Cocaine Side Effects

Short Term & Long Term Cocaine Side Effects Including Risks, Withdrawal, Addiction & Overdose

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant that speeds up the workings of the brain. This illegal drug is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. It’s illegal in the U.S. Other names for it include:

Cocaine comes in a few different forms. The most common is a fine, white powder. It can also be made into a solid rock crystal. Today, cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which means that it has high potential for abuse but can be administered by a doctor for legitimate medical uses, such as local anesthesia for some ear, eye, and throat surgeries [1].

Since cocaine is combined or ‘cut’ with other chemicals, people have no idea if the dose will be weak or strong. These other chemicals may include fillers, such as paint chemicals, cornstarch, and fentanyl, and its analogs, such as carfentanil, which are added purely to boost profits.

Cocaine Side Effects
Admitting you have an addiction to cocaine can be difficult. Remember, many people understand what you’re going through, and help is out there.
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How Cocaine Works?

The brain rewards us for engaging in life-enhancing behavior, such as eating or having sex, by releasing a flood of pleasurable neurochemicals. Dopamine is one of these brain chemicals. This chemical reinforcement makes us want to engage in those behaviors again. 

Cocaine works by tapping into this reward system and triggering the release of dopamine. This means that cocaine is highly addictive, not only psychologically but neurochemically. 

Cocaine affects everyone differently. Some people report feeling intense euphoria, while others report sensations of pain, anxiety, and hallucinations.

This buildup of dopamine is central to cocaine’s potential for misuse. Because the body may seek to fulfill the newfound craving for this dopamine reward, the brain’s neurochemistry can be changed, leading to a cocaine use disorder.

Cocaine use disorder happens when a person experiences clinically significant impairment, including cocaine side effects caused by the chronic use of cocaine, including health problems, persistent or increasing use, physical withdrawal, and failure to meet major responsibilities at school, work, or home.

What are the Risks of Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug used by 14-21 million people worldwide. According to the Substance abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) [2], in 2018 there are 874,000 new cocaine users. Unfortunately, many people suffer unpleasant consequences as a result of their cocaine use. One’s potential risks of cocaine side effects and addiction may include:

  • Overdose
  • Mood disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • HIV infection
  • Hepatitis B infection
  • Hepatitis C infection
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory illness
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Poly-drug abuse
  • Weight loss
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Memory loss
  • Slow reaction time
  • Short attention span
  • Shrinking brain size
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nose collapse

What is Cocaine Withdrawal?

Cocaine withdrawal happens when a person who has used a lot of this drug cuts down or quits taking cocaine. Symptoms of withdrawal can happen even if the user is not completely off of this drug and still has some cocaine in their blood.

Causes of Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine produces a sense of euphoria or extreme mood elevation by causing the activity of the brain to release higher than normal amounts of dopamine and other chemicals. But, its effects on other parts of the body can be very serious, or even deadly.

When cocaine use is stopped or when a binge ends, a crash follows almost right away. The cocaine user has a strong craving for more cocaine during a crash. Withdrawal from this drug often has no visible physical symptoms, such as the vomiting and shaking that accompany withdrawal from alcohol or heroin.

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Effects of Withdrawal from Cocaine

While very unpleasant, cocaine withdrawal is rarely serious unless complicated by suicidal ideation. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal tend to last only one or two weeks and may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Exhaustion
  • Challenges in concentration
  • Intense craving for cocaine
  • Body aches
  • Pain
  • Tremors and shakiness
  • Chills

Cocaine Overdose

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [3], Drug overdose deaths involving cocaine rose from 3,822 in 1999 to 15,883 in 2019. Even though males are more likely to die from taking too much of the substance, it can happen to someone of any gender.

Overdose from cocaine can result in:

  • Stroke
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Sudden death

The risk of overdose is increased when it is used with other dangerous substances like other drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and alcohol. The combination of heroin and cocaine called speedball is particularly deadly. This combination creates a serious risk of overdose.

