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Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse

The side effects of cocaine abuse range from minor health effects to extreme injury and death. There are various risk factors (which we’ll be covering below), that influence how dramatic cocaine side effects will be for a specific user.

Knowing the side effects of cocaine abuse (and being able to educate others) can help you spot and end cocaine addiction in yourself and others. Of course, if you’re thinking about trying cocaine, read on to see if you’re ready to handle the consequences.

Some cocaine facts:

  • Cocaine is the third most common drug found in high schools.
  • 75% of people who try cocaine become addicted.
  • Only 25% of users are successful at ending their cocaine addiction without the help of a drug treatment center.
  • 8% of 12th graders have tried cocaine at least once during high school.
  • The US is the largest importer of cocaine in the world.

Before we dive deep into the side effects of cocaine abuse, we’ll discuss some of the factors putting users at higher risk.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors that increase the dangers of cocaine abuse. Risk factors can be environmental, congenital, or behavioral. Here are just some of the risk factors:

  • Intravenous use: Most cocaine users don’t have to worry about contracting any serious diseases, but those who use intravenously (or ‘shoot up’), may be at an increased risk. Intravenous use also massively increases the risk of overdose and other medical complications.
  • History of use: Heavy users and those using for extended periods are much more likely to suffer from the side effects of cocaine. Use of other drugs in the past or alongside cocaine can also cause complications. Mixing cocaine with alcohol greatly increases the chance of accident and injury, while other drugs such as opiates increase risk of overdose.
  • Health & other factors: Weight, gender, age, genetics, overall health, and a myriad of other factors will influence how cocaine affects a user. It’s almost impossible to predict how even a small amount of cocaine may affect you, so it’s always better to say no.

As you can see, cocaine has a lot of risks associated with it. Read on to learn some of the major effects of cocaine.

Major Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse

A lot of the talk about cocaine abuse and its effects deals with the little stuff: interpersonal problems, poor judgment, lack of control, and impulsive behaviors.

Once you take away the euphoria feelings, cocaine puts you at a huge risk for much bigger problems. Here are just a few:

  • Psychological issues and depressed feelings: Depression, panic attacks, extreme paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations have all been reported as an extreme side effect of cocaine. Before a user gets to full-blown psychosis and hallucinations, there are plenty of warning signs along the way. You’ll learn about those below.
  • Violent behavior & injury: It has been estimated that nearly half a million Americans are hospitalized every year due to cocaine-related injuries. In fact, cocaine is the drug most known to increase the likelihood of being hospitalized due to a violence-related injury. That means people on cocaine get hurt and may hurt others at a much higher rate than non-users.
  • Overdose: Cocaine overdose and symptoms include more than just death. In fact, overdosing is when your body has an acute medical reaction due to an excess of a drug (or multiple drugs) being in a person’s system. Many people who overdose recover with no lasting problems, but some can have lasting damage to the organs or other body parts.
  • Death: Studies show that cocaine addicts have a much higher rate of death than members of the general population. Some of these come from some of the above, but other instances of cocaine-related death include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, infections, organ damage, and death of tissue from blood flow restrictions.

Of course, the majority of cocaine users will never get to the point of having most of the above, but due to the extremely addictive effects of cocaine, the possibility for extreme complications is always there. This is even truer when mixing with other drugs.

We’ll discuss some of the more common and less intense side effects below.

Common Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Most people who abuse cocaine will experience at least a few side effects. Sometimes, side effects will come and go, or be replaced by different or more severe symptoms. Some of these may seem like minor inconveniences, but they’re a sign a user is close to having a more serious issue.

If you or anyone you know experiences the following, seek immediate help:

  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling sick or throwing up isn’t a major medical issue, but if it happens while on or shortly after you’ve done cocaine, it could be a sign of a bigger problem to come. If you feel sick from cocaine, it’s likely to be heavily cut or you may be dehydrated. But it can also be a sign of an overdose. If you experience nausea or vomiting, go to a hospital immediately.
  • Increased pulse: Like with most stimulants, cocaine use will increase your pulse, raise blood pressure, and can even lead to chest pain. This is usually accompanied by increased or irregular breathing and increased body temperature. Though not problems in themselves, increased pulse, breathing, or temperature may be a sign your body is overworking itself. This could mean you’re dehydrated or close to an overdose. Either way, seek medical attention.
  • Seizures or tremors: Many people experience shaking or tremors while on cocaine, but sometimes shaking turns into seizures. Generally, seizures won’t have serious long-term side effects, but there is the possibility of a seizure resulting in injury, nerve or brain damage, coma, or even death.
  • Negative emotions: Though users take cocaine to feel good, in many cases, it has the opposite effect. Negative emotions, such as panic, anxiety, and agitation can occur even on small doses. Associated with these negative emotions are mood swings. These can often occur because a user will go from feeling very good to very bad. This can even result in them becoming upset or violent.
  • Depression: In addition to the negative emotions above, even light cocaine use can increase a person’s risk for depression or worsen depression that’s already there. This is made more prevalent by the fact that many cocaine users are seeking cocaine use as a way to ‘self-medicate’ their depression or similar conditions.

