Cocaine is a widely known, illicit drug that has remained popular for decades. Though many use it for its stimulant effects, this substance is also associated with a number of health risks.
Believe it or not, long-term and frequent use of cocaine can even damage your internal organs, such as your liver. This can have detrimental effects on your overall health.
What Does The Liver Do?
So, what exactly does the liver do? Put simply, your liver helps to filter substances and nutrients in your blood.
When your blood reaches your liver, the organ helps to filter and convert the chemicals and nutrients it’s carrying, allowing the body to either use the substances or convert them into what is called bile.
This is the main function of the liver, though there are hundreds of other processes your liver carries out on a daily basis.
In other words, your liver is a necessity for a functioning body.
Effects Of Cocaine On The Liver
As mentioned above, using cocaine can actually have an effect on your liver. The function of the liver is so vital that many of these effects are incredibly hazardous to your health.
Liver damage due to cocaine use is dependent on how frequently it’s used in addition to how long it’s used.
One way cocaine can damage your liver is by causing a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which is extremely serious and sometimes fatal.
Rhabdomyolysis is caused by damaged muscle tissue releasing electrolytes and proteins into your bloodstream.
When these substances are free to flow into your blood, several different organs, including your liver, can be severely damaged. This is why rhabdomyolysis can kill you or cause permanent disabilities.
Cocaine use can cause rhabdomyolysis because it decreases blood flow in certain parts of the body. In turn, you are more susceptible to muscle death.
Another way cocaine can affect your liver is by exposing you to viral hepatitis. Though you may think you can only come in contact with hepatitis by injecting cocaine, this is not the case.
Viral hepatitis is transmitted through the blood as well as stool, so it can be contracted via injection, snorting, and smoking if there is fecal matter on the surface you’re using to do the drug.
What is viral hepatitis? You’ve probably heard the terms hepatitis B or C at some point in your life, but there are other types of the illness like A, D, and E.
Essentially, hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, which damages it. Certain types of the infection, such as B and C, can be chronic conditions. In other words, you’ll be sick for the rest of your life.
In addition to liver damage, cocaine use can also cause renal failure, which is the failure of your kidneys. In fact, renal failure from cocaine is typically a result of liver damage.
When the liver is unable to function properly, the blood flow to your kidneys is decreased, which can cause kidney failure.
Much like the liver, your kidneys are important for filtering substances in your body. Specifically, the kidneys filter out waste.
As a result, kidney failure can cause death or a commitment to a treatment called dialysis, which essentially does the job of your kidneys for you.
Lastly, cocaine use can lead to arterial hypotension which is essentially low blood pressure. As mentioned previously, liver damage can affect blood flow, which causes low blood pressure.
That being said, using cocaine can cause liver damage, which then can lead to arterial hypotension and even renal failure.
Arterial hypotension is dangerous as it can cause issues like dizziness and fainting. In severe cases, other organs cannot get enough oxygen which can lead to heart and brain damage.
Cocaine can be “cut” or mixed with countless ingredients and substances. In some cases, these may be simple like flour or talc or more hazardous like amphetamines and fentanyl.
Many times, these substances also contribute to the effects of this drug on your liver. Cocaine cut with other substances gives the liver more things to filter out of your blood, which can lead to liver damage if the substances are dangerous.
Is Liver Damage From Cocaine Abuse Reversible?
Liver damage as a result of cocaine abuse is reversible in some cases, but not in others. For example, once you stop using cocaine, it is possible that effects like arterial hypotension can be reversed, depending on how severely your liver has been damaged.
Similarly, viral hepatitis can sometimes be resolved in certain cases depending on the type. However, it is fairly common to be a chronic issue as well.
On the other hand, the effects of renal failure and rhabdomyolysis tend to be irreversible.
Ways To Treat Liver Damage From Cocaine Use
Treatment for liver damage from cocaine use is heavily dependent on the type of damage that has been done. For example, hepatitis can be treated with antiviral medication and renal failure can be treated with dialysis.
However, the first step in treating liver injury from cocaine abuse is to stop using the drug.
Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction
Recovering from cocaine addiction can be a grueling task and it can be difficult to know where to start. Bedrock Recovery Center, a facility in Canton, MA, offers treatment for all kinds of substance abuse.
Here, you’ll find addiction treatment programs like detoxification, inpatient treatment, and medication-assisted treatment, with programs tailored to the individual.
Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center today if you or a loved one is facing cocaine substance use. We offer tailor-made programs and an evidence-based treatment approach.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/rhabdo/default.html
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh https://www.chp.edu/our-services/transplant/liver/education/organs/liver-functions
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000489.htm#:~:text=Hepatorenal%20syndrome%20is%20a%20condition,that%20can%20lead%20to%20death
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine