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The Effects of Cocaine Use

"Casual cocaine use is a misnomer  even small amounts of cocaine can necessitate a trip to the emergency room.

"Casual” cocaine use is a misnomer – even small amounts of cocaine can necessitate a trip to the emergency room.

Roughly 14 percent of adults in the United States have tried cocaine, according to This dangerous drug is responsible for more emergency room visits than any other drug. It has negative effects on most of the body's organs, as well as relationships with friends and family. If you or a loved one is using cocaine, find the top residential treatment option today by calling 1-800-943-0566.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine acts quite rapidly on the brain. It interferes with the nerves in the brain, and keeps brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine from being properly absorbed, which leads to a "high." Being high on cocaine brings a feeling of euphoria, which includes increased energy, a feeling of supremacy, and an elevated mood. It temporarily decreases the need for sleep and food. Cocaine use may also bring feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 1

How cocaine is administered determines the short-term effects of the drug. Snorted cocaine can take longer to affect the body, but leads to a longer high, while smoking or injecting cocaine has a more rapid effect, but only lasts five to 10 minutes.

Quotes from cocaine addicts

“My friends and I would go to the mall after school; we said we were getting chicken fingers, but I'd meet the drug dealer and spend $50 on a gram, then a longtime housekeeper would pick us up. We didn't even have our licenses, but there we were, doing coke at each other's houses. The rest of my friends' moms went through their stuff, but my mother trusted me, so I hid everyone's stash in my closet. But because I had access to it, I started doing coke by myself. I'd get high in the school bathroom or at home before writing a paper.” (source)


Lasting health effects of cocaine

  • Exhaustion
  • Nosebleeds
  • Blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Effects of cocaine overdose

  • Stopped heart
  • Sudden death

Side Effects
The side effects of cocaine use include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

Cocaine use can lead to a heart attack, even in those that are very young or otherwise healthy. Taking large amounts of cocaine may lead to erratic and possibly violent behavior. These users might also have tremors, muscle twitches, paranoia, and vertigo. Cocaine also has a negative impact on sexual function.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 2

Credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH)

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine
Long-term cocaine use can lead to heart arrhythmia and heart attacks, strokes, seizures, headaches, abdominal pain, ulcers, nausea, and sometimes death. Long-term use can also affect the kidneys. Users may also experience extreme weight loss. These effects can happen regardless of age or health. Combining cocaine and alcohol is particularly dangerous.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 3

The method of ingesting cocaine also leads to different long-term effects. Snorting cocaine can lead to losing your sense of smell, irritation of the nasal septum, sniffling, nosebleeds, and hoarseness. Injecting cocaine can lead to puncture marks, collapsed veins, and allergic reactions.

Cocaine use over a long time period can also lead to addiction, depression, isolation from family and friends, psychosis, paranoia, and severe respiratory infections. Drug addiction is sometimes marked by taking risks you wouldn't ordinarily take, such as driving while high or stealing to have enough money for drugs.

Cocaine-related emergency room visits

United States

Cocaine is now linked to hundreds of thousands of ER visits a year in the US - over 550,000 in 2007.

Cocaine-related emergency room visits by people seeking detox services

United States

Of those ER visits related to cocaine use, tens of thousands are from people who are also seeking detox treatment for their cocaine habit.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 4

Cocaine Dependence

Using cocaine can rapidly lead to dependence and addiction. Dependence means that you need increasingly larger amounts of cocaine to get the same feeling because your body is building up a tolerance. This is due to the fact that with repeated use, the body relies on cocaine for those good feelings and is no longer able to feel pleasure from natural rewards, such as food or sex. Adults from ages 18 to 25 have a higher rate of cocaine use than any other group, and men use cocaine more than women, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For more information on how to help someone addicted to Cocaine, give us a call.

Potential for cocaine addiction

  • 5-6% of people who have recently begun using cocaine will become long-term users. (source)

Effects of cocaine overdose

  • Stopped heart
  • Sudden death

Effects of cocaine withdrawal

  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Agitation and restless behavior
  • Increased appetite

Yearly deaths linked to cocaine use

United States

Deaths involving cocaine (CDC WONDER query, ICD-10 code T40.5, “Poisoning by, adverse effect of and underdosing of cocaine”)

Cocaine usage is involved in thousands of deaths a year in the US, ranging from 4,194 in 2000 to 8,591 in 2006.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 5

Treatment facility admissions for cocaine

United States, admissions for treatment, age 12+

Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine

Treatment for cocaine and crack cocaine usage in the US is extremely common, with treatment facilities admitting over 290,000 cocaine users in 2007.

Cocaine Withdrawal Treatment

The most common effect of cocaine withdrawal is a "crash." A crash usually includes fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, agitation, and paranoia. The crash can last from hours to days. Cocaine withdrawal doesn't include the physical symptoms that accompany withdrawal from other drugs. The cravings that accompany cocaine withdrawal can be intense, but can be treated with proper care and support. Those going through cocaine withdrawal may not be able to feel pleasure at first, however, the ability to feel pleasure returns over time.

Cocaine Effects Quiz question 6

Withdrawal from cocaine can be treated in a number of ways. The first is by diagnosing and treating any underlying medical conditions, such as depression and attention-deficit disorder, which are part of the reason why some users are drawn to cocaine in the first place. The other method is close medical supervision. There are some prescriptions being researched that may curb the effects of cocaine withdrawal, but they are still in development.

Treatment can take place on an inpatient, residential, or outpatient basis. Inpatient care means that the cocaine addict is in a medical setting. These may also be referred to as detox centers. Residential treatment centers usually has a more home-like atmosphere. Those recovering from cocaine addiction live at the rehab center fulltime and focus exclusively on their recovery. Residential treatment may include individual or group counseling, medical treatment, or other types of therapy. Outpatient treatment means that the cocaine addict lives at home and continues his or her daily routines, while attending treatment on a regular basis. For information on the best rehab center for you, call 1-800-943-0566 day or night.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.