reality. They pull away from family and friends and seem to be in their own world. They no longer care about anything but when their next high will be.
Behavioral impact of cocaine use
Long-term cocaine use can also lead to aggressive and reckless behavior. As noted, cocaine becomes the sole focus of a person’s life. They may spend a significant amount of money on the purchase of cocaine and do anything to support their habit. This may include being involved in criminal activity including stealing, selling drugs, prostitution, and other activities.
Physical risks of cocaine use
Aside from the brain, other organs in the body may also experience damage as a result of long-term cocaine use. For example, it can restrict blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract. It may create damage to the function and muscle of the heart. In some situations, it can also lead to damage to the cerebral blood vessels, which in turn can cause an increased risk of stroke – even when a person is not actively using the drug. It can create movement disorders, too.
There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel
The long-term effects of cocaine use are significant and can impact a person’s overall wellbeing. It can also lead to a shortened lifespan especially if they continue to use more of the substance to see the same results as tolerance to the drug builds. Cocaine rehab may be able to prevent these outcomes from occurring.
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.