Effects Of Cocaine

A dose of between 25 to 150 mg of cocaine is taken when it is inhaled. Within a few seconds to a few minutes after it is taken, the effects of cocaine can cause:

  • a feeling of euphoria
  • excitement
  • reduced hunger
  • a feeling of strength

After this "high" which lasts about 20 minutes, users of cocaine then "crash" into a period of depression. This causes cocaine users to seek more cocaine to get out of this depression and results in addiction. Withdrawal from cocaine can cause the addict to feel depressed, anxious, and paranoid. Then the addict goes into a period of exhaustion and they may sleep for a very long time.

Various doses of cocaine can also produce other neurological and behavioral effects such as:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • movement problems
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • hallucinations

The effects of cocaine can include death. This is caused by too much cocaine (an overdose) and is not uncommon. Another effect of cocaine is a large increases in blood pressure that may result in bleeding within the brain. Constriction of brain blood vessels can also cause a stroke. An overdose of cocaine can cause breathing and heart problems that could result in death. This is what killed the University of Maryland basketball player, Len Bias, in 1986. Comedian John Belushi also died from a cocaine/heroin overdose in 1982.

What are the Short Term Effects of Cocaine?

The short-term effects of cocaine will be noticed right away which in some cases of use can cause serious bodily damage and in some cases lead to death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest. Increased energy, decreased appetite, and increased heart rate and blood pressure are some short-term effects that will be noticed by most first time cocaine users.

  • Increased temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Constricted vessels
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mental alertness
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate

What are the Long Term Effects of Cocaine?

Many cocaine addicts develop a high tolerance for the use of cocaine with continued use of the drug. Seeking the high that was involved with the first use of cocaine is common among cocaine addicts. The reality of drug addiction is that this high will never be felt again and some addicts chase this for years causing them to lose everything.

  • Addiction
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Auditory Hallucinations
  • Mood Disturbances

The Effects of Cocaine on the Brain

Effects of Cocaine

These two images of the brain are positron emission tomography (PET) scans of a normal person (picture on the left) and of a person on cocaine (picture on the right). The PET scan shows brain function by seeing how the brain uses glucose, the energy source for neurons. In these scans, the red color shows high use of glucose, yellow shows medium use and blue shows the least use of glucose. Notice that many areas of the brain of the cocaine user do not use glucose as effectively as the brain of the normal person. This can be observed by the lower amounts of red in the right PET scan.

A great amount of research has been devoted to understanding the way cocaine produces its pleasurable effects, and the reasons it is so addictive. One mechanism is through its effects on structures deep in the brain. Scientists have discovered regions within the brain that, when stimulated, produce feelings of pleasure. One neural system that appears to be most affected by cocaine originates in a region, located deep within the brain, called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Nerve cells originating in the VTA extend to the region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain's key pleasure centers. In studies using animals, for example, all types of pleasurable stimuli, such as food, water, sex, and many drugs of abuse, cause increased activity in the nucleus accumbens.

Cocaine in the brain - In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse, where it can bind with dopamine receptors on neighboring neurons. Normally dopamine is then recycled back into the transmitting neuron by a specialized protein called the dopamine transporter. If cocaine is present, it attaches to the dopamine transporter and blocks the normal recycling process, resulting in a buildup of dopamine in the synapse which contributes to the pleasurable effects of cocaine.

Researchers have discovered that, when a pleasurable event is occurring, it is accompanied by a large increase in the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons originating in the VTA. In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (the small gap between two neurons), where it binds with specialized proteins (called dopamine receptors) on the neighboring neuron, thereby sending a signal to that neuron. Drugs of abuse are able to interfere with this normal communication process. For example, scientists have discovered that cocaine blocks the removal of dopamine from the synapse, resulting in an accumulation of dopamine. This buildup of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of receiving neurons, probably resulting in the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers.

As cocaine abuse continues, tolerance often develops. This means that higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are required for the brain to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. Recent studies have shown that, during periods of abstinence from cocaine use, the memory of the euphoria associated with cocaine use, or mere exposure to cues associated with drug use, can trigger tremendous craving and relapse to drug use, even after long periods of abstinence.

  • Drug Facts
  • Crystal meth effects are similar to those of cocaine but with more power and intensity.
  • Some of the most frequent complications due to cocaine use are cardiovascular effects, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks; such respiratory effects as chest pain and respiratory failure; neurological effects, including strokes and seizures.
  • Methadone mimics many of the effects of opiates such as heroin.
  • Heroin effects many parts of the human body, including blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain.
  • Research suggests that people who used ecstasy at least 25 times had lowered serotonin levels for as long as a year after quitting.