HealthSheets™


Cocaine: Understanding Its Effects

Cocaine is a powerful drug. It acts strongly on the central nervous system. This causes a false feeling of well-being. Use of this drug can be harmful. It can cause dependency. It can affect behavior and decisions. And it has many health risks. It can make people think they are better than they are. Their body may be injured, but they can ignore it. This can lead to a very serious injury.

Man wearing a hoodie, sitting on a sofa cutting lines of cocaine

Immediate effects

Cocaine causes some of the same effects as adrenaline. These include rapid heartbeat  and fast breathing. They also include raised body temperature and blood pressure. Users quickly feel a rush of energy and well-being. They can begin to rely on this feeling to help them cope with life. But the high wears off very fast. This happens in less than an hour for powdered cocaine. It happens in about 10 minutes for crack cocaine. The user will then feel agitated and depressed. They will want more cocaine.

Effects of chronic use

People who use cocaine often become dependent. Their behavior will change. They become preoccupied with cocaine, often at the expense of other recreational activities. The drug can interrupt sleep. This can cause mood swings and irritability. To lessen these effects, the person may start using alcohol or other sedatives. Cocaine use can lower the threshold for  seizures. It can change the brain’s pleasure centers. This can cause the brain to need cocaine just to feel normal. Crack smoking can lead to chronic sore throat and lung damage.

Serious risks

Death can result from cocaine use. This can happen even in first-time or healthy users. Sudden death may be the result of:

  • Toxic reactions

  • Seizures

  • Heart attacks

  • Stopping of blood flow and breathing (cardiorespiratory collapse)

  • Heat stroke

The risk of death increases significantly on hot summer days. Cocaine impairs the body's ability to cool itself. In addition, it can increase body temperature. When this occurs on hot summer days a person may suffer heat stroke

Some users have a higher risk of death from cocaine use. These include users with heart conditions or high blood pressure. There are other serious effects. Chronic users can become addicted to other drugs or they may develop mental health problems. People who inject the drug are at risk for diseases such as hepatitis. Sharing of needles can spread HIV.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell