The Effects of Cocaine

rehab for women | Gratitude LodgeThe effects of cocaine bring on many adverse physical and psychological side effects, both short-term and long-term.

While some of the damage caused by chronic cocaine abuse may be reversible, some long-term effects of cocaine can trigger irreversible harm. 

The most reliable way to avoid long-term physical complications from cocaine is not to use this substance. If it’s too late, consider engaging with a cocaine addiction treatment program before the problem becomes worse. 

Like all addictions, stimulant use disorder (cocaine addiction) is a progressive and relapsing brain condition. While there is no cure for stimulant use disorder, evidence-based treatment usually delivers positive outcomes.


Any use of cocaine, whether an isolated incident or ongoing abuse, is associated with a slew of adverse side effects, from heart attacks in otherwise healthy and young individuals to episodes of hostile, erratic, and violent behavior.

The primary side effects of cocaine are:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Twitches, tics, and tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure levels
  • Vertigo
  • Reduced libido
  • Paranoia 


Cocaine effects set in rapidly. The effects are almost instantaneous if the drug is injected intravenously or smoke in the form of crack cocaine.

Taking cocaine causes increased dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger – associated with pleasurable feelings and positive mood.

Whatever the route of delivery, using cocaine triggers these short-term effects on the body:

  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Altered breathing
  • Intense stimulation

The cocaine high is characterized by these desirable effects:

  • Intense euphoria
  • Inflated self-confidence
  • Increased energy
  • Elevated mood

Like any addictive substance, cocaine use also provokes many unwanted short-term effects, including:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia


Smoking or injecting cocaine triggers fleeting effects that last for just five to ten minutes. Snorting the drug brings about side effects that last for up to thirty minutes. Regardless of the method of administration, residual side effects may be noticeable for more than an hour. 

The length of time for which cocaine side effects linger depends on the amount of cocaine consumed, as well as the presence of any other addictive substances in your system. 

Following a period of cocaine abuse, it is typical to feel irritable and deeply fatigued. You may also experience insomnia during the cocaine crash.


Abusing cocaine can lead to the development of an addiction and the manifestation of problems in all areas of your life

Beyond this, cocaine abuse will heighten your chance of developing chronic health conditions.

Chronic cocaine abuse can affect the following systems and areas of the body:

  • Immune system
  • Respiratory system
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Sinuses
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Brain


Chronic cocaine abuse will increase your chances of contracting and transmitting infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Abusing cocaine will also depress your immune system, compromising functioning and allowing disease to spread more rapidly throughout the body.


Smoking crack cocaine can be especially damaging, particularly when it triggers respiratory issues like eosinophilic pneumonitis, known informally as crack lung.

The repeated use of crack cocaine will constrict blood vessels in the lungs, destroying the alveolar walls and impairing the delivery of oxygen to your bloodstream. This can result in the following adverse effects:

  • Pulmonary edema
  • Acute respiratory distress
  • Chronic coughing
  • Increased risk of infections like tuberculosis or pneumonia


Research indicates that cocaine abuse can lead to these forms of cardiovascular damage: 

  • Arrhythmia (irregular heart rate)
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Tachycardia
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Blood clots causing stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or heart attack
  • Permanently raised blood pressure

Heart attacks are the most common cause of death associated with cocaine.


If you abuse cocaine long-term, this will increase the likelihood of overdosing. Cocaine overdose floods the body with toxins, often causing liver damage. If you stop using cocaine, much of this damage will be reversible. 

Combining cocaine with alcohol is inadvisable and can cause chronic liver damage. When cocaine mixes with alcohol (ethanol) in the liver, this produces a toxic metabolite called cocaethylene.


The long-term abuse of cocaine can cause damage by: 

  • Permanently increasing your blood pressure levels.
  • Destroying the skeletal muscles in the kidneys, allowing toxins to penetrate the bloodstream.


Snorting cocaine can damage the nose and the mouth.

First, the soft tissue in the mucus membrane is damaged. Over time, this tissue dies, exposing the cartilage between your nasal cavities – the septum. Septal perforation brings about a collapse of the nose’s structure, sometimes causing problems with breathing. Corrective surgery is often but not always effective.


Cocaine abuse can bring about these gastrointestinal issues: 

  • Inflammation in large intestine
  • Ischemic colitis
  • Decreased blood flow throughout the body damaging to organs
  • Heightened risk of developing ulcers


Cocaine abuse causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict, reducing oxygen flow and potentially triggering permanent brain damage.

Abusing any form of cocaine, whether powder or freebase, can bring about these brain complications: 

  • Increased risk of aneurysm
  • Cerebral atrophy (shrinking of brain)
  • Heightened risk of dementia
  • Mini strokes
  • Seizure
  • Hyperpyrexia (high fever)
  • Cerebral vasculitis (inflamed blood vessels in brain and spinal column)
  • Mobility issues caused by tremors or muscle weakness
  • More chance of developing a mental health condition
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Issues with decision making, problem solving, and memory due to changes in the function of the temporal lobe and the prefrontal lobe
  • Psychosis
  • Developing polysubstance use issues (abuse of more than one addictive substance)


Even if you have severe stimulant use disorder, and even though there are no FDA-approved medications for treating cocaine addiction, most people make a sustained recovery after engaging with evidence-based behavioral therapy at inpatient or outpatient rehab. 

Here at Gratitude Lodge, we have luxury rehab centers located in:

  • San Diego
  • Long Beach
  • Newport Beach 

All Gratitude Lodge treatment centers offer access to 30-day inpatient rehab for cocaine addiction, as well as intensive outpatient programs for those who require a more flexible, affordable route to recovery from cocaine addiction.

Whatever level of treatment intensity is most appropriate, you can take advantage of the same services and therapeutic interventions at all Gratitude Lodges. These include: 

  • Medically supervised detox
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Daily meetings
  • 12-step immersion program

While cocaine can be powerfully and psychologically addictive, we can help you move beyond cocaine addiction at Gratitude Lodge. Call 888-861-1658 today for immediate assistance.