Cocaine is a fast-acting stimulant that affects the brain and body. The associated high can be so exciting and attractive that some people feel they are addicted. There are many negative effects to long term use, especially for people who have pre-existing health conditions.
With repeated use, your body becomes used to cocaine. This is called tolerance. When this happens, more cocaine is needed to produce the same high. As tolerance builds, you desire to use more of the drug more frequently. The high that follows can be accompanied by increasing feelings of irritability, panic attacks, paranoia, and even psychosis and hallucinations. The increased dose and frequency also puts you at a higher risk for physical health effects. A decrease in tolerance during periods of non-use can lead to accidental overdose if use is later resumed.
The main attractive effects of cocaine are in the brain. In the short-term, it causes a feeling of euphoria, alertness, energy, and being more sensitive to sensations such as sound, light, and touch. This high can last for as few as 5 minutes or as long as 30 minutes, depending on how it was taken. Physical effects can include dilated pupils, increased body temperature, and increased heart rate. Large doses may cause unpredictable, sometimes violent, behavior.
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Cocaine causes the heart to beat faster and raise blood pressure. At the same time, it causes the blood vessels to constrict, which reduces the blood flow to the heart. This combination can lead to a heart attack. It can also cause an abnormal heart rhythm called an arrhythmia, which can be fatal. Similarly, cocaine use constricts the blood vessels in the brain, which can cause headaches, strokes, seizures, and in extreme cases, coma. Long-term use can also lead to kidney failure, especially in people with pre-existing high blood pressure.
There are several ways to get the drug into the body, each with its own possible complications. Snorting cocaine can damage the nose and sinuses, leading to a loss of the sense of smell, nosebleeds, and a chronic runny nose. Other possible side effects are hoarseness and trouble swallowing. Smoking "crack" irritates the lungs, which can cause permanent lung damage. Ingesting the drug can cause ulcers and damage to the intestines, leading to perforation of the bowel as the tissue weakens. Bowel gangrene can occur as blood vessel constriction causes intestinal tissue to die. Injecting cocaine opens up the risk of HIV and hepatitis infections. This method also has a higher risk of allergic reaction, both to the drug and to any additives that may have been included.
Regular use can lead to a loss of appetite, which causes weight loss and malnourishment. This puts you at further risk of health problems. Chronic use can also have sexual side effects, including delayed or otherwise impaired ejaculation in men.
If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine use, please call 888.424.2626 for a free and confidential conversation with one of our caring and compassionate Guest Services Consultants. Freedom Model Retreats is the most successful non-12 Step program in the nation, and stands ready to help you or your loved one move into a happier, more fulfilling life.