How Cocaine Effects The Body

Upon ingestion, cocaine impairs the brain’s ability to regulate and communicate with the body effectively. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation, pleasure, and learning, builds up as a result of cocaine use, which results in feelings of euphoria after the drug is ingested.

Cocaine also affects our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system balances the sympathetic nervous system and maintains healthy body functions, while the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for engaging our fight or flight response when we are in a stressful situation.

Cocaine stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system while blocking the ability for sodium and potassium to be effectively transported throughout the body, resulting in cardiovascular depression.

The following cardiovascular complications can occur as a result of cocaine use:

  • Increased or irregular heartbeat.
  • Heart damage as a result of lack of oxygen.
  • Impaired ability of the heart to pump blood throughout the body.
  • Tightening of the arteries, resulting in blood clots.
  • A buildup of fatty substances in the arteries.
  • Coronary artery disease.

Along with cardiovascular effects, behavioral and psychological consequences can also occur.

Short-Term Effects Of Cocaine

The effects of cocaine can be seen relatively quickly (or immediately, in some instances) after ingestion and can last for minutes or up to an hour. Physiological, psychological, and behavioral short-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • Intense energy
  • Extreme feelings of happiness
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Irregular or increased heartbeat
  • Muscle twitches and muscle spasms
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased sensitivity to touch, sound, and light

  • Paranoia
  • Unpredictable and violent behavior
  • Stomach pain and nausea
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Impaired judgment

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Long-Term Effects

The method of ingestion is one of the greatest determinants of the long-term side effects and health consequences of cocaine use.

Snorting Cocaine

Snorting cocaine results in slower absorption into the body and a longer-lasting “high.”

One of the health outcomes of snorting cocaine through the nose is developing a sore throat. This is a result of cocaine irritating the delicate tissues of the throat, which results in inflammation and soreness. Chronic cocaine use can result in permanent destruction of tissues in the mouth as well as tissue in the nose. Long-term consequences of snorting cocaine can include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Loss of smell
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Runny nose
  • Septum issues


The faster cocaine is absorbed into the body, the more intense the feeling of euphoria and the shorter the duration of the euphoria. Intravenous use results in the fastest absorption rate of cocaine, creating a more intense feeling of euphoria.

Long-term consequences of intravenous use include:

  • An increased risk of contracting Hepatitis C, HIV, and other diseases
  • Collapsed veins
  • Scarring
  • Skin and tissue infections

Smoking Cocaine

Long-term effects of smoking cocaine include:

  • Risk of infections such as pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • Respiratory distress

Cocaine On The Gums

Long-term consequences of rubbing cocaine on the gums include:

  • Reduced blood flow, resulting in significant mouth decay

Other cocaine health effects can occur regardless of the method of ingestion. For example, individuals who use cocaine are also at an increased risk for:

  • Injury
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Malnourishment
  • Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders

Damaged Septum From Cocaine Use

Chronic cocaine use can result in a damaged septum, which is the part of the nose that divides the nose into two separate spaces. Chronic use can cause the septum to become inflamed and infected, which can result in irreparable damage even after you stop using cocaine. A damaged septum can result in liquids passing through the nasal cavity, difficulty swallowing, discomfort when swallowing, and frequent nose bleeds.

Severe Health Effects

Overdose can occur when too much cocaine is ingested, as it overwhelms the body’s ability to perform vital functions. The risk of overdose increases when cocaine is mixed with other substances, such as alcohol and opioids. Additional severe health effects of cocaine abuse include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Death

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Don’t let the effects of cocaine negatively impact your health and overall quality of life any longer.

Help is available if you are struggling with cocaine use. With treatment, you can learn how to stop using cocaine and start living your life without the use of substances. Contact a treatment provider today to explore your treatment options.