Short-Term Effects Of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant. Formal treatment is often helpful for individuals seeking to break their addiction to cocaine.
Short-Term Psychological Effects Of Cocaine Use
Short-term effects of cocaine can be felt almost immediately after a single dose of the drug, and may last for minutes to an hour. In small amounts, cocaine can produce a euphoric effect and make someone feel energetic, talkative and mentally alert.
Cocaine use can also cause feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic and paranoia. Some people claim cocaine helps them perform simple physical and mental tasks more quickly, however, others have reported experiencing the opposite effect. Cocaine use can also increase an individual’s likelihood of participating in risky behaviors, like driving a car while intoxicated.
The duration and time-to-effect of cocaine depend on whether it was smoked, snorted or injected. When someone smokes cocaine, the effects of the drug are felt more quickly than if they snort it. The faster the drug is absorbed by the body, the more intense the drug’s effects will be and the faster its effects will disappear.
Short-Term Physical Effects Of Cocaine Use
Possible short-term physical effects of cocaine include:
- constricted blood vessels
- dilated pupils
- increased body temperature
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- decreased appetite
- impotence (inability to take action)
Large amounts of cocaine may intensify the desired effects of cocaine, but it can also cause bizarre, erratic and sometimes violent behavior.
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Potential Risks Of Cocaine Use
Whether cocaine is used for a short or extended period of time, its use is associated with potential health risks. Cocaine use may cause serious heart problems, including changes in heart rhythm and heart attack, even in people who are considered to be healthy otherwise.
Using large amounts of cocaine has the potential to cause:
- abdominal pain and nausea
- headaches, seizures and stroke
In some cases, cocaine use can also result in sudden death. Sudden death from cocaine use can occur when taking the drug for the first time, and it is usually the result of cardiac arrest or seizures.
It is also common for people to mix cocaine with other substances, like alcohol. This combination can be dangerous because ,as the two substances interact, they chemically transform into another substance, called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene may increase the toxic effects of cocaine and alcohol on the heart.
Combining cocaine with heroin is also very dangerous. Individuals often take the two together to lessen the unwanted side effects of each drug. However, mixing these drugs can easily result in taking too large a dose of heroin without even realizing it.
As cocaine is eliminated from the body much faster than heroin, the mixture can lead to a heroin overdose, wherein an individual’s respiration slows to dangerous levels or stops entirely, resulting in death.
How Cocaine Affects The Brain
Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that disrupts the normal communication pathways in the brain and floods the brain with excessive amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical) naturally found in the brain that is associated with pleasure, movement and the brain’s reward system.
A buildup of dopamine causes the brain’s reward center to constantly be stimulated until the effects of the drug wear off. This is why people experience a burst of happiness directly after taking cocaine and then crave more of the drug once it wears off. Cocaine is a particularly addictive substance because it alters the brain’s sense of reward and punishment.
In addition to affecting the way the brain perceives reward, cocaine use can also affect the brain pathways that respond to stress. Research has shown that stress can be a contributing factor in cocaine relapse and that cocaine use disorders often co-occur with stress-related disorders.
The stress circuits of the brain are different from the reward center of the brain. However, research indicates that they may have overlapping functions. Animals who have been repeatedly exposed to cocaine were more likely to seek the drug in response to stress. The more the animals took the drug, the more stress affected this behavior.
Research also shows that cocaine use may elevate stress hormones and further increase sensitivity to the drug and associated behavioral cues. Chronic exposure to cocaine may affect many other areas of the brain as well.
Withdrawing from cocaine can produce different symptoms, depending on the individual. The severity of the addiction to cocaine and how long it has been misused can also impact the withdrawal process.
Those who misuse cocaine quickly develop a tolerance to the drug. As tolerance develops, it will take larger and more frequent doses to produce the same effects a smaller dose once did.
Once someone has become tolerant to the drug, their body has become physically dependent. This means that their body and brain have become used to operating with a certain amount of the drug in its systems, and without it they will not be able to function normally.
If, after developing a dependence to the drug, someone suddenly stops using they will experience withdrawal symptoms. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the severity of the addiction. Someone who has been using large doses of cocaine over a long time will likely experience more uncomfortable withdrawal compared to someone who has only used smaller doses less frequently.
Possible withdrawal symptoms from cocaine include:
- depression and anxiety
- extreme fatigue
- intense cravings for the drug
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Treatment for cocaine addiction starts with detoxing from the drug. Detoxing from cocaine typically takes about a week. Breaking the chronic use cycle of this drug can be extremely difficult. During the first few days without cocaine, individuals will experience intense cravings for the drug, which increases the risk of relapse.
In order to lessen the risk of relapse, entering a medically-assisted detox program in an inpatient treatment center can be helpful. Treatment facilities can provide the support individuals need to lead a drug-free life.
For more information about the short-term effects of cocaine use and treatment, contact us today.
- The University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research—Cocaine (Powder)