Many of the above side effects are either hard to see by the outside observer or can be hidden very easily by a cocaine user. Many people could benefit from being able to see the subtle signs of cocaine addiction before it becomes rampant and debilitating.

Learn some of the signs below to recognize them in your loved ones if you’re concerned they may be struggling with addiction.

If you’re a cocaine user and are experiencing any of the symptoms below, that’s a strong sign to stop immediately and seek help.

Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

As mentioned above, learning the symptoms of cocaine abuse can be crucial if a loved one ever uses or abuses cocaine. With the knowledge that cocaine is one of the most commonly found drugs in high school, it’s a good idea for everyone to be able to spot the signs.

If you do find yourself suspecting a loved one of cocaine use or abuse, it’s important to talk with them. If you feel they’re being untruthful, you can always ask them to use a drug test to prove their innocence.

Especially when dealing with high school kids, just one of the signs below may not be an indicator of cocaine use. But if you find many, you may want to take a deeper look.

Change in mood or patterns: This is one of the most common indicators for parents that their child is abusing cocaine. Of course, changes in mood or behavior can occur from a lot of other factors as well. But if your child is restless and unable to rest for long periods, they could be using cocaine or another stimulant.

Another change that can occur to habitual users, is a change in their eating schedule. It’s often very difficult to eat while on cocaine, so some users can lose weight. This can be heightened by cocaine’s damaging effect to the nasal cavity. This can result in food becoming tasteless, meaning users are less likely to eat even when not on the drug.

Other minor but noticeable behaviors include rapid speech, constant sniffing or running noses, nosebleeds, hyper-alertness, and frequently using the restroom.

Many of these symptoms will be difficult or even impossible to detect unless you live with or are very close to the person you think may be abusing cocaine. Communication is always the first step to change.

Physical changes:

Other signs of cocaine abuse are more physical in nature. These will include increased heart rate, bloodshot eyes, and dilated pupils. If you notice some of the signs above, begin looking for some of these physical changes as well.

If you notice any of these indicators, it may be a sign the person is on cocaine or has been recently. This would be the best time to give a drug test if you’re loved one is willing. This is important because of the short duration cocaine stays in your system.

Paraphernalia:

Many of these may seem obvious, but if you’re sheltered from drug culture, you may be missing the signs. Here are some things that are definite indicators of cocaine use.

  • White powder-like substance: If you didn’t know, cocaine is a white powder-like substance. You may think you’d never see it unless you found a user’s ‘stash’, but in reality, cocaine residue can often be found on things like clothes, items used to snort the drug, or even the person's nose or face. If you see anything suspicious, bring it up.
  • Razor blades: Razor blades and other similar objects are often used for ‘cutting up lines’. ‘Cutting up lines’ refers to crushing the cocaine into a fine enough powder to snort. Credit cards are another common item used for this process. If you notice credit cards or similar items with a white substance on it, this is a clear indicator cocaine use is present.
  • Rolled bills or short straws: Most users of cocaine snort the drug. To do this, they roll up bills or pieces of paper or cut straws down to a few inches in size. In other words, rolled bills and cut straws are extremely suspicious.
  • Small baggies: Many dealers will sell cocaine in small baggies. These can sometimes be called ‘dime bags’ or ‘dubs’ depending on the price and quantity. If you find multiple small baggies, you may want to investigate further. Usually, some cocaine residue will be stuck to the bag, but not always. If you find baggies, bring them up.
  • Slang: Sometimes cocaine users can get away with talking about buying or using drugs because they use coded slang. Other times, this is just the thing that gives them away. Some of the slang words associated with cocaine are: coke, blow, big c, dust, line, rail, snow, powder, stash, pearl, bump. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, can be referred to as: candy or rock candy, base, ball, rocks, nuggets, grit, hail, dice, sleet, chemical, tornado.

What to do if You or a Loved One is Addicted to Cocaine

It’s not easy to deal with an addiction. We’re here to help. Here are the steps we recommend if you or a loved one are addicted to cocaine.

  • If it’s you: If you’re addicted, the first thing to do is ask for help. This is often the hardest step to take for many people. But the truth is, without help, you’re a lot less likely to be successful. Seek out your loved ones, and then check yourself into a drug treatment center so you can get on the road to recovery.
  • If it’s a loved one: If a loved one is addicted, the hardest part is confronting them. It can help to get assistance from a trained mediator. Not only will a mediator be more successful at getting a user to agree to quit using, but they’re also more likely to get the user to agree to check in to a drug treatment center. This will greatly increase their chances of recovering successfully.

Dealing with cocaine addiction is not easy. We hope our guide helped give you the guidance to stop the drug addiction in yourself or in a loved one.

Are you or a loved one looking to know what to expect on the road to recovery? Read about the cocaine withdrawal timeline and other cocaine-related articles right on our blog. Our expert team at Peaks Recovery is here to help you achieve long-term recovery and sobriety from your drug addiction.