Effects of Cocaine on the Body
04 October, 2023
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that speeds up the messages between the brain and the central nervous system. The effects of cocaine include heightened euphoria and increased energy. It may also cause a loss of appetite and an increase in body temperature. Historically, it has been used as a local anaesthetic. However, it has a high potential to develop dependency and addiction. Thus, it is heavily regulated in medical settings.
The stimulant drug is derived from the coca plant and serves as a medication for pain. Over time, people tend to use it for recreational purposes due to its pleasurable effects. However, these short-term benefits come at a high cost to the body. It can lead to serious health complications and risk of overdose. In this article, we will explore the short and long-term effects of the drug and how to detect potential abuse for early intervention and treatment.
Short-term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is classified as an illegal drug in Australia due to its high risk to health and safety. It is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant and is blended with other chemicals to form a white powder. Users administer the drug orally, intranasally, or intravenously. The route of administration can define how fast the substance is absorbed in the bloodstream.
The short-term effects of cocaine can affect the physical and mental functions of the body. It has an immediate effect on the cardiovascular system. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and constricts the blood vessels. These physical effects can result in chest pain or irregular heartbeats. High doses may lead to cardiac arrhythmias or heart attacks.
Cocaine also affects the respiratory system, causing rapid breathing. Additionally, it can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as abdominal pain and nausea. The drug releases neurochemicals that make a person crave more. Likewise, chronic or recreational use can build up a tolerance, leading to higher doses to achieve the same pleasurable effect.
Other Psychological Short-term Effects
- Euphoria or intense feelings of pleasure and excitement. It includes increased energy and alertness.
- Depression and anxiety. As the drug wears off, a person may experience sadness, irritability, tension, and uneasiness.
- Impulsiveness. A person may become uninhibited and engage in risky behaviours.
- Feelings of invincibility and decreased fear.
- Increased sexual desire and pleasure.
- Increased confidence and sociability.
- Paranoia. Suspiciousness and hallucinations are the symptoms of psychosis. This may be a result due to an imbalance of dopamine among cocaine users.
- The intense cravings can lead to a cycle of repeated use, further exacerbating the negative psychological effects.
Long-term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine users are prone to developing serious health complications over extended periods of time. The prolonged use of cocaine includes damage to the cardiovascular system. The constant strain on the heart can result in the development of heart disease and an increased risk of stroke. Additionally, it can lead to the deterioration of the respiratory system. Smoking or inhaling cocaine can cause respiratory distress due to low blood oxygen.
Intravenous use may cause infections at the injection site. Other long-term effects of cocaine include kidney failure and liver damage. Moreover, it reduces blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in stomach ulcers, tears, or irritations. The decrease in appetite may also lead to significant weight loss and sickness.
These physical effects can vary depending on individual factors, including frequency and duration of use. Over time, it can strain family relationships and professional responsibilities. A person may cause trouble in the workplace due to poor performance or altered behaviour. It may also affect employment status, especially if the workplace has strict drug policies.
Danger to the Mental Health
The long-term use of cocaine can have detrimental effects on the brain. It disrupts normal brain function by altering neurotransmitter levels. This impacts the mood, cognition, and behaviour. Cognitive impairments such as memory loss and difficulty with decision-making are common among chronic users.
Dependency may lead to paranoia, anxiety disorders, and psychosis. This can lead to an individual losing touch with reality and experiencing auditory hallucinations. Furthermore, repeated exposure leads to exacerbating existing mental conditions or triggering new ones. The drug’s stimulant properties can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation. Lastly, sudden withdrawals may lead to agitation and fatigue.
How to Detect Effects of Cocaine Early
Identifying the effects of cocaine early on is crucial in preventing further damage to a person’s health and well-being. One way to detect cocaine use is to be aware of the physical signs and symptoms. These may include dilated pupils, excessive sweating, elevated blood pressure, and increased energy levels. Other common signs include runny nose and long periods of wakefulness.
Behavioural changes are another of cocaine use. Individuals may display impulsiveness, restlessness, overconfidence, or irritability. Erratic or violent behaviours are also common indications. However, as the effects wear off, individuals may experience a crash, which can manifest in a depressive mood or anxiety. Monitoring for mood changes can provide early indications of drug use.
It is important to pay attention to the social and interpersonal effects of drug use. Individuals may start to withdraw from social activities or isolate themselves. Family members may seek professional help to detect if their loved one is struggling with drug abuse. In the workplace, employers may conduct a drug test if they suspect a person to be under the influence of drugs.
Possible Treatments for Recovery
Individuals may seek professional treatments to overcome drug addiction. One commonly used approach is behavioural therapy. It focuses on helping individuals identify and change their drug-use patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Another option is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It involves medications to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
The treatment for cocaine addiction should be tailored to the individual’s needs, involving a combination of different approaches. A healthcare professional may supervise the rehabilitation process through therapy, interviews, and regular urine or saliva tests. Inpatient and outpatient treatments are available. It is also vital to have a support group and ongoing counselling for long-term recovery.
Cocaine is one of the most abused substances due to its pleasurable effects. The effects of cocaine can impact physical and mental health. In the short term, it can cause cognitive impairments, abdominal pains, and nausea. It may also result in heightened excitement, agitation, and other altered behaviours. In the long term, it can lead to permanent organ damage and psychological disorders. Chronic use increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses.
Early detection is key to preventing further harm. Identifying the signs and symptoms of abuse can help detect drug use and provide the necessary interventions. For example, the workplace may conduct regular or random drug screening to monitor impairments. Professional treatments are available to help individuals struggling with cocaine, alcohol, or other drugs. Moreover, it is important to note that recovery is a long journey and requires dedication and commitment.