Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse on the Mind and Body

Cocaine abuse can have long-ranging effects on your mental and physical health. It’s essential to recognize the signs of cocaine abuse and seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid the worsening consequences of cocaine use disorder.

Cocaine addiction treatment can help people stop using cocaine safely and learn the skills to avoid relapse in the future. The sooner you get treatment, the better the outcomes are likely to be. Timely treatment can prevent the worsening effects of cocaine use. However, some of the effects of using this drug can last for a long time–even for the rest of your life.

This article will explore the long-term consequences of cocaine abuse and addiction and where to get treatment to overcome this condition.

Contact the team at Arise Treatment Center to learn about our comprehensive treatment programs or to schedule an intake assessment.

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction: The Basics

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant derived from coca plant leaves. People often use cocaine as a recreational or party drug because of its energizing, euphoric effects. Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that about 1.3 million people had a cocaine use disorder in 2020.

When people use cocaine, their brain releases more dopamine, which can cause many of the pleasurable effects of this drug. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter related to pleasure and reward, and substances that affect it are more likely to be addictive.

Shortly after ingesting cocaine, users may feel a rush of intense pleasure and energy. After using cocaine heavily for some time, users may find that they need more of the drug to experience its effects. This is called tolerance, and it is a sign of physical addiction.

Over a prolonged period of regular or heavy use, people may develop a physical addiction to cocaine. They may feel sluggish, mentally cloudy, or depressed when they don’t use it. Because of the physical and chemical changes cocaine causes in the brain, many people find that they cannot stop using it without professional help.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Cocaine abuse is hard on your brain and body. People who abuse cocaine or become addicted to it can experience lingering, long-term effects.

Here are some of the long-term effects of cocaine abuse and addiction throughout the body.

Long-term cardiovascular effects of cocaine abuse

Cocaine use immediately raises a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, repeated cocaine use can cause lasting cardiovascular issues, including:

  • Blood clots that may lead to heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis
  • Myocardial infarction–the death of heart muscle
  • Permanently high blood pressure
  • Tachycardia
  • Irregular heart rate

Heart attack is the most significant complication among people with cocaine abuse, accounting for about 1 in 4 deaths of people 18-45 who have used cocaine.

Long-term effects of cocaine abuse on the sinuses

Many people who use cocaine snort it, which puts this corrosive drug in direct contact with delicate mucous membranes in the nose. Repeated cocaine abuse can cause soft tissue in the nasal passages and sinuses to die, creating holes and possible collapse. People who have permanent sinus damage from cocaine abuse may have long-term breathing trouble. Sometimes, the damage is so severe that surgery cannot correct it.

Long-term breathing issues from cocaine abuse

Snorting cocaine and smoking crack cocaine can cause severe long-term damage to the respiratory system. Blood vessels in the lungs can be destroyed by repeated cocaine abuse, which prevents oxygen from reaching the bloodstream.

People with cocaine addiction face the risk of:

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Chronic cough
  • Pain
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased white blood cell count

Many of the respiratory effects of cocaine abuse can last for years or persist for a lifetime.

Long-term effects of cocaine abuse on the brain

Recurring lack of oxygen in the brain can occur when the lungs and respiratory system are damaged from cocaine use. Brain damage can occur if the brain is repeatedly deprived of oxygen. People who live with cocaine abuse and addiction face a higher risk of:

  • Aneurysm
  • Transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes)
  • Seizures
  • Cerebral atrophy (shrinking of the brain)
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain and spinal column
  • Dangerously high fever
  • Brain changes that lead to problems with problem-solving, decision-making, vocabulary, attention, memory, and ability to learn and retain new information
  • Changes in movement, such as weakness, tremors, and changes in gait

Brain damage is often irreversible, and people may live with decreased functioning that affects their daily lives.

Cocaine Dependence and Withdrawal

After long-term and regular cocaine abuse, people become physically and mentally dependent on the drug. If they suddenly stop using it, they experience withdrawal symptoms.

Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Agitation or irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Feelings of discomfort
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Slowed activity
  • Cravings for cocaine

Cocaine addiction is a complex condition that can cause significant harm to people’s short and long-term health and safety. Comprehensive detox and addiction treatment can give people the support, treatment, and skills to safely stop using cocaine and learn to avoid relapse for life.

Early treatment prevents people from experiencing some of the most significant long-term effects of cocaine abuse and addiction. If you need treatment, get help as soon as possible so that you can begin to work toward a healthier future.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love lives with cocaine abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Reach out to the team at Arise Treatment Center now to learn about our cocaine addiction treatment programs or to schedule an intake appointment.


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