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Understanding the Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant with effects that increase an individual’s alertness, attention, and energy levels. The drug is available in a variety of different forms. The most common is powdered Cocaine, also known as “coke,” “blow,” and “snow,” which is often snorted but can additionally be dissolved in water and injected with a needle. Another common form is Crack Cocaine, or “crack,” a solid rock crystal that is created by a chemical process and smoked in a pipe. The high produced by Cocaine is intensely euphoric and usually lasts anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours after use. Smoking or injecting coke leads to a faster, but shorter high than snorting the drug.
Cocaine works by stimulating the central nervous system and producing high levels of dopamine within the brain. A buildup of dopamine then accumulates and causes the user to experience intense feelings of pleasure. This euphoria can create powerful cravings to use more and more of the drug. Repeated Cocaine use leads to the development of a tolerance – higher and higher doses are needed to attain the same effects. As Cocaine travels through the blood as well as the brain, the drug effects the whole body.
There is no amount of cocaine usage that is considered safe; using the drug in any capacity can result in dependence, addiction, and a variety of negative health side effects. Cocaine abuse causes serious damage to the brain, heart, blood vessels, and lungs, all of which can lead to sudden death. In fact, Cocaine is responsible for more U.S. emergency room visits than any other illegal drug.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine causes a short-lived, intense high that is usually followed by the opposite effects of the drug, including intense depression, edginess, and a craving for more. Cocaine typically makes users feel more energetic, confident, sociable, and mentally alert. The drug can also make people especially sensitive to sensations of sight, sound, and touch. Cocaine additionally represses hunger and decreases fatigue, causing people who abuse the stimulant to usually not eat or sleep properly. The effects of Cocaine can range from mild to severe and typically include:
- Intense euphoria
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Hypersensitivity to lights and touch
Larger amounts of the drug intensifies the user’s high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior. Individuals that abuse the drug in large quantities may also experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, and, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning. Some users additionally report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety when not using Cocaine.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty controlling the extent to which he or she uses the drug. Tolerance to cocaine develops quickly, and many chronic users report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first experience within as little as a month. As tolerance to the drug increases, it becomes necessary to take greater and greater quantities to get the same high. This causes many users to frequently increase their doses to intensify and extend the effects.
Prolonged daily use of Cocaine causes multiple negative health consequences. For example, a person can become psychotic and begin to experience hallucinations. Additionally, repeated use of the drug can cause respiratory infections, stroke, and even seizures. Chronic Cocaine use has also been linked to many types of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
Other effects of long-term Cocaine use include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Sexual trouble
- Heart attacks
- Lung damage
- Auditory hallucinations
- Chronic nausea
Different routes of cocaine administration can also produce different adverse effects, including:
- HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases if the drug is injected due to shared infected needles
- Bowl decay and gastrointestinal issues if drug is swallowed as a result of reduced blood flow to the stomach
- Loss of smell, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and chronic nosebleeds if drug is snorted due to erosion of the nasal cavity
Symptoms of a Cocaine Overdose
Another possible effect of Cocaine use is overdose. Cocaine is one of the more serious stimulants available, mainly because of the drug’s potential for overdose leading to death, which can occur due to a multitude of complications, including heart attack, respiratory arrest, and stroke. Regardless of how frequently the drug is used or the route of administration used, any individual can overdose on Cocaine if too much of the stimulant is taken. Overdose occurs due to toxic levels of the drug within the body, essentially poisoning the system of the individual.
Symptoms of overdose may develop rapidly so it’s important to recognize any potential indicators. Side effects should be taken seriously, as some may signify an emergency situation. Emergency services should be contacted right away if any of the following occur:
- Low blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Chest pain
- Labored breathing
- Cold or clammy skin
Additionally, overdose is much more likely to happen if the drug is combined with other substances, particularly alcohol and Opioids. The polydrug blend of Cocaine and Heroin, commonly known as “speedball,” is one of the most common combinations that results in Cocaine-related death. Those who inject the speedball mixture are 2.6 times more likely to overdose on Cocaine than those who use coke alone.
Finding Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can result in many physical, emotional, and cognitive problems.It may seem like it’s impossible to quit, but know that you’re not alone. If you think that you or a loved one may be addicted to cocaine and suffering from a stimulant use disorder, contact a dedicated treatment provider. There are countless rehabilitation options across the U.S. available to help you end your battle with addiction today.
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