Who Answers?

As most people may know, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Derived from the coca plant, it has often been glamorized in popular culture thanks to its intense euphoric effects. But the reality is that regular cocaine abuse can have serious negative long-term effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

But before we talk about long-term cocaine effects, let’s discuss what this substance is and how it works.

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that can be found in both powdered and crystalline forms. It is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which primarily grows in South America. This illicit drug is known for its quick-acting, short-lived, and intensely euphoric effects, making it highly addictive.

Cocaine works by blocking the reuptake of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. This leads to a surge of these “feel-good” chemicals. Users report an increase in alertness, energy, and a sense of well-being.

With repeated exposure to this drug, the brain starts to adapt, making it increasingly sensitive to cocaine’s absence. This is a sign of withdrawal. An addicted person will eventually choose to do cocaine instead of focusing on their relationships and other priorities. [1]

Why Do People Abuse Cocaine?

Substance abuse can easily lead to drug addiction. But why do people abuse dangerous substances like cocaine in the first place?

Take note that substance abuse is a complex issue influenced by a combination of psychological, social, and environmental factors. People may have different reasons for using cocaine.

The main reason people keep taking it is because cocaine can produce intense feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and energy. This pleasurable effect is due to the drug’s impact on the brain’s reward system, specifically by increasing dopamine levels. People may use cocaine to experience these heightened sensations.

But the reasons for trying it in the first place may vary from person to person.

Some do it for stress relief. Cocaine can temporarily reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some people turn to cocaine and other illicit substances as a coping mechanism. It can create a sense of detachment from one’s problems and concerns, albeit temporarily. This, however, only leads to bigger problems in the long run.

Some people start using cocaine because they were influenced by their friends and peers. Peer pressure can play a significant role in initiating drug use. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to this.

Others only try it out of sheer curiosity. They just want to know what it feels like. But cocaine is a highly addictive drug, and experimentation can easily lead to ongoing use and abuse.

Addiction is a complex medical condition that is influenced by various risk factors. Genetic factors can influence an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. Some people may have a genetic predisposition that makes them more vulnerable to cocaine addiction.

A person’s upbringing, environment, and life experiences can also contribute to the development of substance abuse issues. Early exposure to drug abuse can increase the likelihood of cocaine abuse.

Users often take cocaine in binges. The ever-increasing cocaine intake may sometimes lead to a variety of physical and psychological effects. As doses increase and use becomes more frequent, the person becomes more and more likely to develop a full-blown addiction. [1]

Negative Long-Term Effects of Regular Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a powerful drug that can have immediate and long-lasting effects on the body and brain. It is typically snorted, smoked, or injected, and can produce a short-lived but intense high. While the immediate effects of cocaine use can be dangerous, the long-term effects can be even more damaging.

Long term cocaine abuse can cause a myriad of physical and mental health problems. What makes long-term abuse so dangerous is the fact that it makes it harder to reverse the effects of cocaine. Sometimes it’s possible to reverse the damage done by this substance. But years of abuse may cause irreparable damage. [2]

Long-term cocaine abuse can lead to a lifetime of medical complications, so it’s important to get treatment for cocaine addiction as soon as possible.

Physical Effects

Cocaine use can have a wide range of effects on the human body, both in the short-term and the long-term. These effects may vary depending on factors such as the dose, frequency of use, method of administration, and individual differences.

As a stimulant, cocaine can significantly increase heart rate, which can lead to palpitations and potentially heart problems, including arrhythmias or heart attacks.

Cocaine is known for causing cardiovascular damage. Both cocaine and crack cocaine can cause rapid heartbeat, vasoconstriction, and elevated blood pressure. But long-term abuse can lead to blood clots, pulmonary embolism, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and heart attack. In fact, heart attack is the leading cause of death among those who abuse cocaine. [2]

Other short-term physical effects include: dilated pupils, reduced appetite, agitation, and insomnia.

Smoking cocaine can also cause lung problems and respiratory issues, such as chronic cough and lung damage.

Snorting cocaine can damage the mucous membrane, leading to respiratory problems. Crack cocaine is more likely to cause serious respiratory problems. People who abuse cocaine are at risk of “crack lung”, characterized by symptoms like coughing, pain, black sputum, wheezing sounds, and raised body temperature. [2]

Cocaine abuse can lead to a reduced blood supply to the digestive organs, resulting in abdominal pain and potential bowel gangrene.

Abusing this substance can even lead to severe dental issues, often referred to as “cocaine mouth,” which includes gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

That’s not the only way cocaine can affect your appearance. Injection of cocaine can cause skin infections and abscesses at injection sites.

