Cocaine is a drug that gives you a brilliant high followed by difficult downers, also known as a ‘celebrity drug’ or white powder or Coke.
It is addictive in nature and substance abuse can lead to a mental health disorder and can also lead to permanent brain damage because cocaine withdrawal is very difficult.
Let’s understand all these in detail below.
1. What is Cocaine?
Cocaine or crack is basically a drug that is derived from the coca leaf, it is a stimulant and very addictive in nature.
Usually, people snort, inject or smoke it to get high. The euphoria is created due to the increase in the dopamine levels of the brain.
It is a recreational drug that is inserted into your bloodstream so you even need to take care of how are you procuring it because impurity can add to another set of problems.
There are a lot of side effects of crack cocaine, both long-term and short-term, let’s understand them better.
2. Effects of Cocaine
When used in a repeated manner, cocaine can lead to severe health problems even physical and mental dependence. Brain cells are significantly affected by cocaine addiction.
When you consume cocaine the dopamine level increases which gives a feeling of pleasure as it stimulates the pleasure centre in the central nervous system.
Now after repeated usage, your brain becomes depleted of dopamine, which in turn requires you to consume larger amounts of cocaine to get the feeling of euphoria.
Due to chronic cocaine use the brain becomes dependent on the drug to get even normal stimulation, for even a small amount of dopamine production.
This is the time when you have developed a substance use disorder and withdrawal symptoms can be observed when you are abstaining from the drug.
Structurally also the brain gets affected by repeated cocaine use which can lead to chronic headaches if the linings of the veins and the arteries are damaged because the blood flow to the brain becomes restricted.
If the veins or arteries are damaged too much it can even lead to blood clots, which in turn can cause a stroke as well.
Consumption can also cause seizures, when you binge cocaine that can develop into a seizure disorder as well.
As a normal process, brain changes and gray matter decreases, but it is a gradual reduction mechanism that takes decades.
It is complicated because it leads to dementia, memory problems, and even changes in cognitive abilities.
However, people with cocaine dependence can lose gray matter in a faster manner, compared to a person who is not a cocaine user.
The level of glucose metabolism reduces in many brain areas due to long-term cocaine usage, where the neurons might even die after underperforming.
Cocaine leads to neurological stress and neurotoxicity which can also cause autophagy.
3. How is your Heart Affected by Cocaine Abuse?
Cocaine affects the circulatory system a lot.
Primarily it can lead to the constriction of blood vessels thus reducing the flow of blood by the heart into the body, creating more stress on the heart.
Intake of cocaine in the body disturbs the concentration of sodium, potassium, and calcium and this disruption leads to irregular heartbeat due to interference with the communication system.
Long-term effects of cocaine on the heart include problems like the hardening of arteries and capillaries and in severe cases, it can even lead to sudden death.
It is even called the ‘perfect heart attack drug’ and this is attributed to the stress cocaine puts on muscles, vessels, and arteries.
4. Psychological Effects
Cocaine not only creates a dopamine imbalance but also impacts other components like GABA thus causing psychological effects on the brain where agitation, hallucination, and paranoia are some of the most commonly occurring symptoms.
According to research done on long-term and short-term cocaine usage, it has been found that around 70% of cocaine users have paranoia, more than 50% have been seen indulging in violent behaviors, and about 20% have suicidal tendencies.
As we saw above cocaine has an intense high but it is short-lived and dies in about half an hour.
To overcome the downer, the user becomes used to frequent intake which might even lead to an overdose.
Since the high is very strong, the downer hits hard too and withdrawal symptoms come very quickly, this phenomenon is known as cocaine crash.
Symptoms of the same include – agitation, irritability, restlessness, mood swings, exhaustion, and depression in some cases.
5. Cocaine Withdrawals
The drug creates physical, psychological, and neurotic dependence in a person. The constant urge is driven by the fact that the high or the euphoria is short-lived.
Withdrawal is very difficult because the symptoms affect the brain in many ways.
Although there are still devoted detox centers that now support many forms of help not just individually but also in a family, group, or case-based setting.
There are more ways of pain-free rehabs now, where they help you to heal out of the withdrawal symptoms physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
6. Final Thoughts
Derived from the coca plant, cocaine is a high-risk drug among other substances. It is an extreme stimulant consumption that leads to increased dopamine flow.
This leads to a lot of changes in the body like sexual arousal increase, abrupt talkativeness, and a zen-like focus and energy to work towards anything, the high however spiral down very brutally, and eventually, this addiction turns into a cocaine use disorder.
To prevent yourself from falling into it make sure you are aware of what are the effects of cocaine on brain function, respiratory system, and other body functions.