The Long Term Effects of Cocaine
There are a number of things that can happen to the brain and body after being exposed to cocaine for long periods of time. Sometimes, it is a possibility that some of the damage done can be reversed through a combination of detox and drug rehab but as the years of drug addiction continue, the chances become smaller and smaller. Treating these chronic problems can lead to a lifetime of medical complications both dangerous and expensive.
It is very important to get help in overcoming the drug addiction to cocaine as soon as possible due to the long-term complications caused by the drug. Here’s what can happen to the body after being exposed to cocaine for long periods of time.
Effects to the cardiovascular system include elevated blood pressure, rapid and irregular heartbeat, and vasoconstriction in the brain and body. These are some of the more immediate effects experienced during the initial energy rush while using the drug and can lead to chronic complications including:
- Clotting of the blood that can lead to heart attack
- Chest pain from tightening of blood vessels
- Myocardial infarction- failure of the heart muscle due to lack of oxygen
- Permanently increased blood pressure
- Irregular heart rate
Heart attack is the leading cause of death for those who abuse cocaine.
Damage to the nose and mouth
Snorting this drug will directly damage the mucous membranes in the nose. The drier the environment, the less blood will flow and the tissues in the nose will die. As the tissues in the nose die the cartilage will then be exposed in the nose, it will die as well, and then create a hole in the septum leading to breathing complications.
Another issue that can arise are perforations in the septum that can lead to a collapse of the structure of the nose that can potentially be corrected by plastic surgery, however, not always. This can also lead to breathing problems.
There is a similar effect that occurs in the mouth called palatal perforations that are less common than septal perforations but can happen after long-term use.
When damage to the mucous membrane occurs by snorting the drug it can lead to problems in the throat and upper respiratory system but smoking the drug will cause the most serious issues. When blood vessels in the lungs constrict the alveolar walls of the lungs become damaged so much so that oxygen can’t enter the bloodstream affecting the entire body. Smoking can also cause:
- Respiratory distress
- Pulmonary edema
What is referred to as “crack lung” can also occur which includes:
- Black septum
- Wheezing/trouble breathing
- Increased white blood cell count
- Increased body temperature
When the blood vessels in the body are under constant constriction the brain will not receive the oxygen it needs to function at full capacity. It will also increase the risk of aneurysm.
Some of the changes the brain will go through from long-term use include: dysfunction of the prefrontal and temporal lobe, decreased neurotransmitter production and absorption, tremors, weakness in muscle, and changes in body movement.
Other problems the brain can encounter are seizures, shrinking of the brain, mini-strokes, inflammation of blood vessels in the brain, and exceptionally high fever, and increased risk for dementia.
Reduced blood flow throughout the entire body
Abusing this drug leads to reduced blood flow throughout the entire body introducing problems to the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys.
Weakened immune system
This drug will weaken the immune system leading to an increased risk of contracting infectious and potentially deadly diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. These diseases will spread quickly throughout the body since the immune system is not strong enough to fight against them.
Irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia, and psychosis are all by-products of abusing this drug and it is imperative that detox and drug rehab are sought after as quickly as possible to lower the chances of permanent damage. Professional help can be a make or break for success. Even as long periods of discontinuing drug use occur, the memory of the drug can trigger intense cravings. A strong support network is key in preventing relapse.
We would love your feedback.
Was this article helpful?
Let Us Help
Use our form below to speak with an addictions specialist today. Let our team of experts in the addiction field help point you in the right direction.