Physiological Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine produces its powerful high by acting on the brain. But as cocaine travels through the blood, it affects the whole body.
Cocaine is responsible for more U.S. emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. Cocaine harms the brain, heart, blood vessels, and lungs — and can even cause sudden death. Here’s what happens in the body:
- Heart- Cocaine can have a devastating impact on the heart. Cocaine increases heart rate and blood pressure while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The irregular blood flow to the heart muscle itself can cause a heart attack, even in young people without heart disease. Cocaine can also trigger potentially deadly abnormal heart rhythms (called arrhythmias)..
- Brain-Cocaine use will result in the constriction of blood vessels in the brain, causing strokes. This can even happen in young people without other risk factors for strokes. Cocaine use causes seizures and can lead to bizarre or violent behavior.
- Lungs and respiratory system-Snorting cocaine damages the nose and sinuses. Regular use can cause nasal holes and a bloody nose. Smoking crack cocaine irritates the lungs and, in some people, causes permanent lung damage.
- Gastrointestinal tract- Cocaine constricts blood vessels supplying the gut. The resulting oxygen starvation can cause ulcers, or even holes in the stomach or intestines.
- Kidneys- Cocaine can cause sudden, overwhelming kidney failure through a process called rhabdomyolysis. In people with high blood pressure, regular cocaine use can accelerate the long-term kidney damage caused by high blood pressure.
- Sexual function. Although cocaine has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, it actually may make you less able to finish what you start. Chronic cocaine use can impair sexual function in men and women. In men, cocaine can cause delayed or impaired ejaculation.
Withdrawal from cocaine is more psychological than physical.
Symptons of withdrawal includes:
- depression and anxiety
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to feel pleasure
- increased craving for cocaine
- physical symptoms including aches, pains, tremors, and chills
Cocaine withdrawal is rarely medically serious. In certain people, withdrawal from cocaine may cause thoughts of suicide. If you have a problem quitting cocaine it is important to get the help you need.
Overdose from cocaine can result in:
- Cardiac arrest.
- Respiratory arrest.
- Sudden death.
The risk of overdose is compounded when cocaine is used in conjunction with other dangerous substances like alcohol or other drugs. The combination of cocaine and heroin is particularly deadly. Known as a speedball—this mixture creates a serious risk of overdose.
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