Does Cocaine Dilate Or Constrict Your Pupils?

Cocaine abuse can affect all areas of the body, including ocular effects (effects on the eyes) and effects on the pupils. A person’s pupils will become large and dilated, a state that can become relatively permanent in people who are using cocaine heavily and frequently.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Cocaine causes the pupils to dilate and become large, an effect that typically lasts around 30 minutes and which is one of the major signs of cocaine use.

With extended substance abuse and/or high doses of cocaine, people who use cocaine will find that this period of dilation lasts longer each time.

Why Cocaine Dilates The Pupils

Cocaine use affects the central nervous system by releasing an important hormone called norepinephrine from the adrenal gland.

While this increase in endorphins creates stimulating effects, it is also responsible for dilating the pupils.

Cocaine also prevents the reabsorption of this hormone, which results in a buildup of it in the bloodstream.

The result is pupils that stay dilated even after the cocaine high has ended. In someone who is addicted to cocaine and using it all the time, the pupils will remain in a constant state of dilation.

Effects Of Cocaine On The Brain

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that causes the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter compound associated with pleasure and euphoria.

Unfortunately, the cocaine high does not last very long and people tend to take repeated doses over short periods of time.

This frequent cocaine use can cause permanent changes and damage in the brain and specifically in its reward center.

Effects Of Cocaine On The Blood Vessels

Cocaine use causes both an increase in blood pressure and body temperature. It also causes blood vessels throughout the body to constrict, including in the eyes. This results in bloodshot eyes or eyes that are reddish in color.

Other Side Effects Of Cocaine On The Eyes

Cocaine eyes can result in other conditions as well. In the short-term, pupil dilation will cause painful light sensitivity that can require the use of sunglasses.

Long-term effects of cocaine can cause serious damage to a person’s overall eye health.

This may result in conditions like:

  • glaucoma — excess fluid pressure in the eye
  • keratitis — cornea inflammation that can lead to ulcers and perforations
  • nystagmus — rapid and uncontrolled eye movements
  • talc retinopathy — crystal-like build-up on the vascular tissue of the eye, linked specifically to snorting cocaine
  • maculopathy — blurred vision as a result of degeneration of the retina

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

Every treatment program for cocaine addiction or any other substance use disorder will have its own unique treatment process, but you can expect to find similar treatment options at most or all of them.

Treatment services for cocaine addiction include:

  • outpatient cocaine treatment
  • inpatient cocaine treatment
  • 12-step programs
  • individual therapy
  • group therapy
  • family therapy
  • relapse prevention care
  • cocaine detox (detoxification)

Learn about cocaine healthcare services.

Find A Drug Rehab Program For Cocaine Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse or any other substance use disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Bedrock Recovery Center.

Whether you are in need of inpatient or outpatient treatment for drug addiction, we are here to help and offer a variety of addiction treatment services.

You are not alone, and help is just a phone call away.

  1. Indian Health Service
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine

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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