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Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Substance Abuse

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

By Jenny Hunt

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant. It creates a feeling of euphoria, which makes it extremely addictive. The powdered form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and then injected. Crack is the street name given to the form of cocaine that has been processed to make a crystal, which is then smoked.

Cocaine use has a potent effect on the brain, which is why the long-term effects of cocaine use can be devastating. Cocaine, like most addictive substances, stimulates the reward system in the brain. With repeated cocaine use, the brain’s reward system begins to adapt and become less sensitive. This is why long-term effects of cocaine use include tolerance. The brain needs more and more cocaine to achieve the same high.

Due to the surge of pleasurable chemicals in the brain during use and sharp decrease after the drug wears off, long-term effects of cocaine use include depression and psychosis. Your brain experiences a rapid high, followed quickly by a “crash.” The high from cocaine use is very short when compared to other drugs. Depending on the route of ingestion, the high lasts between 5-30 minutes. This is why cocaine is often used in binges (repeated use at increasingly higher doses). Repeated binges can cause the user to have a complete break with reality- a condition known as “cocaine psychosis.”

Because cocaine is a stimulant, one of the long-term effects of cocaine use is damage to the heart. Cocaine increases heart rate, blood pressure, and constricts blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow normally. Long-term effects of cocaine use include risk of heart attack, or abnormal heart rhythm, both of which can result in death.

Another of the long-term effects of cocaine use is damage to the respiratory system. Repeatedly snorting cocaine can damages the sinuses to deteriorate, in some cases causing nasal perforation. Smoking crack cocaine can cause permanent lung damage. Long-term cocaine use can also cause bronchospasm and asthma.

Long-term cocaine use can also result in gangrene in the GI system and the extremities. Over time, cocaine use restricts blood flow to the hands and feet to the point that the tissues actually begin to die from lack of oxygen. In males, cocaine can even cause gangrene to develop in the scrotum. In the gut, lack of oxygen causes ulcers and even perforation of the stomach lining.

Brain damage is also one of the possible long-term effects of cocaine use. Cocaine restricts blood flow to the brain, which can result in bizarre and violent behavior.  High doses can restrict brain blood flow to the point that it causes seizures or strokes. This can happen even in young people without any other risk factors for stroke.

Most long-term cocaine users lose their appetite and experience extreme weight loss. Long-term effects of cocaine use can also include kidney damage and even complete kidney failure. Cocaine use often results in sexual dysfunction, especially in men, who can experience delayed or impaired ejaculation.

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