Cocaine and Your Brain: What are the Risks and Side Effects?

Home/Cocaine and Your Brain: What are the Risks and Side Effects?

Cocaine use has a detrimental effect on your brain, and is associated with many of the same risks and side effects as other addictive drugs. Some people believe that cocaine can be used casually and without any long-term adverse effects. Let us take a moment to dispel that myth: cocaine is dangerous, and the immediate pleasure it produces is certainly not worth the impact it can have on your brain and body.

In fact, cocaine affects the chemical reactions of the brain, making the one under its influence experience pleasure and movement in an enhanced way. This is what makes cocaine so attractive to many users, but it is also what makes the drug so powerfully addictive. Because of its addictive nature, cocaine is associated with a variety of risks, short-term side effects, and long-term effects on both the brain and the body. In short, cocaine is a dangerous drug for anyone to use, and can pose long-term health risks for those who become addicted to it.

Coke. Rock. Crack. Snow. Blow. Whatever the name, there is no question that cocaine use is associated with a great deal of risks and side effects. You can learn more about what these are, what they mean, and how to overcome cocaine abuse and addiction here.

The Risks That Cocaine Use Places on Your Brain

The biggest risk in cocaine use is in the amount that is taken. More often than not, people who use cocaine do so in binges – they take the drug repeatedly within a short time, at increasingly higher doses. Because the brain builds up a tolerance to the drug over time, people who use cocaine need larger and larger doses in order to maintain the same high they first experienced. This can come with dangerous consequences. Increasing these doses can have a detrimental impact on both your brain and body, often without you even realizing it, which can lead to anything from seizures to overdose.

There are a variety of health and personal risks associated with cocaine use, both on physical and mental health. Some of the most common risks in cocaine abuse include:

  • HIV infection
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased sleep and interrupted sleep patterns
  • Memory loss
  • Shortened attention span
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Nosebleeds
  • Altered moods and associated mental health problems
  • Pregnancy risk

Clearly, cocaine use is not to be taken lightly. None of these risks are particularly rare, either, especially if cocaine use is sustained or increased over a substantial amount of time. The other major risk in cocaine use is poly-drug addiction – that is, using and becoming addicted to other illicit substances besides just cocaine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes the risks in cocaine use, as well as the danger in using cocaine alongside other substances, in greater detail:

Severe medical complications can occur with cocaine use. Some of the most frequent are cardiovascular effects, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks; neurological effects, including headaches, seizures, strokes, and coma; and gastrointestinal complications, including abdominal pain and nausea. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures. Many cocaine users also use alcohol, and this combination can be particularly dangerous. The combination of cocaine and heroin is also very dangerous. Users combine these drugs because the stimulating effects of cocaine are offset by the sedating effects of heroin; however, this can lead to taking a high dose of heroin without initially realizing. Because cocaine’s effects wear off sooner, this can lead to a heroin overdose, in which the user’s respiration dangerously slows down or stops, possibly fatally.”

~ National Institute on Drug Abuse

Each and every one of these risks, of course, is compounded if cocaine addiction is added to the mix. Because of its highly addictive nature, this is not an unlikely scenario. Consider the heavy and wholly unnecessary risks before using cocaine, even once.

What Side Effects Does Using Cocaine Have on Your Brain?

In addition to the mental and physical health risks that you subject your mind and body to through cocaine use, the drug is also associated with a range of side effects. The idea behind taking cocaine is to increase energy, pleasure, and even attention in the body. However, this is not always the resulting effect. Even if it is, cocaine use also comes with a host of other, less desirable effects.

“Small amounts of cocaine usually make the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, mentally alert, and hypersensitive to sight, sound, and touch. The drug can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that cocaine helps them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, although others experience the opposite effect. Short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts of cocaine may intensify the user’s high but can also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior. Some cocaine users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia. Users may also experience tremors, vertigo, and muscle twitches.”

As this quote from the National Institute on Drug Abuse makes clear, many negative side effects of cocaine use are experienced alongside the so-called ‘positive’, or pleasurable, effects of the drug. The very short-term side effects of using cocaine include:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Increased energy
  • Increased pleasure
  • A heightened mental alertness
  • Increased (almost hyper) sensitivity to senses like sound, sight and touch
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings and depressed feelings
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme distrust of those around you
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

These are some of the major side effects caused by cocaine use, particularly during the high caused by the drug. However, the drug is also associated with other, long-term side effects that are well worth considering. This includes everything from deterioration of the cardiovascular system to the permanent loss of major cognitive functions.

“Generally, studies suggest that a wide range of cognitive functions are impaired with long-term cocaine use – such as sustaining attention, impulse inhibition, memory, making decisions involving rewards or punishments, and performing motor tasks.”

~ National Institute on Drug Abuse

More specifically, some side effects vary depending on how the drug is taken: by snorting, by smoking, or by injection. Those who snort cocaine for a long period of time often experience a decreased sense of smell, extensive nosebleeds or a running nose, and even issues with swallowing. Smoking crack cocaine is associated with damage to the lungs, which can either cause or worsen asthma in some. Shooting (or injecting cocaine) puts users at risk of either HIV or hepatitis, as mentioned above. No matter how the drug is taken, or which street name it takes on, there is no doubt that the risks and side effects of cocaine use are not worth the momentary high in your brain.

The risks and side effects discussed here have hopefully given you a better understanding of cocaine and your brain. If you already use cocaine and think you might need help in getting the substance abuse treatment that you need, do not hesitate to reach out today. Cocaine abuse and addiction can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, but that does not mean that the effects of the dangerous drug cannot be overcome. If you have more questions, or a story to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

April 7th, 2017|0 Comments

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