Cocaine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant widely used throughout the United States. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, indigenous to South America; it has many street names, including coke, charlie, and crack. As a Schedule II drug, it carries a high potential for abuse. Prolonged use of cocaine can have severe effects on your brain function and structure. The psychological issues caused by a coke addiction can be just as damaging as the physical health issues. However, the latter is less commonly understood.
So, what does cocaine do to your body? We look at that question in detail and how to access addiction treatment if you are ready to step towards recovery.
How Does Cocaine Work?
Cocaine is a stimulant substance, which means it works in the central nervous system (CNS) by activating dopamine release, producing increased alertness, confidence, and feelings of euphoria.
Cocaine is often sold in white powder form, known as Cocaine, Coke, Charlie, and Chang, among other things.
Cocaine bought on the street is often cut with substances such as talcum powder or flour to bulk it up and increase profits. It is also often cut with other drugs, such as amphetamine or a highly potent synthetic opioid called fentanyl.
This combination of opioids and cocaine comes at a high price for the user, mainly if they are unaware of what is in the ‘cocaine.’ The increasing number of overdose deaths is attributed to this trend of dealers mixing cocaine with other substances.
It also comes in rock form, which is known as crack cocaine. Crack cocaine, often called ‘crack,’ is produced in powdered form, mixed with water and baking soda. This combination is then boiled, cooled down to a solid, then broken into smaller pieces.
Crack cocaine was developed in the 1980s as a cheaper option than cocaine. This form of the substance is incredibly addictive as it is highly potent. Recent research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 1.9% of the population, or 5.2 million Americans, had used cocaine in the past year. Of those, 0.5%, or approximately 1.3 million people, have a cocaine substance use disorder.
How Do People Take Cocaine?
Powdered cocaine is usually snorted; however it is also rubbed onto the gums, injected intravenously, or smoked by ‘freebasing’ the drug.
Crack cocaine is typically smoked. Each different method of use brings risks, causing the drug to enter the system at different rates.
What Are The Effects of Cocaine?
Cocaine can increase the user’s energy, alertness, and feelings of happiness in the immediate time after use. However, there are many negative and dangerous implications in the aftermath, both short and long-term effects.
Common side effects of cocaine use include:
- Increased confidence
- Elevated energy levels
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Increased heart rate
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Loss of appetite
- Increased body temperature
What Does Cocaine Do to The Body?
Cocaine impacts the body in several ways, from the first time you use it. Over time, and with prolonged use, people build a tolerance and increase the risk of both short-term effects and permanent damage. Drug use of any kind can severely impact your body system. This can include damage to the heart, respiratory system, digestive system, and, crucially, the brain. Cocaine addiction is a severe disorder and needs to be treated as quickly as possible; in another way, the symptoms and effects can be life-threatening.
Cocaine Impacts on The Heart
The risk of complications from cocaine abuse increases for people who have underlying heart problems or high blood pressure. Using cocaine puts the heart under great strain, damaging the cardiovascular system and can result in cardiac arrest.
Taking cocaine causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. This is due to constricted blood vessels which reduce blood flow. Therefore the heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This brings a risk of a heart attack because a faster heart rate requires more oxygen – if there is not enough oxygen, it can have fatal implications.
Cocaine abuse can also lead to blood clots, which can cause:
- Heart attacks
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Heart disease
Using cocaine can result in the arteries and heart capillaries hardening, resulting in atherosclerosis. Additionally, the aorta, the main street in the body, can tear if your heart is under tremendous pressure. In some cases, this can be fatal.
Cocaine Impacts on The Digestive System
Cocaine abuse reduces the production of good bacteria and erodes the stomach lining, which protects against acid damage to the stomach and gut.
Some other risks to the digestive system from cocaine use include:
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Bowel decay
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced blood flow to the gut
- Acid reflux
- Nausea and vomiting
Cocaine Impacts on The Immune System
It has been found that cocaine hurts the immune system. This is due to the following reasons:
- Cocaine suppresses immune cells, inhibiting your ability to fight off disease and infection.
- Smoking crack cocaine increases your chance of getting pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Due to riskier sexual activity, inadequate nutrition, and injection of cocaine, users are at a higher risk for contracting infections such as HIV and hepatitis.
Cocaine Impacts on The Endocrine System
Cocaine abuse inhibits normal hormone regulation, which affects the overall endocrine system. It takes effect in these ways:
- Chronic cocaine abuse maintains the adrenal glands in an overstimulated state, leading to aggression and low mental health.
- It can impact female reproductive hormones, disrupting menstrual cycles and affecting fertility.
- It can decrease sperm count in men.
Cocaine Impacts on The Brain
Cocaine has significant effects on the brain. The presence of this substance causes increased activity of dopamine production. This spike in dopamine levels gives the user feelings of euphoria. After frequent and prolonged cocaine use, the levels of dopamine naturally found in your brain decrease, and you begin to need higher amounts of the drug to feel good. Eventually, your brain can’t even produce normal dopamine levels without cocaine. When you’ve reached this drug abuse and addiction point, you will likely experience cocaine withdrawal symptoms when you go without it for periods.
Research has also found that chronic cocaine use is linked to poor decision-making, an inability to recognize negative behavior patterns, and a lack of self-awareness.
Regular use can:
- Damage the brain cells and structure, putting you at risk of seizures.
- Reduce brain functions.
- Increase your risk of developing severe mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
- Cause you to lose gray matter in the brain, which impacts memory, movement, emotion, and the senses.
Cocaine Impacts on Mental Health
The psychological effects of cocaine are severe and can increase over time. Any underlying mental health issues are likely to be exasperated by cocaine use. This includes depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Cocaine gives a false sense of confidence and superiority when under the influence. This is often juxtaposed by a severe crash in self-esteem when the drug wears off. During a comedown from cocaine use, individuals will often feel extremely low in confidence and are likely to experience anxiety and stress.
Cocaine can intensify negative emotions such as; paranoia, anger, anxiety, and aggression. It is common for people who have taken cocaine to become more argumentative and, in some cases, even violent.
An overdose can occur even in individuals using cocaine for the first time. Combining cocaine with other dangerous drugs such as alcohol or heroin increases the risk of overdose. If you are concerned that somebody is experiencing a cocaine overdose, seek medical attention. Recovery from a cocaine overdose is possible, but early medical intervention is crucial; it can save a life.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
Cocaine is a hazardous substance, and many people become addicted. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else you know, help is available. Taking the first step towards recovery is always accepting that you have a problem and need help. With quality substance abuse treatment, you can find a future without drugs.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment at Cirque Lodge
Drug addiction doesn’t only affect the individual; the effects of cocaine significantly impact those around them. With the right addiction treatment program, you can work towards your recovery goals with the guidance of medical professionals.
At Cirque Lodge, we offer a wide range of effective treatment programs tailored to your specific needs. We emphasize the whole family to create a strong support network and give you the best chances of a lasting recovery. Get in touch with us today to discuss potential treatment options so together we can make your health and happiness a priority.