Cocaine Side Effects – Snorting

Snorting cocaine is done by having a small quantity of the powder on a smooth surface, such as a mirror. A sharp-edged tool, such as a razor blade or a credit card, is used for crushing the larger chunks into a fine uniform powder. The white powder is then formed into thin lines. The drug is snorted by holding a tube to one nostril and sniffing. The snorted drug reaches the brain in one to three minutes and produces a high that lasts for half an hour or so.

Snorting damages the nasal tissues and causes chronic irritation. The tell-tale runny nose of the user is because of the irritation of the mucous membranes lining the nose. Continued snorting may lead to the perforated septum and nasal ulcers. Snorting this drug can have especially dreadful consequences as it can lead to tumors, lesions, and trauma to the nose, mouth, and palette. People who swallow cocaine may experience intestinal issues. In severe cases, the intestines can become starved of blood and can potentially bunch up and block flow. They may even grow too thin and weak to function properly and may rupture as a result.

Cocaine Side Effects
If you find yourself thinking about the euphoria produced by cocaine, force yourself to think of the negative outcomes and cocaine side effects that follow its use.

Cocaine Side Effects – Smoking

Smoking cocaine or freebase may cause bleeding in the lungs when the small blood vessels ruptured. A lot of cocaine smokers develop chest pain and cough that worsen with deep breathing. They may cough up phlegm that is black or tinged with blood. Smoking this drug can risk causing the lungs to fill with fluid from injury to the small vessels lining the air sacs.

Smoking this substance has the fastest effect producing an effect with 10 seconds and a peak in 3 to 5 minutes which lasts about 15 minutes. Because the high of smoked cocaine is so short and intense, it is especially addictive.

When purchased on the street, the drug is very often diluted or “cut” with any number of other chemicals like detergents, silicon, and amphetamines. Those who use this impure cocaine, risk developing cocaine side effects, overdosing, and addiction, as there is usually no way to determine which hazardous ingredients are being taken.

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Short Term Cocaine Side Effects

Whether used for short durations or extended periods, any use is associated with cocaine side effects. Using this drug can lead to a severe heart attack even in young and otherwise healthy. In addition, taking large amounts is associated with unpredictable and possibly violent behavior.

Other short term cocaine side effects of use include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle twitches

Long Term Cocaine Side Effects

When short-term use crosses the line into long-term use, the risks increase for new and pronounced negative results. These lasting long-term cocaine side effects represent the drastic impact cocaine has on the user’s physical health.

The inherent health consequences of long-term use include:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic, extreme fatigue
  • Unrelenting headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Heart arrhythmias and heart attack
  • Significant weight loss
  • Bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis from unsafe injection use
  • Widespread ischemic vascular disease
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Using this drug over a long time can also lead to cocaine side effects such as depression, addiction, isolation from friends and family, paranoia, psychosis, and severe respiratory infections. The use of cocaine, like other drugs of abuse, induces long-term changes in the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [4], Stress can contribute to cocaine relapse, and cocaine use disorders usually co-occur with stress-related disorders.

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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Treatment for cocaine side effects to due abuse and addiction typically involves cocaine detox and therapy in an inpatient rehabilitation program. These programs greatly increase your chances of a successful recovery, even though psychological dependence on cocaine is a serious condition that is difficult to overcome. This determination is based on a number of factors including the severity of the addiction, living environment, and psychiatric and medical needs. If you are suffering from cocaine side effects and considering treatment for cocaine addiction, it is helpful to seek a substance abuse evaluation from an addiction professional to determine the right type of support.

Making the decision to find treatment for cocaine addiction is the first step toward recovery. It is also the most important step. Once you admit to struggling with addiction, the only way to go is forward. The brain does not simply go back to normal when the drug use stops and it could take several supports, therapy, counseling, and treatment methods in order to help you effectively overcome the disease. Not everyone needs cocaine addiction treatment, but such help is beneficial to those who have suffered adverse reactions to their sustained drug use, including cocaine side effects. 

Treatment for cocaine side effects and addiction may include:

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Cocaine Side Effects
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Please, do not try to detox on your own. The cocaine side effects can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up NJ provides proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through our medically-assisted detox program. So, reclaim your life, call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions [5].

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[1] NIDA –

[2] SAMHSA –

[3] NIDA –

[4] NCBI –

[5] We Level UpCocaine Addiction Treatment