Cocaine Side Effects: Short And Long-Term

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that affects virtually all areas of the body in some way in both the short-term and long-term. The effects of cocaine can be very serious on a person’s body and brain and can cause severe health complications for the person using it.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is known for increasing a person’s energy and causing feelings of euphoria.

While it may seem like a cocaine high is pleasant based on this information, cocaine abuse has many dangerous and unattractive side effects in both short-term and long-term use.

How Cocaine Affects The Brain And Body

As a stimulant drug, cocaine works to speed up functions throughout the body and brain. The result of this is a physical and mental high that is both intense and short-lived.

The cocaine high is known for a person having increased energy and alertness, with an increased heart rate and breathing rate, and no need for sleep in the near future.

Cocaine is also known for creating feelings of intense euphoria and happiness in those who use it.

Short-Term Side Effects Of Cocaine Use

Cocaine acts quickly once ingested and starts circulating throughout the body. Its effects can be felt both physically throughout the body as well as mentally within the brain.

How Cocaine Affects The Body

Cocaine affects the body by essentially speeding everything up. Cocaine use increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and generally makes most vital organs in the body work much harder.

Unfortunately, when vital organs are overworked, they can become exhausted and are more likely to malfunction or fail.

Effects Of Cocaine Use On The Brain

Meanwhile, in the central nervous system, cocaine is acting upon neurotransmitters to activate the brain’s reward center and flood the person with dopamine and serotonin, known as feel-good neurotransmitters.

Like the body, taking large amounts of cocaine can overwhelm the brain and cause it to lose its ability to function properly and clearly.

Long-Term Side Effects Of Cocaine Addiction

The following are potential long-term health complications or issues that can arise in someone who has used cocaine for an extensive period of time.

Effects Of Cocaine On The Heart

The organ that is most severely affected by cocaine use is the heart. Cocaine causes the heart to work much harder than it is used to, increasing heart rate and blood pressure simultaneously.

Extensive cocaine use can reduce the lifespan of someone’s heart significantly, possibly leading to the development of cardiomyopathy or heart arrhythmias, as well as increasing a person’s overall risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine On The Liver

In addition to overworking the heart, cocaine also overworks the liver, the organ which is responsible for filtering all the substances that come through the body, including the harmful and toxic ones.

When the liver is constantly exhausted like this from cocaine use, it can start to malfunction and even completely fail over time. Other conditions that can result include renal failure and viral hepatitis.

Effects Of Cocaine On The Skin

Cocaine can affect the skin in a number of negative ways, including the pathologic death of skin cells and the formation of chronic skin ulcers.

When your body is continuously deprived of oxygen-rich blood during cocaine use, it can cause redness, skin discoloration, acne, and possibly even painful blisters or rashes in severe cases.

Cocaine Effects On The Nose

Snorting white powder cocaine causes immediate irritation and inflammation to the nasal passage and sinuses, an effect that will only get worse with each use.

This is why people who use cocaine will get nosebleeds and runny noses as well as upper respiratory infections more often.

Extended cocaine use can also cause a condition referred to as “coke nose” in which a hole forms in the wall between nostrils, called a deviated nasal septum.

Effects Of Cocaine On Weight Loss

Cocaine has appetite-suppressing qualities in that it actually changes a person’s metabolism by altering the way their body digests and stores food. Unfortunately, this kind of weight loss usually also results in malnutrition.

A person using cocaine heavily will find themselves wanting to eat less but also finding that they lose weight no matter how much they eat.

In fact, people who use cocaine tend to crave fattier foods with higher-calorie content but still suffer from cocaine-induced weight loss.

Cocaine-Induced Psychosis

The two main symptoms of any state of psychosis are delusions (believing things to be real that are not) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not actually happening).

When cocaine is used excessively for a short period of time, it can trigger temporary psychosis.

Cocaine-induced psychosis occurs when the person has abused so much cocaine that their mind has basically overdosed and they have lost the ability to think clearly. This condition typically lasts a few hours.

