It is estimated that more than 14 percent of all Americans have used cocaine in their lifetime, and the number of cocaine overdose deaths has risen dramatically since 2001. Although many cocaine users believe that they can use the drug recreationally without addiction, cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can change the chemical makeup of a person’s brain with prolonged, regular use. Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects the brain by releasing high levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward, which is why users often feel a sense of euphoria and excitement while under the influence. It’s also one of the major factors that makes it difficult to abstain from the drug.
The effects of cocaine are harmful to the user’s mind and body both in the short-term and long-term. Short-term effects can include nosebleeds, weight loss, mood swings, burn marks, and insomnia. The long-term effects are much more severe, causing changes to brain cells, nerve cells, and proteins, among other permanent effects. Repeated cocaine use reduces blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to tears and ulcerations. It also has a dramatic effect on the cardiovascular system. Chest pain is common among cocaine users, and cocaine use is linked with an increased risk of stroke, seizures, and cardiac arrest. Other common cardiovascular side effects include inflammation of the heart muscle, deterioration of the ability of the heart to contract, and aortic ruptures. Movement disorders, impaired cognitive functions, and permanent organ damage are frequent consequences of prolonged cocaine use, so seeking help sooner rather than later is guaranteed to give you a longer and healthier life.