Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that is made from the coca plant. It is most commonly found in the form of a fine white powder, but it can also be made into a rock crystal. It is known by many names including coke, snow, crack, blow, and rock. Because of the various forms it can be found in, the drug can be abused by either snorting, injecting, or smoking it. No matter the method of delivery, the drug causes an increase in levels of dopamine, which creates intense feelings of energy and euphoria. What happens to your body on cocaine? Depending on your method of use, there can be a number of physical symptoms associated with cocaine abuse.

Use of cocaine can increase a person’s risk for a myriad of repercussions. Use of cocaine can increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke among other health consequences. Some of the most frequently experienced health risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Severe paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Upper respiratory problems (specifically for those who snort the drug)
  • Increased risk for bloodborne diseases (specifically for those who inject the drug)
  • Bowel gangrene

Cocaine’s Effect on the Body

There are a number of signs and symptoms related to cocaine abuse. Even recreational use of cocaine can lead to the development of significant problems. Cocaine abuse can cause changes in mood, behavior, and bodily functions which may be observed in a number of ways. Rapid changes in mood and changes in physical appearance highlight the impact cocaine has on the way the mind and body function.

Brain Structure

Cocaine can change the structure of the brain and how it responds to chemicals. Recent studies found that those who used cocaine had an abnormal brain structure in the frontal lobe. In addition to loss of gray matter, the part of the brain responsible for the reward system was found to be much larger in those who use cocaine as opposed to those who do not. While it is not certain whether or not this enlargement was there prior to cocaine use, researchers believe there is a link to the structural abnormality and cocaine abuse.

Nasal and Sinus Issues

If cocaine is abused by snorting, there are a variety of nasal and sinus issues that may develop. The mucus membrane on the septum can be damaged by decreased blood supply. Coupled with drying and crusting, a person may suffer with the development of a hole in the septum, nosebleeds, secretions, and whistling while breathing through the nose.


If a person smokes cocaine, a number of issues can develop with the lungs. Many people experience chronic coughing, bronchitis, and coughing up black phlegm. In addition, because a person will often hold their breath while smoking cocaine in order to maximize its effects, it is not uncommon for symptoms such as sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, pain while swallowing, and neck pain to be reported. In some cases, a person may develop fluid in the lungs, subcutaneous emphysema (which is often described as feeling like there are Rice Krispies under the skin of the neck when touched), and respiratory failure. These side effects can be severe and lead to death.

Cardiovascular Consequences

Because cocaine stimulates the Central Nervous System (CNS), there are numerous cardiovascular consequences of cocaine abuse. Those who use cocaine often experience increased blood pressure, narrowing blood vessels, and increased heart rate. The combination of these symptoms can lead to chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, and cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the muscles of the heart to weaken. These symptoms can increase a person’s risk for heart attack and cardiovascular complications that lead to death.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Despite all of these symptoms, a person may struggle with quitting cocaine use because the withdrawal symptoms can be equally difficult to cope with. Like meth addiction, while this can be difficult to overcome, the potential health consequences of continued use can lead to devastating outcomes. Regular use of cocaine can lead to the development of foul or bloody discharge, severe headache, loss of consciousness, seizures, and symptoms of a stroke. These symptoms can be life-threatening and may require a person to receive emergency treatment to intervene.

Cocaine addiction treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting is often necessary for recovery. Getting someone removed from the daily cycle of addiction can help in recovery outcomes.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.

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