Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Published on March 11, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Cocaine is a powerful drug derived from the coca plant that comes in the form of a white, powdery substance. Cocaine is commonly snorted, although it may be smoked, which is also known as freebasing, or dissolved in water and injected.

Cocaine in powder form may be referred to as coke, blow, or powder. When cocaine is concentrated and cooked with another substance, usually baking soda, it forms a rock-like substance known as crack. Crack cocaine is highly concentrated, and therefore produces more intense effects and has an even higher risk of addiction than the powder form.

Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system, making the user energetic and alert, while also increasing dopamine levels in the brain that produce a euphoric feeling. Over time, cocaine use can permanently damage the body and brain, as well as lead to a lifelong battle with addiction.

Common Signs of Abuse

Someone who is abusing cocaine will likely begin to display signs and symptoms that are noticeable to friends, family, and coworkers. Because cocaine is a stimulant, it often makes a person seem like they have had too much caffeine. They may become extremely talkative, hyperalert, anxious, overly confident, and easily excited.

The effects of cocaine use are fairly short-lived, lasting only around thirty minutes. This means that some users will dose frequently to maintain their high, and the people around them may begin to notice frequent absences or bathroom breaks. During the “high,” cocaine users may seem to be in a great mood and eager to spend their time productively.  However, a high is inevitably followed by a low, and negative emotions are usually part of the ups and downs of cocaine addiction.

Once they stop dosing, users may become irritable, angry, paranoid, or depressed. In addition to these short-term effects, cocaine use can also do serious damage after prolonged use.

Some problems can become chronic annoyance such as headaches, mood issues, and sexual dysfunction, while others can be life-threatening, such as heart attack and stroke. Using cocaine has damaging effects on the heart, and can even cause a heart attack in someone using cocaine for the first time.

Cocaine is a stressor on various critical systems in the body, but especially the cardiovascular system. Cocaine use can lead to high blood pressure, which has been associated with various diseases, as well as the hardening of arteries and capillaries, which may lead to heart disease and other heart issues.

Those who snort cocaine may develop issues in their throat or sinuses such as nosebleeds, loss of smell, or trouble swallowing. Over time, cocaine users will begin to develop a tolerance, meaning that they will need to use more of the drug to achieve the same high.

With increased use, changes in brain chemistry may lead to difficulty recalling memories, cognitive challenges, and sleep issues. People begin using cocaine for a variety of reasons, some because they are looking for a way to function well with very little sleep or keep their energy up under draining conditions. Unfortunately, cocaine use will inevitably create more problems than it remedies, and may lead to a serious addiction.

Treating Cocaine Addiction 

As with any addiction, abusing cocaine is likely to lead to a whole host of personal, professional, and financial issues. Addiction has a way of becoming the user’s first priority, making all other relationships and responsibilities take a back burner.

Additionally, many people who abuse substances struggle with mental health issues, and addiction will only exacerbate these problems.  Treatment for cocaine addiction should involve a full assessment of the individual and their mental health so that a dual diagnosis can be provided if necessary.

Behavioral interventions found at professional treatment centers such as cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to have great success in treating addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Lifestyle changes are also usually necessary to maintain sobriety.

Many people with addictions build their life around their drug use, and sobriety can leave empty spaces that need to be filled. Professional treatment can help teach users how to build a solid foundation for sobriety by fostering new skills and creating an active lifestyle.

For those with demanding and stressful careers, such as first responders, treating addiction also means finding new ways to manage stress and cope with trauma.  Talk therapy is a great starting point for those who need to work through their personal histories and heal from traumatic memories.

Additionally, therapy can teach you new skills to manage stress and deal with cravings during addiction recovery.  Many people with addictions, as well as those who are simply looking to destress their lives, turn to mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation to help calm the mind and relieve anxiety. The first step towards a life free of addiction and better stress management is to reach out for professional help.


The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.