Cocaine may be a recreational drug for many, but it is a highly potent substance that can trigger addiction, medical emergencies and a number of long-term health problems – some of which are fatal. The physical harm caused by chronic cocaine abuse can continue long after the cessation of use; almost no system in the body is unharmed by use of the drug.
- Brain: There is a clear and defined difference in the brain activity of a person who is not under the influence of cocaine as compared to someone who is, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). With regular use, the brain can come to develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring higher and higher amounts in order to trigger the pleasure pathway response that creates the cocaine high in the user. Issues related to cocaine use can include physical issues like seizures and panic attacks as well as a host of mental health symptoms, including anxiety, irritability and paranoia.
- Heart: Use of cocaine can cause a reduction in coronary blood flow and coronary caliber; an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and electrical abnormalities in the heart; and suppression of myocardial contractility, according to a report published in the journal Circulation. Any of these issues alone or in combination can add up to serious cardiac problems that can be deadly.
Additionally, cocaine abuse can increase the risk of experiencing arrhythmia, endocarditis, ruptured aorta, cardiomyopathy and heart disease.
- Respiratory system and lungs: When cocaine is snorted, it can damage the nasal passages, mouth, and throat, causing chronic nose bleeds and/or the need for surgery to repair nasal passages. When cocaine is smoked, there can be significant negative consequences for the lungs with long-term abuse, including an increased permeability of the lungs, according to the journal Chest.
In addition, the Journal of Addictive Diseases reports that freebasing crack cocaine can result in respiratory problems including impaired diffusing capacity of the lungs, increased chance of an obstruction to the airway, and an increased experience of symptoms including asthma, chest pains, black sputum and coughing.
- Kidneys: Glomerulosclerosis, electrolyte imbalance, acute renal failure, renal atherogenesis or infarction, interstitial fibrosis, and urinary tract infections have all been attributed to use and abuse of cocaine, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Gastrointestinal system: From abdominal pain to an epidemic of juxtapyloric perforations to gastric ulcers, cocaine use can wreak havoc on the user’s gastrointestinal system. Additionally, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reports that use of cocaine can contribute to medical issues including duodenal perforation, ischaemic colitis, small or large intestine gangrene or perforation, and upper gastrointestinal perforation.
- Reproductive issues: Impotence is one of the primary reproductive problems caused by cocaine use in men, according to Medline Plus. In addition, testicular function may be negatively impacted by long-term cocaine abuse, according to the Journal of Urology.
Women who are pregnant and their unborn children may be most significantly harmed by long-term cocaine abuse. Babies may be born addicted to cocaine and/or struggle with malnourishment, potentially fatal heart problems, and/or kidney dysplasia.
What Do You Need to Overcome Cocaine Abuse or Addiction?
No use of cocaine is safe. If you are unable to stop abusing cocaine, treatment can help. Learn more about the services that can help you to turn your life around when you contact us at the phone number listed above.
Further Reading About What Are the Physical Effects of Cocaine Use?
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