What are the other health effects of Cocaine use?
Other health effects of cocaine use include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea Raised body temperature and blood pressure
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Tremors and muscle twitches
Some long-term health effects of cocaine depend on the method of use and include the following:
- Snorting: loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing
- Smoking: cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and higher risk of infections like pneumonia
- Consuming by mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow
- Needle injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases, skin or soft tissue infections, as well as scarring or collapsed veins
Cocaine, HIV, and Hepatitis
Studies have shown that cocaine use speeds up HIV infection. According to research, cocaine impairs immune cell function and promotes reproduction of the HIV virus. Research also suggests that people who use cocaine and are infected with HIV may be more susceptible to contracting other viruses, such as hepatitis C, a virus that affects the liver. Read more about the connection between cocaine and these diseases in NIDA’s Cocaine Research Report.
Other long-term effects of cocaine use include being malnourished, because cocaine decreases appetite, and movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, which may occur after many years of use. In addition, people report irritability and restlessness from cocaine binges, and some also experience severe paranoia, in which they lose touch with reality and have auditory hallucinations— hearing noises that aren’t real.
Can a person overdose on cocaine?
Yes, a person can overdose on cocaine. An overdose occurs when a person uses enough of a drug to produce serious adverse effects, life-threatening symptoms, or death. An overdose can be intentional or unintentional. Death from overdose can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Many people who use cocaine also drink alcohol at the same time, which is particularly risky and can lead to overdose. Others mix cocaine with heroin, another dangerous—and deadly—combination.
Some of the most frequent and severe health consequences of overdose are irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks, seizures, and strokes. Other symptoms of cocaine overdose include difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, high body temperature, hallucinations, and extreme agitation or anxiety.
How can a cocaine overdose be treated?
There is no specific medication that can reverse a cocaine overdose. Management involves supportive care and depends on the symptoms present. For instance, because cocaine overdose often leads to a heart attack, stroke, or seizure, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions, with the intent of:
- Restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
- Restoring oxygen-rich blood supply to the affected part of the brain (stroke)
- Stopping the seizure
How does cocaine use lead to addiction?
As with other drugs, repeated use of cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems, which may lead to addiction. The reward circuit eventually adapts to the extra dopamine caused by the drug, becoming steadily less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses to feel the same high they did initially and to obtain relief from withdrawal.
- Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased appetite
- Unpleasant dreams and insomnia
- Slowed thinking
How can people get treatment for cocaine addiction?
Behavioral therapy may be used to treat cocaine addiction. Examples include:
Cognitive -behavioral therapy
Contingency management or motivational incentives -providing rewards to patients who remain substance free
Therapeutic communities -drug-free residences in which people in recovery from substance use disorders help each other to understand and change their behaviors community based recovery groups, such as 12-step programs
For more information about cocaine, visit the National Institute for Drug Abuse Cocaine webpage