Dangers of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Casual cocaine use is an increasingly common practice, which is especially alarming because the highly addictive drug is increasingly available nationwide.1

Cocaine abuse can have a devastating impact on a person’s health, body and mind, and it can also have other far-reaching implications.2

The drug is highly addictive both psychologically and physiologically. Because of the intense euphoria experienced while experimenting with cocaine, individuals who start to sink into addiction overlook the dangers that come with prolonged and increased exposure.1

Young adults who use the drug occasionally with friends may not be aware of the dangers of cocaine, including both short- and long-term effects of cocaine on the body and mind.3 So-called casual cocaine use not only has the potential to lead to addiction, but can also be life-threatening.4

While marijuana and alcohol are more commonly used among young adults, cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction in young adults are steadily trending upward.5 Results from the 2014 National Survey on nationwide drug trends shows that rates of cocaine use have been relatively stable since 2009.1

It is estimated that there are a staggering 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, and that young adults aged 18 to 25 years have a higher rate of current cocaine use than any other age group.1

cocaine effects on the body & mental health

What Are the Risks of Cocaine Addiction?

A person in the grip of cocaine abuse can progress toward addiction within a relatively short period of time.1 Cocaine abuse is often associated with physical, psychological, and financial dangers and cocaine addiction comes with dangerous far-reaching implications.1

Cocaine abuse statistics are alarming.1 Cocaine abuse poses a range of health risks and other serious, long-term risks for regular and recreational users alike. Potential health dangers include central nervous damage, memory loss, and mood disorders.1

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered to be the safest and most effective approach to substance use disorder treatment which begins with a controlled detox process to help the person eliminate cocaine and other substances from their system.6

Overdose and Death Associated With Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is highly addictive and the risk of overdose, which can be fatal, is high.2

As a street drug, cocaine comes in the form of a fine, white, crystal powder, but street dealers often take advantage of this and use additives to increase quantity and profit. Substances which they may add to the powder include other drugs such as amphetamine or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which carries a high risk of overdose. Consumers are unaware that this dangerous additive is present, so they may unknowingly overdose. Tampered cocaine may be the key culprit for the increasing numbers of overdose deaths among cocaine users.1

Approximately 16,000 people die every year from overdoses involving cocaine.3 If a person overdoses on cocaine, this can adversely impact their health and it may even lead to death, especially if the person does not receive immediate medical assistance.4 In the event of a cocaine overdose, it is essential to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.4

However, overdose is not the only issue: persistent use of stimulants such as cocaine can lead to cognitive problems and other health issues, especially when injected. The drug tends to suppress immune-cell function and promote replication of the HIV virus. Individuals with HIV who use cocaine may become more susceptible to contracting hepatitis C as well.3

How Cocaine Abuse Can Affect Your Mental Health?

Cocaine abuse can take a toll on a person’s mental health. Cocaine abuse may result in depression, anxiety, delusion disorders, and many more mental health issues.1 This is one of the reasons why treatment of a substance use disorder may need to incorporate co-occurring disorder treatment which focuses on the person’s mental health.6

What Are the Health Effects of Cocaine Use on the Body?

Cocaine use can take a heavy toll on the body as well. The health effects of cocaine use include but are not limited to nausea, restlessness, tremors, and many more. All these effects also serve as the key warning signs of cocaine addiction.1

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine?

Under the powerful influence of cocaine, a person can experience the following:1

  • Extreme happiness and a surge of energy
  • Heightened mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli (sight, sound, touch)
  • Unpredictable, erratic behavior
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

The desired side effects typically last a short period of time but the undesired side effects can persist, especially if a person has developed tolerance to the drug.1 Individuals who use cocaine often use the drug repeatedly within a short time span because they want to maintain the effects of the drug or avoid the unpleasant withdrawal syndrome.1

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine?

The long-term health effects of cocaine include:1

  • Tolerance and sensitization to the drug: this means the person needs a higher and more frequent intake of the drug to experience the desired effects, but at the same time less cocaine is needed to produce anxiety, convulsions, or other toxic effects. This raises the risk of an overdose.
  • Binging on cocaine means the drug is used repeatedly and at increasingly higher doses over a relatively brief period of time. As a result, a person can be irritable, restless, and paranoid. They may suffer panic attacks and even a full-blown psychosis with hallucinations.
  • The higher and more frequent the doses of cocaine, the higher the risks of adverse psychological or physiological effects.
  • Each route of administration, be it snorting, shooting, or smoking crack cocaine, comes with specific adverse effects.
  • Cocaine causes physical damages to the body, especially the gastrointestinal tract, the heart, and cardiovascular system.
  • Neurological problems are more likely to occur with long-term cocaine use. This may lead to bleeding within the brain, and bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. Movement disorders typical of Parkinson’s disease may occur. Cognitive functions can be impaired with long-term cocaine use.
  • The risk of relapse is high even after long periods of stable abstinence. Relapse is normally caused by intense cravings which are triggered by the memory of the cocaine experience and/or exposure to environmental cues the brain associates with the cocaine experience.

What Are the Dangers of Different Cocaine Abuse Methods?

However used, cocaine is highly addictive. Methods of cocaine abuse include snorting, injecting, and smoking the drug:1

  • Snorting cocaine can lead to a range of issues, including loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, issues with swallowing, chronic inflammation with a runny nose, and hoarseness.
  • Smoking crack cocaine causes potential long-term damage to the lungs and worsens asthma and other respiratory issues.
  • Injection increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. Allergic reactions to cocaine or to additives in the drug are also more likely. In severe cases, these can result in death. Injection enables cocaine and other substances adulterated cocaine may contain to reach the bloodstream rapidly. If cocaine has been mixed with fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid, which is often done illicitly and unknown to consumers, the risk of overdose with a fatal outcome is high.

Cocaine Abuse Among Young Adults

Recent reports suggest that the rate of cocaine abuse among young adults in the U.S. has reached an all-time record. Binging on cocaine during adolescence enhances sensitivity to the rewarding effects of cocaine and MDMA which may make the person more vulnerable and susceptible to continued use of the drug.1

Stats of cocaine use among young adults indicate that this alarming rate of cocaine use may potentially lead to unfavorable future outcomes.4 Use of cocaine, not unlike other substances of abuse, can induce long-term changes in the brain. The scope of misuse of substances among young adults is concerning, which is why it may be more important than ever to educate adults, young adults and teenagers about the dangers of drug use.3

How to Get Treatment for Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that causes an intense psychological addiction with complex withdrawal symptoms.1 Treatment for cocaine addiction involves detox which enables individuals to overcome withdrawal as safely and comfortably as possible.6

There are different helplines to explore when seeking help with cocaine addiction for oneself or for another person. It may also be helpful and comforting to read testimonials from previous users.AAC admissions navigators are available 24/7 to assist and provide treatment-related suggestions to treatment-seeking individuals and their families or friends. You can easily find answers to all your questions about the rehabilitation protocol and have your insurance verified if insured, as well as find information on options in the event of non-existent or insufficient insurance coverage.


Frequently Asked Questions