Cocaine-Induced Seizures

Cocaine-induced seizures are most commonly associated with smoking cocaine, and specifically with smoking crack cocaine. This may be because of the additional toxins that are found in the crack rock form of cocaine.

The relationship between cocaine and seizures is a complicated one and not completely understood.

It’s important to note that seizures are a sign of cocaine overdose and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Other Common Side Effects Of Cocaine Use

The following are side effects that a person might experience during the comedown from cocaine and in the days after using.


Cocaine addiction and insomnia are disorders that co-occur commonly. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, causing the heart to beat faster and harder and blood pressure to rise, giving those on a cocaine high a burst of energy and elation.

It can be difficult for the body and mind to come down from this high level of energy and return to normal.

It is very common for people who use cocaine to experience frequent sleep disruptions and sleep disorders.

“Coke Mouth”

Coke mouth is a condition in people who are addicted to coke in which the roof of their mouth becomes eroded and forms holes in the palate.

When coke is snorted, it cuts off blood supply to the palate, which separates the mouth from the nasal cavity. As a result, the palate dies, slowly shrinking away and leaving a hole in the roof of the mouth.

Cocaine-Induced Hair Loss

The reason that cocaine can cause hair loss goes back to how it affects a person’s appetite and causes malnutrition.

Someone who uses cocaine a lot is not getting the nutrition and protein that they need in order to stimulate healthy hair growth.

Over time, this can result in patches of hair loss as new hair growth is slowed or stopped while the person continues to lose hair every day as all people do normally.

Cocaine-Induced Headaches

Cocaine use can cause headaches in a few possible ways. One possibility is that cocaine creates an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin within the central nervous system.

Cocaine also causes headaches by constricting blood vessels and thus slowing blood flow throughout the body, including to a person’s brain. In severe cases, this restriction of blood and oxygen flow can result in a stroke.

Effects Of Cocaine On Bowel Movements

Cocaine, like all stimulant drugs, has a laxative effect on the digestive system, in addition to causing a decrease in appetite, stomach pain, and nausea or vomiting.

This laxative effect may cause a person to have to poop more regularly while using cocaine, and they may even experience bloody diarrhea.

Some people report having to pass a bowel movement almost immediately after taking a dose of cocaine.

How Cocaine Drug Use Leads To Overdose

Cocaine overdose occurs when a person takes enough of the drug to reach toxic levels, which may cause a serious and potentially life-threatening reaction in the body.

Signs of a cocaine overdose include:

  • violent muscle tremors
  • a rise in body temperature
  • vomiting and nausea
  • paranoia
  • elevated heart rate
  • chest pain or cardiac arrest
  • severe anxiety or panic attacks

If someone is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to call 911 immediately to avoid permanent brain damage or death.

Dependency On Cocaine Can Lead To Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal occurs when someone with a psychological and physical dependence on cocaine suddenly stops using the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms are typically psychological in nature and may include intense cravings, violent mood swings, suicidal tendencies, vivid dreams, and slowed thinking.

Physical effects of withdrawal are less common but can still be serious. Physical symptoms include chills, muscle tremors, nerve pain, and fatigue.

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

treatment center for cocaine abuse may start with a period of medically monitored detox. This helps ensure the person goes through withdrawal safely and comfortably with a reduced chance for relapse.

At this point, the person will enter either a residential inpatient program where they will live on-site and be monitored 24/7 or an outpatient program where they will receive treatment a few times per week while living at home.

Any type of treatment will likely include some form of therapy or counseling to help get a person’s mental health and behavioral health back on track as well.

Find Cocaine Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Getting help for cocaine addiction, or any other addiction for that matter can be easier said than done. At Bedrock Recovery Center, we understand and are here to help.

Simply give our helpline a call to learn more about the addiction treatment services we offer or to find answers to any questions you have about substance abuse treatment.

The help that you or your loved one needs is out there, and we are here to help you find it.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Cocaine DrugFacts
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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