Cocaine abuse can lead to major health issues and can cause death. Cocaine is known as a highly addictive drug that has been used for decades. It is very well-known to people who stay up late to the party, many times in clubs but have to show up at work the next morning. This is because cocaine is often termed as a “stimulant”. It gives a boost to the energy of the consumer. People end up with a cocaine addiction due to the high they feel by its consumption.
Unfortunately, cocaine abuse can cause major health issues for the user. These could be in the short term or in the long term which could be months or even years after they have overcome their cocaine addiction. Cocaine and alcohol consumed together is an even worse combination, which we will talk about later in this article.
Health Problems by Cocaine Abuse
One dose of cocaine can produce an almost sudden high of as long as 15 minutes. However, it depends on the purity of the substance, the method of consumption, the amount consumed, and any other drugs present in the system. Unluckily, acute health issues caused by the use of cocaine can rapidly occur even after use as well. Below are some acute health problems that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) listed:
- Higher blood pressure and heart rate
- Anxiety, paranoia, and panic
- Erratic and even violent behavior
- Muscle spasms
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart rhythm
Regular cocaine abuse can result in more serious health problems. Some are listed below:
- Convulsions and seizures
- Sexual problems
- Lung damage
- Mood problems
- The bowel can decay if swallowed
- HIV or hepatitis if injected
- Inability to smell, bleeding from the nose, runny nose, trouble swallowing if snorted
You may get addicted to the drug and the boost of energy it gives you. However, increased cocaine abuse will result in your brain getting used to it. Soon enough, you’ll need a higher dose to feel the same kick of energy. This can lead to overdose or a dangerous addiction.
More frequent and stronger doses can affect your brain by causing long-term effects on your brain’s chemistry. Your systems will become dependent on the drug. This can result in deteriorated abilities, like thinking, sleeping, or even recalling things from your memory. You may also experience a slower reaction time. Cocaine abuse can also lead to death, sometimes just after the first dose. Deaths may begin by a cardiac arrest followed by failure of the respiratory organs.
Long-Term Health Concerns of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine abuse translates to exposure to short-term health issues mentioned above, along with long-term health problems. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), those can include the following:
- Addictive behaviours, including substance abuse, addiction and depression, that may also occur in the presence of a host of psychiatric conditions and social issues.Mental and social problems
- Increased sensitivity to cocaine’s negative effects (such as violent behavior, panic attacks, and paranoia)
- Psychiatric disorders include auditory and visual hallucinations
- Nutritional malnourishment
- Including host of cardio-vascular disorders
Users can face serious health issues, some of which depend upon how cocaine is ingested. People who snort cocaine may get a deviated septum. It can require surgical intervention and repair. It can even cause them to lose their sense of smell. They may also battle chronic nosebleeds, ongoing runny nose, difficulty swallowing, or chronic hoarseness. Cocaine abuse poses a greater threat to the user’s respiratory system, like damaged lungs. Injecting cocaine can result in blood infections or other transmissible diseases, such as hepatitis C or HIV. By cocaine abuse, other neurological problems can occur like intracerebral hemorrhage. Other issues include bleeding within the brain and bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. Users can face movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, after many years of cocaine abuse. Overall, studies conclude that long-term.
Cocaine abuse impairs a wide range of cognitive functions.
Cocaine + Alcohol: A Toxic Mix
The risks of cocaine abuse with alcohol may be lesser-known but are extremely hazardous. The Journal of Addiction Diseases reports that cocaine abuse while drinking alcoholic beverages creates a new substance called cocaethylene. This substance possesses properties that are similar to cocaine but has a half-life that is up to five times longer. In simple words, this substance stays in the body longer and thus, damages systems and organs. A few health problems this toxic couple can cause are as follows:
- Compromised immune system
- Liver damage
- Up to 25-fold increase in the chance of immediate death overuse of cocaine alone
Let’s take a detailed look at the effects of cocaine use coupled with alcohol intake.
More Toxic Effects of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaethylene is created if alcohol is used with cocaine. This is much stronger than the substances that make it. It results in increased toxicity in the heart and other organs.
A Longer Stay in the Body
Cocaethylene can stay in the body for a longer period than cocaine. Alcohol is known to slow the removal of ethylbenzoylecgonine, which is a metabolite present in the kidneys. This causes an increase in the blood levels of cocaine due to cocaine abuse, as well as cocaethylene.
Higher Risk of Stroke Due to Cocaine Abuse
The risk of sudden stroke increases considerably when cocaine is used with alcohol simultaneously. Cocaine Abuse is Responsible for Increasing the Risk of Stroke By:
- narrowing blood vessels
- causing sudden brain bleeding
- elevating heart rate
- increasing blood pressure
- contributing to the risk of blood clots
Cocaethylene raises the risk of stroke even more as it can stay in the body for days or even weeks.
More Alcohol Consumption During Cocaine Abuse
Studies have found that alcohol may cause an individual to be attracted to cocaine abuse even more. This, in return, makes it even harder for people to stop consuming cocaine.
Increased Impulsivity due to Cocaine Abuse
Levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin can be increased by cocaine and cocaethylene. This can Result in the Following:
- Impulsive Behavior
- Panic Attacks
High Risk of Cardiac Problems
Cocaethylene and cocaine increase toxicity in the heart, as well as the liver. Use of both these together can result in sudden health problems, often related to the heart.
Till now, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. Available treatment options include rehabilitation programs, support groups, and therapy.
Pursue Professional Help for Cocaine Abuse
Once you admit you have a problem concerning cocaine abuse, and you decide to overcome your addiction, trust a professional and seek help from a doctor, licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or mental health worker. This is a primary but major step on the road to recovery. A professional will be able to study your situation and suggest the best treatment option.
Dr. Nikki Wincheste is a clinical psychologist at the Cincinnati Center for DBT. She thinks that outpatient therapy can help cocaine abuse addicts specify the problems concerning their addiction. The benefits of this therapy system are that the person can continue to live their everyday life, be it at home or work while implementing their progress in the real world.
Try a Residential Treatment Program for Cocaine Abuse
Sometimes, outpatient therapy and treatment might not be enough to get over your cocaine abuse. You can then rely on a residential treatment program. It will not only give you the support of your fellows and counselors at hand but will also keep you from any triggering situations that could lead you to consume cocaine.
Dr. Natalie Feinblatt is a licensed psychologist. She specializes in addiction and trauma. According to her, a residential treatment program allows you to leave behind your daily life and focus on the reasons for your addiction. You can then get rid of unhealthy habits and give your best to staying sober.
Join a Support Group for Help Through Cocaine Abuse
Be it in-person or online, peer support groups including Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can provide a comfortable and safe setting for you to overcome cocaine abuse. You can share your thoughts and feelings with others who are suffering through similar struggles. It is always helpful to talk to people who can relate to you.
According to Dr. Winchester, outpatient groups often help cocaine abuse addicts to understand that they have people who share their journey. It can be motivating to see other’s success at dealing with addiction. Similar to individual therapy, the person can continue his life at home, and at work, while being part of the support group.
As mentioned earlier, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine abuse or cocaine use disorder. However, medications that include certain antidepressants or stimulants may be prescribed as they might help suppress cravings, withdrawal symptoms or even compensate for the pleasurable feelings of cocaine usage. Dr. Pavan Madan is a board-certified and licensed psychiatrist. According to him, generally, the success rate of medications is limited. Those also don’t take into account the remedies for psychosocial behaviors.
In short, counseling and therapy are suggested treatments for cocaine abuse. You may be advised to spend some considerable time in a suitable rehabilitation center (commonly known as rehab). A therapist can navigate you to change your behaviors as needed. So, were your questions regarding cocaine addiction and abuse answered? Pretty sure you nodded your head. It is important to realize that cocaine usage is bad for your health.
Either it is your mental health that took a toll by your cocaine addiction or your medical health, treatment can do wonders. Give us a call at 615-490-9376 for more information. Make sure to never indulge in drugs, and if you or your loved ones are already suffering from cocaine abuse, seek help and save a life.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.