What Are The Longterm Effects of cocaine?

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Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Although healthcare providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational cocaine use is illegal. As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. Cocaine is a popular party street drug that is used to keep people awake for long periods of time.

Drug dealers will very often mix in other substances such as corn-starch, flour and talcum powder to increase the amount leading to higher profits. When dealers combine these substances, there is no increase in long-term health issues or damage to your body. However, more often than not, dealers will add in cheaper, more toxic substances such as synthetic opioids (fentanyl) and amphetamine. The risk of overdosing, severe long-term damage and even death when synthetic opioids are added to cocaine increases exponentially.

Long term cocaine abuse can cause a monumental amount of physical and mental problems for an individual. According to addiction statistics, there are about 5 million Americans who are regular cocaine users. Further results in 2017 yielded one in every five overdose deaths in the USA had evidence that cocaine was involved.

Long term damage from cocaine usage to both the mind and the body can be reversible to an extent; however, this outcome will unfortunately not be the same for everyone. Years of abuse can cause irreversible effects which will lead to a lifetime of medical complications, doctor visits, skyrocketing financial bills and hospital visits. Cocaine usage over long durations can increase the risk of multiple health issues within vital organs including the following:


Substance abuse can lead to immediate severe side effects. Chronic cocaine usage has a high possibility of leading to several cardiac issues, many of which can be fatal to an individual, including:

  • Chest pains, medically known as angina
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Coronary arteries can become narrow which will lead to a lack of blood flow to the heart
  • Heart attack which is a result of blood clots within the arteries

Cardiovascular health issues are the number one cause of death among cocaine users. That being said, a 2018 study found that 4.7 percent of adults under age 50 had used cocaine at the time of their first heart attack.


Snorting cocaine has the potential to cause irreversible damage to almost every part of the respiratory system. In most cases these do not result in death unless there are unseen complications. Smoking cocaine on the other hand, can cause respiratory issues that can lead to death through lack of oxygen entering the bloodstream.

Individuals who have a chronic drug addiction to crack cocaine can develop a condition called “crack lung”, medically known as eosinophilic pneumonitis. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may be developing eosinophilic pneumonitis:

  • Constant coughing or coughing up blood
  • Raise in body temperature
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Collapsed lung
  • Slow breathing


The chemicals within the substance of cocaine increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, which is what controls the rewarding feeling. An individual who isn’t addicted to a toxic substance will have their dopamine chemical recycled back into the cells that set them off; however, the chemical inside of cocaine completely prevents the dopamine from being recycled back into its original cells—resulting in the dopamine chemical flooding the brain’s reward circuit which is what causes the individual to become addicted to the substance. The addict will want to experience the type of euphoria they felt whilst on the drug. As a result, people will feel the need to snort or smoke larger quantities on an increased frequency. The long-term effects on the brain from cocaine can include:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors and muscle weakness
  • Strokes
  • Brain shrinking, medically known as cerebral atrophy
  • Inflammation of blood vessels in the nervous system
  • Weakening in memory, learning, attention, vocabulary, problem-solving and decision making
  • Mood disorders
  • Death


Long term cocaine usage within the USA is among the topmost dangerous drugs that cause a variety of severe long term health issues and the high possibility of death. Depending on the type of way the drug is taken can result in a variety of long-term constant problems this includes:


A higher risk of catching or developing infections such as pneumonia, asthma, violent cough and respiratory distress.


An extremely high risk of contracting hepatitis C, HIV and a variety of other bloodborne diseases, collapsed veins which can also result in scarring and soft tissue infections.


Injecting cocaine directly into your veins will increase the chance of contracting HIV; however, you aren’t safe from not contracting HIV just because you do not inject the substance. When an individual is high, their judgment will become impaired; unfortunately, this can leave an individual in a dangerous situation which can lead to an increase in sexual behaviour with an infected partner.


Constant nosebleeds, issues and pain swallowing and complete loss of smell.


A decrease in blood flow which has a high risk of leading to severe bowel decay.

Other physical long-term effects that are not a threat to life but can cause an individual to feel uncomfortable include:

  • Significant and rapid weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Constant nose bleeds
  • Nausea
  • Thinning of skin
  • Persistent bruising, unhealed wounds
  • Chest pains

Physical effects are not the only condition that cocaine users go through; there are a variety of long-term psychological effects that can include:

  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormal behaviour and aggression (possibly dangerous to themselves and others)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Schizophrenia
  • Lack of attention, verbal communication and problem solving

If you believe you or a loved one is abusing cocaine and you have begun to notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this blog, it is vital to get the individual to be treated as soon as possible. While the addict may always have to live with specific long-term effects or be on constant medication, their life can get back on track.

San Diego Sober Living is here to help you navigate these difficult times and answer any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to call us today! We can help because we have been there before.

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