How Cocaine Effects the Body
Common Forms of Cocaine
Cocaine is actually the term used to described the processed, powdered substance that most of us are familiar with. While this is often the most common means that this drug is used, there are two other ways that this substance is used.
Before it is processed into cocaine, this substance has takes the form of the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America. The leaves of the coca plant are often chewed to get a bit of extra energy. There are also a number of cultural ceremonial customs that utilize the leaf.
Perhaps the most dangerous form of this drug is called crack cocaine. Also often called “rock” or “smack,” this is a processed form of cocaine that allows the user to smoke it, rather than snort it. A popular street drug, crack is incredibly addicting and it’s short-term intense high lead to fast, strong addiction.
Immediate Effects of Cocaine Use
Whether snorted or smoked (or even chewed), the effects of cocaine are incredibly fast-acting. Many users report an almost instant feeling of increased energy and euphoria. When cocaine is ingested it quickly gets into the bloodstream and makes it’s way to the brain.
Once in the brain, the drug acts prohibits the absorption of a variety of vital brain chemicals such as dopamine and seratonin. This causes a sort of “build up” of these chemicals in the nerves of the brain, thus resulting in the feelings described above. While it can be a pleasant feeling to the user, it is actually a negative response to chemical buildup in the brain.
Not everyone’s experience of cocaine is a good one. Some report intense feelings of paranoia, nervousness, anxiety and more. The drug’s effects typically last no longer than two hours, which means that repeated use is necessary for a continual “high” of any significant duration.
The Brain is Not All That Is Effected
While the chemical buildup in the brain is responsible for much of the feelings of being “high,” the effects of the substance do not occur only in the brain. There are a wide variety of physiological effects associated with cocaine use.
Cocaine use causes an increase in heart rate, as well as the constriction of the vessels that allow blood to flow freely to the heart. This can result in heart attack, or abnormal heart beat, even in young and otherwise healthy individuals. These effects can potentially be fatal.
Regular snorting of cocaine can lead to irritated sinus passages and even nasal perforation. Smoking crack can cause lung damage and a wide variety of respiratory problems.
In addition, the blood vessels of the gut constrict, increasing the risk for gastrointestinal issues. It can also overwhelm the kidneys.
A Note About Combine Effects of Cocaine and Alcohol
Oftentimes, drugs are not taken alone. Many people combine drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine. Combining these two substances significantly increases the risk of negative, and potentially fatal, side effects. When these substances enter the liver, they combine to produce a third substance, referred to as cocaethylene. While it can amp up the effects of the cocaine, it is a very dangerous substance associated with sudden death.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Tolerance is one of the more dangerous long-term effects of cocaine use. Tolerance is the process by which the body needs more and more of the substance to attain the desired result. This often leads to what are called “binges,” which is the consumption of excessive amounts of cocaine to achieve the desired high. Use of such high doses of cocaine can have harmful psychological impacts including panic attacks and even temporary psychosis.
For those who snort the drug, a variety of sinus issues can develop from long-term use, some of them are even permanent. With long-term use, some people have a dulled, or completely lose their, sense of smell.
Many who use cocaine find themselves unable to sleep normally and have a severely decreased appetite. This can lead to chronic fatigue, excessive weight loss, and malnutrition.
The Dangers of Addiction
One of the biggest problems with cocaine use is the addictive quality of the substance. Not only is this substance physically addictive, it is also psychologically addictive. The areas of the brain that are effected by the drug are our pleasure centers, which is why people often report such pleasant effects from the use of the drug. These pleasant effects are what make people want to do them again and again, starting a sometimes endless cycle of addiction.
Dependence and Withdraw
The body and brain become dependent on drugs like cocaine and the sudden cessation of cocaine use can cause withdraw, which has a whole host of negative effects on the mind and body.
The cessation of cocaine use is a rough and troubling process. One can suffer from tremors, chills, nausea, and vomiting. It can also lead to feelings of sadness, an inability to feel happiness, severe anxiety, and even depression. During withdraw, cravings for the drug can be incredibly severe.
Cocaine, often considered a “high class” drug, is no less dangerous or addictive than any other illegal substance. Whether snorted in the form of powdered cocaine, or smoked in the form of crack, this is a fast-acting, highly addictive substance. It has the potential to cause a whole host of negative side effects, both in the short- and long-term. Aside from addiction to an expensive habit, cocaine use is associated with cardiovascular problems, increased risk of stroke, respiratory issues and more.