Cocaine is a common drug of abuse and has been for decades. Popular with people who frequent late night clubs and those who need assistance managing at work the next morning, cocaine is referred to as an “upper” that provides users with both a high and a little boost of energy to keep going.
Unfortunately, cocaine use can translate into serious health problems for the user, both in the short term while under the influence and in the long term after months or years of chronic use. Additionally, cocaine when used together with alcohol can create even more serious health problems for the user.
If someone you love abuses cocaine, help is available. Contact us at the phone number listed above to connect with a program that can help.
Acute Health Problems
A hit of cocaine produces an almost instant high that can last for up to 15 minutes or more depending upon the level of purity, the method of ingestion, and the amount of the dose as well as other drugs in the system. Unfortunately, acute health issues caused by use of the drug can be rapid in onset after use as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these can include:
- Higher blood pressure and heart rate
- Erratic and even violent behavior
- Anxiety, paranoia and panic
- Intense shaking
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms
- Disrupted heart rhythm (e.g., arrhythmia)
- Heart attack
Death can occur without warning – sometimes, after the first use of the drug. In most cases, deaths caused by acute use of cocaine begin with a seizure and/or cardiac arrest and are followed by an arrest of the respiratory system.
Long-Term Health Concerns
Ongoing use of cocaine means a continued exposure to risk of the above issues as well as an increased risk of developing a host of chronic or serious health problems. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that these can include:
- Addiction that can co-occur with other medical conditions and trigger a host of mental health and social problems as well
- Increased sensitivity to the negative side effects of cocaine use (e.g., violent behavior or panic and paranoia)
- Psychosis, including auditory and visual hallucinations
- Cardiovascular disorders including
Additionally, depending upon the method of ingestion, users may experience other serious health problems related to long-term use of cocaine. For example, those who snort the drug may end up with a deviated septum requiring surgical intervention and repair or may lose their sense of smell. They may also struggle with chronic nosebleeds, difficulty swallowing, chronic hoarseness or ongoing runny nose.
Those who smoke cocaine may have an increased risk of respiratory disorders, especially damage to the lungs. Those who inject the drug have an increased risk of developing blood infections or transmissible diseases like hepatitis C or HIV.
Cocaine + Alcohol
Another serious and somewhat lesser known risk of cocaine abuse occurs when the user combines cocaine use with alcohol. According to the Journal of Addiction Diseases, drinking alcoholic beverages while using cocaine creates a new substance called cocaethylene. This substance has properties that are similar to cocaine but a half-life that is up to five times longer. This means that it stays in the body – and does damage to organs and their systems – for far longer and can cause:
- Liver damage
- Compromised immune system
- Up to 25-fold increase in chance of immediate death over use of cocaine alone
Treatment Helps: Learn More Today
For both the mental health and medical health issues that arise due to cocaine abuse, treatment can make a world of difference. Contact us at the phone number above for more information.
Further Reading About Health Risks of Cocaine Abuse
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton