Short & Long-Term Effects of Cocaine and the Signs of Addiction

While cocaine overdoses killed almost 14,000 Americans in 2017, overdoses are not the only problem cocaine presents. Heart disease, heart failure, and blood clots are all effects of cocaine which can lead to an early death.

If you or your loved one are struggling with a cocaine addiction, contact our experts at The Hope House to learn about a personalized approach to treatment — for results that last.

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If you are worried your loved one is addicted to cocaine, there are a many warning signs and signals of use of the drug. Some forms of substance abuse can be hard to identify, but cocaine has a few telltale physical signs of abuse you can look for.

For example: nosebleeds happen to people who are snorting the drug, but people injecting cocaine will leave distinct markings on the body at the injection site. These are commonly referred to as “track marks”.

How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Cocaine? 

Extreme mood swings, chronic nosebleeds, loss of smell, period exhaustion, and financial problems are all common problems among people who are addicted to cocaine.

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One of the most well-known short-term effects of cocaine use is the high people get shortly after taking the drug which causes the user to feel euphoric, energetic, alert, talkative, etc. Often why the street name for cocaine is happy dust or nose candy.

Along with these effects, many dangerous physiological effects also occur including:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased body temperature
  • Heightened blood pressure and heart rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea

In some cases, users will also get violent/erratic and have dangerous behaviors. This can lead to rash decision-making and problems like driving under the influence, fighting, unprotected sex, and more. Some users also report feeling paranoia, anxiety, and panic.

How Long Do the Effects of Cocaine Last?

The duration of cocaine’s short-term effects will vary depending on several different factors, including how it was consumed. While the initial effects of euphoria will end within a few hours, users can expect to feel the “come down” for about 3 days after using.

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Begins in 1-3 minutes

Ends in 15-30 minutes

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Begins in 10-15 seconds

Ends in 5-15 minutes

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Begins in 10-15 seconds

Ends in 5-15 minutes

Mental Effects of Cocaine

Regular cocaine use can lead to a number of neurological issues in the long run. Most notably, cocaine rewires the brain’s reward and stress circuits. The reward pathways stop responding to natural rewards (like endorphins from exercise).

At the same time, the stress pathways are heightened, making you more irritable when cocaine is not in your system and heightening cocaine withdrawal symptoms. These combined changes can last a lifetime and create debilitating cravings that force one to give up food and relationships in search of the drug.

5 Long-Term Mental Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Brain Bleeds

Bulging Cerebral Blood Vessels

Parkinson’s Disease

Decreased Motor Skills

Lack of Attention

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Physical Effects of Cocaine

Along with the brain, cocaine causes a lot of physical damage to other organs. The largest issues involve the cardiovascular system and reduced blood flow. For instance, reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can result in tears and ulcers that are difficult to correct.

Other long-term physical cocaine effects vary based on how the drug was consumed:

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Snorting cocaine can lead to a loss of smell, problems swallowing, and nosebleeds.

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Smoking cocaine can cause respiratory problems, higher risk of infections like pneumonia, and asthma.

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Putting cocaine in your mouth and on your gums can lead to severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow.

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Injecting cocaine can cause many potential issues like scarring or collapsed veins as well as a higher risk of blood borne diseases like HIV.

Negative Effects of Cocaine on The Heart

While how a person uses cocaine can lead to differing effects on their bodies, ingesting the substance in general has shown to cause numerous problems which affect the heart and cardiovascular system. While these issues often do not arise after a single use of cocaine, if the person has underlying/unknown heart problems, these serious complications can happen after just one use.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease in the heart muscle which makes it more difficult for the heart to pump to the body. Dilated cardiomyopathy specifically is the most common consequence of long-term cocaine use. This can lead to deadly consequences like heart failure.

Arrythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat – it may be beating too fast, too slow, or at an irregular rhythm. It is caused by changes in heart tissue and/or electrical signals controlling the heartbeat.

Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and plaque in the arteries which can restrict blood flow. At times, this plaque can burst which can trigger a blood clot, a problem which can lead to sudden death.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States. It occurs when blood supply to the heart becomes hardened and narrowed. Over time, it can contribute to heart failure.

Cocaine and Alcohol

Because of cocaine’s reputation as a party drug, many people use cocaine while drinking alcohol. This is extremely dangerous and causes overdose in many cases. When consuming both substances, people have an increased risk of heart issues and violent behavior.

Drinking also allows the body to absorb more cocaine than usual which can lead to overdose. Those who abuse alcohol and cocaine simultaneously have 30% more cocaine in their system than if they just used cocaine alone.

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Overdoses occur when a person uses too much of the drug for their bodies to handle. Oftentimes, when people overdose on cocaine, there were other drugs being used simultaneously, whether intentionally or not.

Men, in particular, are more likely to overdose on cocaine than women – about a 3:1 ratio.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose

While it’s impossible to know exactly how much cocaine will cause someone to overdose, it’s important to recognize the signs of an overdose to ensure people receive treatment immediately. Cocaine overdose can cause death and it is imperative that they seek emergency medical assistance immediately. 

Stage 1

Initial signs of cocaine overdose include headache, nausea, twitching, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, increased body temperature/sweating, paranoia, aggression, and confusion.

While these may not seem life threatening, people can quickly move into stage 2 or 3 after experiencing these symptoms and have life-altering complications.

Stage 2

Stage 2 has more severe signs, including: seizures, incontinence, unusual heart rhythm, and moments of stopped breathing. Cocaine overdoses can also cause significant brain damage that alter personality, impact white matter controlling cerebral function, and memory loss.

Stage 3

The most severe signs of a cocaine overdose include: dilated pupils, heart attack, blue skin, and respiratory failure. Many of these symptoms can cause death in a very quick time frame and need to be treated immediately.

After the immediate symptoms of a cocaine overdose have been treated it’s important to figure out how you’ll prevent a future overdose. The ways cocaine alters the brain may cause withdrawal symptoms to set in quickly and make someone have unbearable cravings.

The first step to resolving this is going through cocaine detox and clearing your system of the drug. This can be done in a facility under medical supervision.

Following detox, people need to not only treat addiction, but identify what is causing you to use. At inpatient rehabs like The Hope House, you would get a personalized treatment plan comprised of individual and group therapy. Most of the addiction treatments include behavioral therapy and alternative therapy provided in a serene place to heal.

Recovery is a journey, but rehab does work and can help you or your loved achieve lifelong sobriety.

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