Cocaine is naturally derived from the coca plant widely available in South America. It is also known as a South American shrub. Cocaine has the potential to produce excitatory effects. It may also help in alleviating pain and comes available in various forms, including powder and crystalline rocks. Cocaine salt powder is mixed with water and then injected into the bloodstream while crystalline rocks are heated, releasing smoke that can be inhaled. The drug is commonly known by many street names like coke, snowflake, and stardust. No matter what the physical form is, it produces similar effects. Substance abuse is a global concern, and millions struggle with addiction. Habitual drug users may find it difficult to let go of the addiction, and very few succeed. There are numerous short-term and long-term health effects of cocaine usage and consumption. Knowing its impact on physical and mental health may encourage some users to cut down or entirely stop consumption.
If you’re trying to understand how drug use may impact the human body, read on below!
The immediate effects produced after cocaine consumption take a few minutes if taken intravenously or inhaled and may take an hour if swallowed. These are some of the short-term effects.
- Pupil dilation
- Alertness and arousal
- Decreased appetite
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased heart rate, body temperature, and respiratory rate
- Hallucination, especially tactile hallucinations when the person may feel that bugs are crawling over their skin
- Craving for more
Once the excitatory effects start settling down, the person craves more, and the dose required to produce similar effects is increased in subsequent episodes. There are many organizations providing treatment options and rehabilitation facilities for users trying to detox or seek treatment after withdrawal. Effective therapeutic measures may halt the addictive cravings early on and prevent further damage.
Long-term effects are far more invasive and damaging. They may even cause permanent organ damage disturbing the quality of life. Some effects, however, have treatment choices available for a safe and healthy recovery.
The organs that are affected the most are:
One of the short-term effects of cocaine use is high blood pressure. With regular use, the person develops permanent hypertensive disorder. Excessive consumption can also increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism by clogging the narrow arteries supplying blood to the heart, brain, and lungs. These conditions have potentially fatal outcomes and may result in death in severe cases.
Nose and mouth
The internal coverings of the nasal cavity and mouth are covered by a large network of tiny vessels called capillaries and are highly sensitive. The blood flow through these capillaries keeps the nasal cavity warm and moist.
Sniffing cocaine powder may damage these internal linings resulting in the dryness of the nasal cavity. The drier surface wears out, exposing the cartilage of the nose. Once the cartilage is exposed, it may become damaged with chronic cocaine use creating a perforation. A perforated septum means that the support for the nasal bridge falls. This eventually results in breathing problems.
Lungs are usually affected when cocaine is smoked through freebasing. In this method, the substance is not only absorbed within minutes of consumption but also diminishes rapidly, making the user depressed and agitated.
Alveoli within the lungs are lined by capillaries in which gaseous exchange takes place, removing carbon dioxide from the body and absorbing oxygen inside. Smoking cocaine damages these capillaries and alveolar lining, increasing the risk of lung infections, tuberculosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and respiratory failure.
Treatment options for lung infections are available, but permanent damage by acute respiratory distress and respiratory failure have limited treatment options.
Cocaine consumption may constrict the blood vessels supplying the brain resulting in a stroke and transient ischemic attacks. Also, it may damage the layers of arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to the brain. A weakened artery is prone to develop outpouching called aneurysms. These aneurysms, if ruptured, can result in brain hemorrhage and sudden death.
Chronic cocaine abuse leads to decreased oxygen supply to the brain leading to brain injury. In the long term, this may be responsible for dementia and forgetfulness among these individuals.
Gut and liver-Effects of Cocaine Usage
As it is evident that chronic cocaine use may constrict blood vessels supplying different body organs, blood flow to the gut may also be impeded, resulting in bowel ischemia and necrosis. The bowel wall tissues may die and lead to sepsis.
Liver, in normal circumstances, filters and flushes toxins out of our body. Chronic cocaine consumption may increase the toxin load making it difficult for the liver to perform its functions efficiently. Toxin buildup within the liver and body causes permanent damage, resulting in liver failure.
Kidneys- Effects of Cocaine Usage
Kidneys play an important role in excreting toxins out of our bodies. Cocaine may damage the kidneys by raising the blood pressure leading to renal failure. Also, muscle proteins are released when cocaine damages the muscles. These muscle proteins are toxic for kidneys leading to kidney damage and renal failure.
Needle sharing among individuals consuming cocaine through intravenous route results in the contraction of deadly infections like HIV, hepatitis B, and C. These infections may further deteriorate the immune system making these individuals more prone to catching unusual infections.
Individuals suffering from cocaine addiction find it difficult to overcome their needs for wanting more. The tolerance created by the drug persuades the user to consume higher amounts regularly. The short-term effects produced may last for a few hours, but the long-term effects are far more devastating and, in some cases, irreversible.
With intensive and continuous treatment and strong willpower, drug users may be able to recover healthily with limited side effects and lead a normal life.
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