It’s important to note that these physical effects can vary in severity and may be influenced by individual factors. Everyone is affected by addiction differently after all.

Mental Effects

Beyond the physical health effects, cocaine use can also have significant effects on mental health. It can cause feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and confidence, but these effects are short-lived and often followed by a crash.

Long-term cocaine use can lead to changes in brain chemistry, resulting in mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. It can also cause paranoia, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms.

Common psychological effects of cocaine abuse include cocaine intoxication, cocaine withdrawal, psychotic disorders, delusions, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disorders. [3]

Cocaine use often leads to increased feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Users may experience intense, irrational fears and become extremely suspicious of others. This can result in anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

Paranoia and suspiciousness are often early warning signs of psychosis. This is such a common problem that around 68% to 84% of cocaine users experience paranoia. This effect can be transient, but it can sometimes last for days or even weeks. Meanwhile, psychosis has been reported in around 29% to 53% of cocaine users. Psychosis may include delusions and hallucinations, which may be connected to the imbalance of dopamine. [3]

Cocaine abuse can also lead to depressive symptoms. The drug causes a crash in mood and energy levels once the effects wear off. Long-term use can contribute to clinical depression.

Cocaine can impair cognitive function, leading to problems with memory, attention, and decision-making. Long-term use can cause lasting cognitive deficits.

Some individuals become more irritable and prone to sudden, aggressive outbursts because of cocaine.

In some cases, the depression, anxiety, and hopelessness associated with cocaine abuse can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Just like the physical effects of cocaine abuse, the mental health effects may also vary from one person to another.

Cocaine Addiction

One of the most significant long-term effects of regular cocaine use is addiction. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug, and repeated use can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

Addiction can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, causing financial problems, strained relationships, and health issues. It can also lead to a cycle of drug use and withdrawal, making it difficult for a person to stop using cocaine on their own.

Addiction is a chronic and often relapsing condition characterized by a compulsive and uncontrollable use of cocaine. An addicted person will keep taking the drug even when they are already suffering from its effects. Eventually, the condition affects every aspect of their life.

People with cocaine addiction often find it difficult to control their drug use, leading to escalating doses and frequency of use. Whenever they try to stop or reduce their intake, they experience intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms caused by this drug include depression, fatigue, irritability, and an intense desire to use the drug again.

As the person becomes addicted, they may prioritize cocaine over everything else. This will lead to a breakdown of their health, career, relationships, finances, etc. The addiction can take over a person’s daily life and disrupt their social and professional functioning.

Seeking Help for Cocaine Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine addiction, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. Addiction is a chronic disease that requires professional treatment to overcome.

There are several treatment options available for cocaine addiction, including inpatient and outpatient programs. Inpatient treatment involves staying at a facility for a set period, typically 30-90 days, and receiving intensive therapy and support.

Outpatient treatment allows a person to live at home while attending therapy sessions and support groups. Both options can be effective, and the best choice will depend on the patient’s specific needs and circumstances.

The first step in treating cocaine addiction is often detoxification, which involves helping the person safely withdraw from the drug while managing withdrawal symptoms. Medical supervision may be necessary to ensure the individual’s safety during this process.

During the treatment process, medications may be administered to help ease the patient’s condition. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for treating cocaine addiction. However, medications may be used to manage certain symptoms or co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

This is then supported by counseling and other types of therapy. Behavioral therapies address the mental and emotional aspects of substance abuse. Sessions with a trained therapist or counselor will help patients learn to recognize unhealthy thought patterns. They can learn healthy coping mechanisms that will prepare them for life after rehab. [4]

This is where most rehab centers vary in their approach. Various forms of psychotherapy are effective in treating cocaine addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management are among the most widely used approaches.

Addicted individuals may also join support groups like Cocaine Anonymous (CA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These support groups provide valuable peer support and a sense of community for those in recovery.

Many individuals with cocaine addiction have co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both the addiction and the underlying psychiatric condition.

Maintaining long-term sobriety is challenging, so aftercare is crucial. This may include ongoing therapy, counseling, and participation in support groups.

The best treatment programs create treatment plans that are specifically tailored to the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

What works for one person may not work for another. Additionally, motivation and a strong support system are critical for a successful recovery.


Regular cocaine use can have serious negative long-term effects on both physical and mental health. It can lead to addiction, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, mental health problems, sexual dysfunction, and organ damage.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine addiction, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome addiction and live a healthy, fulfilling life. Look for a rehab center near you today to learn more about the available treatments for cocaine addiction.







author avatar
Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

Addiction Treatment Centers For
Drugs, Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Call Now