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Short- & Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

There are a number of long and short-term cocaine effects that can be detrimental to a person’s health. If you are worried that you or your loved one may be in danger of a cocaine addiction, there are cocaine treatment centers in California to help you overcome these issues.

Cocaine use may not get as much press as the opioid epidemic, but with abuse of this powerful stimulant a serious problem in the United States, it pays to gain an understand of the most common effects associated with this drug.

SAMHSA data shows that 1.5 million adults in the United States used cocaine in the previous month, with almost 1 million people developing cocaine use disorder. The effects of cocaine, especially when used in high quantities, can be detrimental to a person’s physical and social health.

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


Understanding Cocaine & Its Effects

Cocaine is a stimulant narcotic and illegal drug sourced from the coca plant native to South America. In the United States, cocaine is a schedule II controlled substance. Highly addictive, cocaine can lead to numerous negative health outcomes.

While most commonly found in white crystalline powder form, cocaine also comes as solid rock crystals. This is known as crack.

Many people using this drug snort cocaine powder into their noses. Cocaine can also be dissolved in water and injected intravenously. Freebase or crack cocaine is a water-insoluble form of the drug that is heated in a glass pipe with users breathing in, this form of the drug is often cut with other substances like baking soda.

These different methods of delivery all lead to different side effects, both short-term and long-term.

an image of someone dealing with cocaine side effects

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

If you think you or your loved one has a problem with this drug, you may be wondering, “what are the effects of cocaine?”

Whether you smoke, snort, or inject the drug, this substance floods your system with dopamine. This chemical messenger controls your brain’s reward centers. When you take this substance, these reward centers light up, making cocaine produce pleasurable feelings and the user feel euphoric effects. Unfortunately, this is one of the things that can cause psychological dependence among cocaine users.

Typically, using cocaine misuse increases your energy levels and heightens alertness. At the negative end of the spectrum, using cocaine can temporarily decrease the want for food and drink, causes hypersensitivity, to both sound and light, and can trigger paranoia.

Cocaine effects are short-lived, though. The length of the high depends on the delivery method. If you snort the drug, the effects last for 15 to 20 minutes. When injecting, effects linger for just 15 minutes, a similar timeline for the fleeting effects of crack .

Abusing cocaine impacts your central nervous system and can lead to a variety of side effects.

an image of a man grabbing his chest after dealing with crack cocaine problems

Most Common Short-Term Effects

Common short-term effects of cocaine can range in severity from mild to moderate, although for those with existing health conditions, ingesting cocaine can cause a more severe or even fatal reaction.

However, the most common short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Bloody nose
  • Chest pain
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Increased body temperature
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Irrational or violent behavior
  • Significant weight loss
  • Paranoia
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mental alertness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Trouble breathing
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Spine stiffness
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Fight Back Against Cocaine Addiction

Get evidence-based treatment to overcome cocaine addiction at Renaissance Recovery. Call our team now to learn more about the process.

an image of an emergency room, representing cocaine overdose

Risk of Cocaine Overdose

Along with these dangerous short-term effects, people who abuse cocaine are at an increased risk of cocaine overdose. Especially with drug manufacturers cutting their drugs with synthetic opioids, overdose can occur from even a single dose.

Due to the cardiovascular effects that this drug can have on the body, including blood clots, elevated blood pressure from constricted blood vessels, cardiac arrest, heart attacks, increased body temperature, and more. Overall these issues can lead to major problems including respiratory failure and overdose which, in turn, can cause coma and sudden death.

Cocaine overdose is a widespread problem across the country. In the U.S. there were over 24,000 cocaine-related deaths and overdoses in 2021 alone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine’s effects can lead to a number of dangerous problems. Sustained use of this drug is liable to trigger any or all of the following common long-term effects of cocaine use:

  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood disturbances
  • High blood pressure increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Destruction of nasal tissue and the nasal septum
  • Risky behavior
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Damage to the liver, lungs, and kidneys
  • Increased risk of infectious diseases through needle use
  • Smoking can lead to a chronic cough
  • Severe oral decay
  • Infertility
an image of someone dealing with the long-term effects of cocaine use

If cocaine abuse continues, this can result in permanent changes to the structure and functioning of the brain. An overstimulation of dopamine is one side effects that can make it hard for you to find pleasure in normal things.

Prolonged and chronic cocaine abuse also heightens your body’s response to stress. As the drug leaves your system, you’ll become irritable. This can lead to poor behaviors and relapse if you’re in recovery.

Long term cocaine use can also cause brain damage such as internal brain bleeds. Beyond this, long-term cocaine abuse increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Using cocaine can increase your chances of developing mental health disorders, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Night terrors
  • Depression

It is also important to note that these mental health problems caused by cocaine use can lead a continuous spiral in which people use cocaine and other substances to escape these mental health issues, causing them to become more prevalent when not using the drug, leading to additional drug abuse.

The problem becomes a downward spiral characterized by sustained use and full-blown addiction.

Continuing to use cocaine long-term will cause tolerance to build. You’ll need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects, or you’ll need to increase the frequency of use. From here, dependence forms and you could become addicted to this substance. The side effects of coke addiction are quite intensive and should be avoided to maintain a healthy physical condition. 

Cocaine withdrawal involves mainly psychological mental health side effects, but these can be taxing and uncomfortable. If you or someone you love is dealing with a cocaine use disorder and you are worried that they may begin struggling with withdrawal symptoms, reach out for help immediately. Withdrawal is not something to attempt to overcome at home, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases.

an image of an hourglass, representing how long cocaine effects last

How Long Do the Effects of Cocaine Last?

The effects of cocaine are fleeting, although they vary slightly depending on how you use the drug.

Regardless of delivery method, the euphoric high lasts no more than 30 minutes. The way cocaine kicks in so quickly and powerfully is just one of the reasons why it has a high potential for addiction, despite relatively fleeting effects.

The quicker any substance penetrates your bloodstream, the faster effects take hold. Snorting and gumming cocaine doesn’t produce effects as rapidly as smoking or injecting the drug. When you sniff cocaine or place it onto your gums, it needs to work its way through skin, mucus, and tissues before entering your bloodstream.

Be aware that the length and intensity of cocaine’s side effects differ from person to person. How much you use and whether or not you have used other substances at the same time can impact the duration of a cocaine high.

Overcoming Cocaine Effects & Addiction with Renaissance Recovery

Whether you’re dealing with cocaine dependence or a full-blown addiction, outpatient substance abuse treatment is often crucial. It provides a strong foundation for ongoing abstinence and addresses the complexities of cocaine addiction.

The negative outcomes of cocaine abuse far outweigh any perceived benefits. At Renaissance Recovery, we focus on addressing the root causes of addiction. Through psychotherapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we help you identify triggers for cocaine abuse and develop healthier coping strategies to navigate life’s stressors.

To begin your journey towards recovery, contact our admissions team today. Learn more about our Orange County drug rehab and tailored cocaine treatment programs designed to support your path to a healthier, substance-free life.

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