Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant. In a report released by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it’s stated that this power drug affects the limbic system of the brain by flooding the brain synapse with dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that creates feelings of elation. In natural occurrences, dopamine might be created by exercise, sex, and even listening to music, according to a news report published by Discovery News in January 2011.
According to the National Institutes of Health, when the body releases dopamine, there is a process through which excess dopamine is reabsorbed into the brain. Essentially, a notice is sent to the brain that we feel good and we should turn off the dopamine production before we are overwhelmed. When cocaine is present, on the other hand, the parts of the brain that take up the excess dopamine are blocked. The brain continues to produce dopamine, but can’t absorb it. This excess dopamine is what causes the euphoric reactions to cocaine stimuli.
The euphoria experienced through the use of cocaine can lead rather quickly to dependence and a compulsion to continue using the drug despite harmful financial, social or legal ramifications. When this occurs, the drug user has made the leap into full addiction.
There are several ways to ingest cocaine based upon the form the drug takes. Each one has its own set of long-term consequences.
Effects of Snorting Cocaine
When we think of cocaine, we often think of the white powder that was glamorized in television and the movies in the 1970s. This type of cocaine is taken by snorting it into the nasal passages where it is absorbed into the body through the thin membranes that line the sinus passages. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regular snorting of cocaine can lead to:
- A permanent loss of the sense of smell
- Chronic nosebleeds
- Problems swallowing
- Chronically running nose
- Hoarse or raspy throat
Efects of Smoking Cocaine
Smoking cocaine gained popularity, as indicated in a report released by the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, in the 1980s. This “rock” form of cocaine is cheaper and more widely available to drug users, and less costly for the suppliers to produce. The rock form of cocaine is heated in a glass pipe, and as it heats, the rock makes a crackling sound. This provided the street name, “crack.” It is still popular today and has a unique footprint of long-term health effects based upon this manner of delivery.
Crack cocaine use over a long period of time can lead to:
- Aggressive, paranoid behavior
- Addiction after a single use
- Respiratory failure
- Brain seizures
- Lung illnesses that can lead to death
- Biology. An individual who has family members who suffer from addiction is more likely to succumb, should they make the choice to use drugs.
- Environment. If an individual lives in an area with easy availability to drugs, he/she is more likely to experiment with drugs.
- Age. The earlier in life an individual is exposed to drugs, the more likely he/she will be to eventually suffer from addiction.
Effects of Injecting Cocaine
Like heroin, cocaine can be reduced to a liquid state and injected directly into the veins. Statements from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that this form of cocaine use poses risks in a couple of areas. Primarily, the addict is at risk for infection at the injection site that can lead to more severe infections if left untreated, as well as allergic reactions. The sharing of needles, as with any intravenous drug use, can spread diseases such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.
Overall Long-Term Effects of Cocaine
One of the most serious long-term effects of cocaine abuse concerns use by women of childbearing age. In a study published by the National Institute of Health, researches stated that there are several factors that can lead to a predisposition for cardiac problems. These factors occur while the baby is growing inside its mother, and may not be recognized until adulthood. For instance, if the mother is malnourished, or if the mother exposes her fetus to drug use, the child could appear healthy at birth, but later suffer dire consequences. Cocaine, in particular, has been shown to affect heart development in such a way.
Additionally, cocaine is of brutal concern because of the manner through which it is absorbed between tissues. Cocaine passes through the uterine wall and into the fetus on every level, attacking the organs.
On the other end of the spectrum, long-term use of cocaine has also been known to cause infertility, reproductive damage, and sexual dysfunction in both males and females, according to the University of Maryland’s CESAR project.
Your Life Is at Stake
Together with the effects of various forms of cocaine, simply using cocaine in any way can have drastic long-term side effects. The effects have no regard to race, age, gender, financial or social position. The only way to mitigate these possible outcomes of addiction is to get help as quickly as you can by entering a treatment facility that is well-versed in cocaine addiction.
Heart disease and heart attack are very real possibilities when it comes to cocaine abuse. Cocaine, because it is a stimulant, has immediate effects on the heart muscle as it increases the heart rate and can lead to cardiomyopathy, according to Medscape. The medical reference goes on to indicate that cardiomyopathy is an enlargement of the chambers of the heart that is the most common reason for the need for a heart transplant in the United States.
One more significant result from long-term cocaine abuse is death. Death can come from diseases contracted due to the methods of abuse as we’ve already mentioned, and it can come from one other source – overdose. Overdose as a result of cocaine abuse is not uncommon, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network study for 2009 – the most recent for which numbers have been released. In fact, according to these most recent statistics, 43.4 percent of all drug-related visits to emergency departments that year involved the use of cocaine. This was the highest percentage of all visits when compared to other illicit drugs.
Does Everyone Become Addicted Eventually?
This is a difficult question to answer in light of the long-term effects of cocaine use. The truth is, science has yet to discover why some individuals are more prone to become addicted to substances while others seem to get by without suffering this lasting effect.
Factors of Dependency
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has narrowed it down, through study and research, to three factors:
How Difficult Is It to Detox and Recover From Cocaine Addiction?
While cocaine withdrawal does not present some of the dire physical ailments that detoxing from heroin might produce, there are some issues that you should be aware of. For instance, when a drug user stops using cocaine, particularly after a binge, he may experience a significant “crash.” This crash is often accompanied by a very serious craving to use more cocaine. He may also suffer from intense fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and paranoia, according the Medline Plus.
When you’re ready to stop using drugs, it is important to have a team of professionals on your side. Not only can these trained and experienced individuals help you through a very difficult time, they can also help you come to terms with the issues at hand by putting your mind at ease. You will be confident that you’re receiving the best care possible.
To find out more about how we here at Axis can help, please contact us today. Read more at Cocaine Rehab.