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How Cocaine Affects the Body

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When it comes to substance abuse, most of the focus is on alcohol abuse and opioid addiction. While this does make sense as alcohol is the most used substance in the world and opioid abuse is prominent with the opioid crisis, cocaine is the third-most used substance in the country and is one of the most problematic. 

Before we get into the effects and the problems that can occur from cocaine use, let’s better understand what cocaine actually is.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is made from the leaves of the coca plant that is native to South America. The drug takes on many different names including, blow, coke, rock, snow, and more.

While cocaine can be dangerous in its own right, street dealers will often mix cocaine with other, cheaper substances to maximize profits. However, this type of drug mixing can become dangerous, especially since cocaine is often mixed with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, it leads to increased overdose deaths.

Along with risk of overdose, cocaine can lead to a number of dangerous health problems. Let’s first look at the effects that cocaine can have on the brain.

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Cocaine and the Brain

Using cocaine leads to increased levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is commonly associated with pleasure. Unfortunately, this often leads people to continue to use this drug in order to continue to feel these pleasurable effects. However, as you continue to use the drug, you will build up a tolerance and it will require you to take more and more of the drug to feel the same effects you once felt.

This becomes a cyclical problem and soon people using cocaine will be taking very dangerous levels of the drugs to get the effects that they want.

As people use the drug, they will experience both short- and long-term effects that can be problematic and dangerous. Let’s take a moment to learn about the short-term effects of using cocaine.

Short-Term Effects

When using cocaine, some of the short-term effects include:

  • Extreme euphoria and a burst of energy
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

The feelings of euphoria that dopamine produces is what causes people to continue to use the drug. However, the other effects can lead to bizarre and unpredictable behavior.

These short-term effects occur nearly instantaneously after using the drug and will disappear within a few minutes to an hour.

Along with these problematic short-term effects, there are a number of dangerous long-term problems that can also occur.

Long-Term Effects

One of the most problematic long-term effects is the effects it can have on tolerance and the brain reward cycle. However, it can also lead to a number of other problems as it affects many organs in the body.

Some long-term problems associated with cocaine include:

  • Tears in the GI tract
  • Significant weight loss
  • Malnourishment
  • Major chest pain
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Inflammation of the heart

Along with these effects, there are also problems that can occur depending on how you take the drug. For example, those who snort cocaine can deal with problems such as loss of smell, nosebleeds, and problems swallowing, whereas those who smoke cocaine may struggle with asthma, coughing, higher risk of problems like pneumonia, and more.

Overall, cocaine is a very dangerous drug when you look at all the moving parts. For those who are dealing with cocaine addiction, or other substance abuse problems, there are rehabs, including luxury addiction treatment programs that offer beautiful amenities and high-quality treatment, that can provide clients with the highest form of care including behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, and aftercare support.

About the Author

Joe Gilmore is a creator on behalf of The Hope House, a drug and alcohol treatment organization in Arizona.

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