The Dangers of Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a popular recreational drug, most often used in nightlife and party scenes. It is not uncommon for teens and young adults to be curious about the effects of cocaine use. However, those considering experimenting with cocaine should be educated about the various life-threatening effects that can result from both short-term and long-term cocaine use. For those already struggling with cocaine addiction, it is necessary to understand that 12 South Recovery provides several outpatient programs to kickstart treatment and recovery.

What Is Cocaine?

According to the National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America.” It has a long history of use. This includes use by medical providers as a local anesthetic for surgeries. However, in today’s day and age, cocaine is more commonly recognized as a dangerous, addictive, recreational drug. Despite its illegal status, cocaine continues to be accessible and to wreak havoc on the lives of individuals everywhere.

Crack vs. Cocaine

In its purest form, cocaine resembles a white crystalline powder. It has several acknowledged routes of administration, with its most popular being snorting the powder through the nose.

Many people do not realize the relationship between crack and cocaine. Simply put, they are the same drug. However, crack is essentially vaporized cocaine that produces a high when it is smoked. This form of cocaine got its name from the crackling sound that is produced by the crystalline rocks when they are heated.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Once a person engages in cocaine use, the effects of the drug appear almost immediately. This can vary by the route of administration used. For example, snorting cocaine produces one of the quickest effects. Effects can last anywhere from a few minutes up to an hour.

When individuals use cocaine, they are likely only seeking the desired effects of the drug. Some of the desired short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Mental alertness
  • Increased energy
  • Suppressed appetite and need for sleep

However, rarely can a person experience these effects without experiencing associated harmful effects. The aforementioned desired effects are often coupled with hypersensitivity to sound, sight, and touch. Additionally, feelings of irritability and anxiety are common in those who use cocaine, especially as the effects of the drug begin to wear off. In some cases, paranoia also arises. Extreme cocaine use can cause unpredictable and bizarre behavior.

NIDA also highlights a plethora of mental and medical complications that may result from short-term or one-time cocaine use. These include:

  • Cardiovascular effects:
    • Disturbances in heartbeat
    • Possible heart attacks
  • Neurological effects:
    • Headaches
    • Seizures
    • Strokes
    • Coma
  • Gastrointestinal complications:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea
  • Additional complications:
    • Cocaine-related deaths due to cardiac arrest or seizures

Long-Term Consequences of Cocaine Use

The recurrent use of any drug can cause long-lasting changes to brain structure and functioning. Because the desired effects of the drug do not last long (less than an hour), most individuals who use cocaine engage in binge use in an attempt to maintain their high. This can be especially problematic, contributing to increased tolerance and quick and intense drug withdrawal symptoms.

As NIDA explains:

At the same time, users can also develop sensitization, in which less cocaine is needed to produce anxiety, convulsions, or other toxic effects. Tolerance to cocaine reward and sensitization to cocaine toxicity can increase the risk of overdose in a regular user.

Drug Overdose

Drug overdose is another possible outcome of regular cocaine use. While it is possible to overdose on moderate to high doses of cocaine in its purest form, that is not the only way an individual may overdose. As it is a street drug, cocaine is often cut with other substances to lower the production cost for street dealers. One of the most dangerous drugs that cocaine may be cut with is fentanyl – the silent killer.

According to a publication by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl “even tiny doses, as little as two milligrams, the size of two grains of salt, is a fatal dose for most people.” In other words, unsuspected buyers are increasingly toying with their lives in an effort to get their next fix.

Other Effects of Cocaine Use

NIDA sheds light on several other long-term effects of cocaine use, many of which are determined by specific routes of administration. These include:

  • Snorting:
    • Loss of smell
    • Nosebleeds
    • Overall irritation to the nasal septum
  • Smoking crack:
    • Damaged lungs
    • Asthma
  • Injecting:
    • Increased risk of HIV and hepatitis
    • Allergic reactions
  • For any route of administration:
    • Damage to major organs
    • Reduced blood flow throughout the body
    • Malnourishment due to suppressed appetite
    • Permanent neurological problems
    • Intracerebral hemorrhage
    • Movement disorders
    • Long-lasting issues in cognitive functioning
    • The development of substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction

Treatment for Cocaine Use and Addiction

Several warning signs may indicate an individual’s need for alcohol or drug treatment. For cocaine addiction, warnings signs (for oneself or loved ones) may include:

  • Compulsive withdrawal symptoms
  • Financial problems as a result of drug addiction
  • Increasingly withdrawing from social situations
  • The presence of drug paraphernalia

It is essential to understand that treatment is available and recovery is possible. At 12 South Recovery, we offer various outpatient treatment programs for individuals working to achieve sobriety and establish recovery from drug abuse and addiction. First, we recommend a detoxification program. Following detox, treatment for cocaine use involves the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help an individual better understand the connections between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In addition to CBT, our programs incorporate individual counseling, group therapy, and holistic therapies to ensure lasting healing.

The dangers of cocaine use stretch far and wide. Experimenting with cocaine is not a matter of easing curiosity. Rather, it is a matter of exposing your brain to the addictive and compulsive effects of drug use. If you or a loved one are struggling to address or cease your cocaine use, consider this a sign to reach out to 12 South Recovery. At 12 South, we utilize a client-centered philosophy to treat mental health disorders, substance abuse, and addiction. We offer a wide range of outpatient programs that can be individualized to meet your unique needs and recovery goals. Moreover, we can help you establish lasting sobriety from cocaine use. To learn more, call (888) 830-8374 today.

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