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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use?

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Updated April 08, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use?
Answer: One of the most dangerous consequences of using cocaine is its powerful addictive qualities. Even after one use of the drug, users are not reliably able to predict or control how much he or she will continue to use cocaine or want to use it.

Once someone become addicted to cocaine, quitting without relapse become extremely difficult, even after long periods of abstinence. National Institute of Drug Abuse research has shown that even after long periods of abstinence, exposures to triggers associated with cocaine - or even memories of past cocaine experiences - can set off tremendous cravings and relapses.

When cocaine users continue to use the drug, the brain begins to change its reward system. A tolerance to the drug can develop, meaning that higher or more frequent doses of cocaine is needed to produce the high experienced on initial use.

At the same time, users can become more sensitive to cocaine's anxiety-producing, convulsant and other toxic effects.

With repeated cocaine binges, when the drug is used repeatedly at increasingly higher doses, the user can risk adverse psychological and physiological effects, including:

If cocaine users experiences psychosis, they can lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.

The method by which cocaine is used can produce specific adverse effects. Snorting cocaine can lead to:

Users who ingest (chew) cocaine can experience severe bowel gangrene due to reduced blood flow.

Those who inject cocaine with needles can develop "tracks" on their forearms and other areas. They can also develop allergic reactions, both to the cocaine itself or to additives used to cut the drug by street dealers.

According to the NIDA, many chronic cocaine users lose their appetite and experience significant weight loss and show signs of malnourishment.

There are other long-term effects of using cocaine over a period of time.

Has cocaine become a problem for you?
Take the Cocaine Screening Quiz

Do you think you may need treatment for drug abuse? Take the Drug Abuse Treatment Screening Quiz to find out.

Back to: Cocaine FAQ

Source:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction." Research Report Series Updated September 2010

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