What Does Cocaine Do?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that acts on the brain’s limbic system – the regions of the brain that regulate pleasure and motivation. Cocaine use causes feelings of euphoria, energy, and the desire to continue using. With extended use, these effects lead to addiction.

Because of its highly addictive nature, the Federal government classifies cocaine as a Schedule Class II controlled dangerous substance (meaning it has a high potential for abuse and dependency).

What are the Common Ways to Use Cocaine?

There are three main methods of cocaine use:

  • Inhaling: Powdered cocaine is inhaled/snorted through the nose. This is the most common method.
  • Injecting: Powdered cocaine is dissolved in water and injected directly into a vein (“intravenous”) or injected just under the skin (“skin-popping”). This method increases the intensity of the high, but infections are more common.
  • Smoking: Cocaine is processed into hardened “rocks” which can be smoked or vaporized. This causes cocaine to rapidly enter the bloodstream through the lungs. This is commonly called ‘free-basing’ or smoking “crack.”

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use?

The signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction and cocaine abuse vary from person to person, and by method of ingestion. The more common symptoms and signs of cocaine addiction are:

  • Impaired sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronically runny nose

Cocaine use typically produces changes in both behavior and personality. Often, the intensity of personality changes increase with the amount and frequency of cocaine use. The changes can include:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

What are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction?

When taken in high doses, or used in binges over an extended period, cocaine causes users to experience delusions, paranoia, and disorientation. Cocaine users may display aggressive or antisocial behavior, and may suffer psychosis (a state in which the person loses touch with reality, including experiencing hallucinations).

Users who inject cocaine will have marks at the injection sites called “needle tracks.” Like most street drugs, cocaine is often adulterated (“cut”) with other substances. Users who inject the adulterates may suffer allergic reactions, which can cause death.

Common health problems resulting from cocaine use include:

  • Heart problems (including an enlarged heart or heart attack)
  • Respiratory problems (including respiratory failure)
  • Nervous system problems (including strokes)
  • Digestive problems
  • Contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases (by sharing paraphernalia)
  • Serious skin infections
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Death

How Does Cocaine Addiction Affect The Brain?

In day-to-day life, the brain releases small amounts of a neurotransmitter called “dopamine” in response to pleasurable activities. Cocaine use causes an increase in the available dopamine in the brain, which causes feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria.

Over time, cocaine use causes the body to build a tolerance to the increased levels of dopamine. The body then craves increasing levels of cocaine to sustain the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Cocaine users often “crash,” feeling withdrawal symptoms and depression when dopamine levels drop.

What Can You Do?

Our Arizona treatment center is ready to help you or your loved one end cocaine addiction. Call our rehab center in AZ. We have compassionate admissions coordinators available – 24 hours a day – at 866-239-1700. You can also contact us here.