The long term effects of using cocaine are horrendous and can differ for everyone. It is a Schedule 1 drug according to federal law, which means it has no medicinal value. Cocaine brutally ravages the body and damages the mind of anyone who dares to use it. We are going to examine the most damaging effects on people who use cocaine on a regular basis, starting with a look at the physical effects.
Long term use can cause heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, dysfunction and inflammation of heart muscle, and endocarditis (an infection of a heart valve which ultimately ends in death). A rapid heartbeat is caused by the way cocaine reacts in the brain; producing other chemicals. Other physical problems include persistent nasal congestion, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, kidney disease, renal failure, ulcers, sexual dysfunction, and lesions on the skin. While this is by no means a complete list of issues, it is indicative of the major problems a user can and, probably will, face. There is also an increased risk of brain disorders — including seizures and strokes. A misunderstood, and often overlooked, way in which cocaine affects users, occurs when the drug affects user’s mood.
Repeated cocaine use overstimulates the reward center of the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, overloads the user’s system. Because of this repeated flooding of dopamine, the reward center of the brain becomes deadened over time to natural rewards such as food, sleep, and healthy relationships. This condition causes severe depression among many addicts. In turn, this usually leads to the consumption of higher and higher levels of cocaine — simply to feel normal.
The main mental disorders caused by cocaine use include anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and delusions. Long term use can even cause delirium and psychosis, where a user has a break with reality and has the potential to harm themselves or others. This is not a situation in which you would want to find yourself.
Effects Related to Method of Use
Repeatedly injecting cocaine over time can result in scars commonly called “track marks”. These form wherever the drug has been injected. They can be particularly embarrassing as they leave physical evidence of the addict’s problem and inability to maintain control. Track marks usually appear on the arms and have been known to prompt users to inject in uncommon or less noticeable areas, such as their inner legs, armpits, or between their toes.
The greatest threat to the health of a long term user of an intravenous cocaine user may not even be from the drug itself. Instead it comes with the increased risk of blood borne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The public has been warned against sharing needles for decades and the message was heard even louder with the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. However, there are still a considerable number of people who contract the disease using dirty needles. Cocaine causes users to throw caution to the wind and use dirty needles without thinking of the consequences of their actions .
Snorting cocaine may be a safer, and also a more popular way, to take the drug but it too has negative health risks. Those who snort cocaine on a regular basis can lose their sense of smell. They can also have a chronic runny nose, develop ulcers in their throat and have difficulty swallowing. While there is no risk of getting a blood borne or sexually transmitted disease from this method of use it is, far from harmless.
The oral ingestion of cocaine comes with its own set of risks. The main risk is the decay of tissue in the bowels that results from the interaction of cocaine with the intestinal tract. This can lead to problems as minor as indigestion to inflamed and even perforated bowel later causing intense pain — requiring surgery.
Most people do not simply ingest cocaine by itself. They incorporate other drugs as well, usually alcohol and prescription opioids. Mixing cocaine with alcohol can result in a 30 percent increase in blood cocaine level as well as increased heart rate and the forming of toxic substances that target the heart. If mixed with common amphetamines, cocaine can cause strokes, heart attack, and death. And if mixed with prescription opioid painkillers, then cocaine can lead to difficulty breathing, coma, and eventually death. Cocaine is a dangerous and deadly substance, especially when mixed with other drugs. It is not something to play around with!
While most people think of the health related consequences of abusing cocaine, not many consider the toll such use takes on the user’s relationships. The loss of friends and family, as well as a significant other, is one of the saddest parts of cocaine dependency. Marriages have been ruined and children taken away from parents who are addicted to cocaine because of their inability to care for them. These types of traumas are disastrous enough to people without a drug problem, but for those who use the drug long term, the effects can drive them right back to the drug. This causes a vicious cycle that can spiral out of control, and cause the user not to seek help until it is too late. User’s can break free of this cycle and gain control of their life.
The financial burden caused by long term use is huge. In addition to the cost of the drug itself, which can be quite considerable in the case of cocaine, many people lose their careers over the pursuit of their next high. Losing all touch with what is important in life, they show up late to work or not at all. They can end up spending all of their money obtaining more drugs and not set aside any money for their bills. As a result, many drug users end up homeless. This is such a problem in recent years that calls for increases in spending for homeless shelters to the government have been on the rise. If the user runs into legal trouble and is ever arrested and convicted for cocaine use, they face harsh fines, court costs, and ultimately a loss of freedom.
While its affects have been studied extensively and treatment centers all over the world have done their best to combat dependency, it is still an extremely difficult addiction to treat. The long term effects of cocaine are all negative and can ruin an addict’s health, mood, relationships, and finances. It is our hope that this information guides people in making the responsible choice not to use cocaine and to seek qualified treatment for addiction. Addiction does not have to control your life. You can take the power back and become who you were meant to be!