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Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that creates a short-lived, intense high quickly followed by edginess and a low that frequently results in the craving for more of the drug. The majority of cocaine users either inhale or snort the drug, rub the drug onto their gums, inject cocaine through their veins using a needle, or smoke the drug by inhaling its vapor. Although those who smoke cocaine or inject the drug might experience the effects more rapidly, those who snort or orally ingest cocaine will still experience a quick, intense high.
Snorting Cocaine: Is It Safer Than Using a Needle?
Some believe that cocaine is safer if it is snorted. When you snort cocaine, the powder is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the nose. It creates the most intense high, but it’s very dangerous. It narrows the blood vessels and puts more pressure on the heart. Snorting cocaine causes a runny or bloody nose. Chronic use can cause hoarseness and trouble swallowing. It can also lead to permanent damage to the nose tissue and other organs.
Using the drug intravenously has other risks to consider. Using a needle can lead to infectious diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV. Injecting or “shooting cocaine” can cause the skin and blood vessel linings to deteriorate. There is also the risk for bacterial and viral infections when you inject cocaine.
The bottom line is simple: there is no safe way to use cocaine. It’s a highly addictive drug that can lead to tolerance and addiction with one use. No matter how it’s absorbed into the body, toxic amounts of cocaine can cause heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and ultimately, death. In addition to these serious health concerns, there are several other short- and long-term side effects of cocaine, none of which are positive to your health.
How Cocaine Affects Your Body
To best understand cocaine’s side effects, it helps to understand what cocaine does to your body. Cocaine sends high levels of dopamine into the parts of your brain that control pleasure. As the levels of dopamine increase, it causes a buildup that creates a high. If the drug is frequently used, the brain will develop a tolerance for it, and you’ll need a higher dosage of cocaine in order to feel the effects of it (i.e. to feel high).
Short-Term Side Effects of Cocaine Use
In addition cocaine’s effects on the brain and the quick high it creates, cocaine affects the entire body. Some of the common physical, short-term side effects include:
- Dilated pupils: this is one of the most distinctive signs of cocaine use.
- Increased heart rate/blood pressure: the heart has to work overtime to keep up with the effects of the drug. The drug can also cause increased blood pressure which puts the person at risk for a cardiovascular attack.
- Upset stomach/reduced appetite: stomach problems are a major side effect of cocaine use and some experience nausea and vomiting as a result.
- Headaches: once the high wears off, the brain can have a hard time focusing and may experience headaches or migraines.
- Inability to sleep
- Runny or bloody nose
It’s important to note there’s a risk of tolerance and addiction after just one use.
Long-Term Side Effects of Cocaine Use
As tolerance to cocaine develops, it becomes necessary to take greater and greater quantities to feel the same high. Prolonged daily use of cocaine not only results in an addiction to the drug, but other long-term side effects become likely. They’re both physical and psychological.
Common long-term physical side effects include:
- Lung, liver, kidney damage
- Cardiovascular damage, including damage to blood vessels
- Respiratory failure (if the drug is smoked)
- Malnutrition, weight loss
- Infertility, sexual dysfunction
- Severe tooth decay
- Risk of infectious diseases (if the drug is injected)
- Auditory and tactile hallucinations
- Lost sense of smell
Common long-term psychological side effects include:
- Tolerance and addiction (possible after just one use)
- Sleep issues (oversleeping or trouble falling asleep)
- Short attention span
- Bursts of energy
- Mood swings
- Social withdrawal
- Severe depression
- Risk-taking behavior
If you or someone you know may be struggling with cocaine abuse, it’s never too soon to get ask questions and get help. Speak with your local physician or a professional addiction treatment and rehab facility like Beach House as soon as possible, where you can contact us today.