What are the Long Term Effects of Cocaine?

Cocaine is a very powerful drug, ranking third in terms of addictive potential just behind heroin and methamphetamine. And if dependence is achieved, it becomes very difficult to avoid the substance over a long period of time. User often quit and relapse in cycles which can last years or decades. Triggers and cravings are often among the main catalysts. Thus, any user has the potential to develop long term effects of cocaine use.

While there are many casual users, there is no way for any one person to know what effects of even moderate use will have on their body and mind. Because cocaine is a binge drug, weekend or infrequent users may administer many doses of cocaine in one sitting. The following describes some effects that cocaine users may encounter after repeated binges.

Long Term Effects of Cocaine

Brain scans reveal that the brain of a cocaine addict has decreased dopamine receptors in comparison to a non-addicted brain. Dopamine is produced via a reward system, and is responsible, in part, for conditioning and motivation. Thus, cocaine addicts are less able to achieve the dopamine reward for other activities.

The brain begins to adapt and alter the reward pathway after multiple exposures to cocaine. In addition to becoming desensitized to other reinforcers, the brain becomes less sensitive to the drug itself. This is called tolerance, which means that more and more of the drug is need to produce the same results. Conversely, the brain becomes more sensitive to the undesirable effects of cocaine, such as anxiety and nervousness.

The binge pattern of cocaine users usually results in higher amounts upon repeated doses. The higher the dose, the more chance of effects such as irritability, panic, and paranoia. At some point psychosis is even possible. This often present with hallucinations and dissociation. With every additional dose increasing in frequency and potency, the potential for negative effects on body and mind increase.

Also, due to appetite changes, users may lose weight and suffer from vitamin deficiencies or malnutrition.

Other long term effects of cocaine depend upon the usual method of administration. For example, snorting can impair one’s sense of smell. Chronic nosebleeds and nasal irritation can develop, leading to permanently runny nose. In addition, swallowing problems and hoarseness is common.

Ingesting cocaine can cause gangrene of the bowel, in which the tissue is damaged and dies. And like heroin users, cocaine users who inject intravenously will develop track marks or scars.

Before you try cocaine even once, you must consider its highly addictive potential. Repeated and prolonged use can result in a host of problems that may even be life-threatening.