Injecting Cocaine Side Effects & Dangers

Cocaine is an addictive drug that is dangerous and unpredictable. Injecting cocaine increases risk for infection, overdose and other health concerns.

Injecting Cocaine Side Effects & Dangers

Abusing a stimulant, like cocaine, can result in high energy levels, euphoric feeling and insomnia. Cocaine comes from the coca plant, which grows primarily in South American countries.

The brief, intense high of cocaine can create a cycle of repeated use, called binging. This type of use can lead to developing a cocaine addiction.

Usually sold on the street as a white powder, cocaine tends to be snorted. This form, also referred to as cocaine hydrochloride salt, is water-soluble, and can be injected as well as snorted. Other forms of cocaine should not be injected.

Can You Inject Cocaine?

The short answer is, yes cocaine can be injected. Injecting cocaine results in a more intense high than snorting, smoking crack cocaine, or freebasing the drug.

Injecting cocaine is also referred to as shooting cocaine. This method is a bit more risky than snorting cocaine. It is important to understand the significant risks that are associated with injecting any drug, but also the risks associated with injecting cocaine.

How To Inject Cocaine

Before injecting cocaine, it has to be dissolved in water, then it can be injected into a vein (intravenously) or into the body (intramuscularly).

Crack cocaine should not be injected, as it has additives and chemicals that should not be injected into the veins. Ammonia and baking soda are often used to make crack cocaine, these substances are in addition to the adulterants found in powder cocaine.

Freebase cocaine cannot be injected because it is not water soluble, meaning it does not dissolve in water. Freebase cocaine is lipid soluble, which is why it causes such an intense high when the vapors are inhaled.

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Injecting Cocaine Side Effects

The intense high of shooting cocaine can result in many undesirable side effects, including:

  • chest pains
  • panic
  • hallucinations
  • track marks (at injection sites)
  • confusion
  • paranoia
  • heart attack
  • seizures

Additionally, there are significant risks of skin abscesses, ulcers and infections with injecting any substances of abuse into the body. Because the high of cocaine does not last long, repeated injections may cause irritation at the injection site, and become more susceptible to infections.

Collapsed veins are also a concern for individuals who inject cocaine. Infections of the heart valves or endocarditis are risk factors for those who use IV drugs, like cocaine. Swelling of the extremities is a common problem for those with long term IV cocaine use.

Individuals who inject drugs are also at a higher risk for disease transmission, due to shared or dirty needle use. HIV and Hepatitis are among the more well-known diseases that can be transmitted by injecting drugs.

Injecting Cocaine With Additives

The side effects above do not include the potentially adverse reactions to whatever substance the drug dealers are cutting cocaine with. All cocaine in the United States has been cut with at least one adulterant, chemical, medication or other drugs.

Injecting cocaine that has been cut with any substance increases the severity of any reaction a person might have to the cutting agent. If a person injects cocaine and has an allergic reaction, it will be even more intense due to being injected.

It is extremely difficult to tell what adulterant has been cut into cocaine, and this is a huge risk of cocaine abuse and addiction. There are tests available, but not often used.

Levamisole is an anti-parasite medication for animals. Cocaine cut with levamisole has resulted in severe skin infections, skin cell death, depletion of white blood cells, lesions on the skin and pain in the joints.

Other additives, like sugar, baking soda, laxatives and other powdery substances can build up inside the veins and result in cardiovascular problems in individuals who inject cocaine. This is especially true if a person decides to inject crack cocaine, which has more adulterants.

Injecting Cocaine Effects On The Brain

Long term cocaine abuse causes the brain to be rewired. Dopamine and glutamate surge through the brain with each use. Injecting cocaine intensifies these effects, and over time the changes become permanent.

A person injecting cocaine will likely experience a decrease in previously pleasurable activities, such as sex or eating. The dopamine increase when injecting cocaine can eventually become the only pleasurable experience, leading to addiction.

Dopamine levels drop when a person stops injecting cocaine. This can result in decreased attention, trouble with learning, problems with movement and an inability to relax (both physically and emotionally).

Brain damage is associated with cocaine use as well. The brain will continue to struggle with regulatory functions and the body will experience difficulties with physical processes.

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Injecting Cocaine, Addiction And Withdrawal

Cocaine that has been injected reaches the brain faster than any other method. However, it also wears off faster than other methods, which may lead to repeated use over a short amount of time.

As cocaine starts to wear off, a person may feel irritable, paranoid or anxious. To avoid these feelings and increase pleasurable feelings, using more cocaine may seem a solution to someone using cocaine. This binging pattern can quickly end up in dependence or addiction to cocaine.

A person who has become addicted to cocaine, especially injecting cocaine, will likely experience withdrawal when they try to stop abusing cocaine. These symptoms are very unpleasant and have been known to include:

  • severe cravings
  • intense depression
  • sleep regulation problems (insomnia and hypersomnia)
  • anhedonia
  • fatigue
  • nightmares
  • slowed functions
  • suicidal thoughts
  • self-harm behaviors or thoughts

Treatment Options For Cocaine Injection And Addiction

There are treatment options available for someone who has become addicted to injecting cocaine. Detoxification units are available to provide assistance to people experiencing withdrawal, by offering medications to treat the withdrawal symptoms and therapy to address addiction.

Researchers are currently exploring medications that can be used to treat cocaine addiction, however the FDA has yet to approve such a medication or effective intervention method.

Our specialists are available to speak with you or your loved one if there is a concern regarding cocaine injection or addiction. Reach out and allow us to help.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871616301399

Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547216301507

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine

The Neuroscience of Cocaine - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128037508000646

Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1050173814002503

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