acquiesce - October 8th, 2021

How Cocaine Affects the Heart and Brain

Long-term cocaine use can have a number of negative consequences on the body and the heart and brain can be affected significantly, leading to severe emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes. Keep reading to find out how cocaine affects the heart and brain and how to seek help if you’re suffering with a cocaine addiction

How Does Cocaine Affect the Heart?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug, meaning it elevates blood pressure and heart rate whilst also making an individual feel more alert and excited. Whilst these short term effects may not cause any long-term damage, prolonged cocaine use can lead to some of the following issues:

High Blood Pressure

Whilst cocaine generally only elevates blood pressure in the short time period after taking it, through long-term use it has the potential to permanently raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart problems and heart attacks. A study from 2014 even suggested that this risk exists in those who only occasionally use cocaine who are otherwise young and healthy.

Coronary Artery Disease

Research into the long-term effects of cocaine use has found that it could potentially increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD), a disease which causes blood vessels to narrow as a result of plaque buildup. More serious cases of CAD can lead to heart attacks and strokes as well as sudden death.

Cocaine can also lead to coronary artery spasms which limit the flow of blood to the heart, causing heart damage.

Chest Pain

Due to the chronic health effects of cocaine use, individuals may be more likely to experience chest pain when under the influence of cocaine. This can be caused by heart rhythm abnormalities, changes to the body’s oxygen demand, heart attacks, artery spasm or heart infections.

Damage to the Structure of the Heart

Compared with non-users of cocaine, cocaine users were found to have enlarged left ventricles as well as increased stiffness in the aorta, a major blood vessel located in the heart. This suggests that cocaine use has the potential to cause damage to the physical structure of the heart directly.

Heart Arrhythmias 

Studies have found that individuals who use cocaine are more likely to have irregular heart rates, most likely caused by the changes to the sodium and potassium ion channels, affecting the electrical system.

Congestive Heart Failure

After a long history of cocaine use, some individuals develop a condition called congestive heart failure, which is a chronic medical condition in which the heart muscle cannot effectively pump blood around the body. Over time, this can cause serious complications such as heart failure.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?

Chronic cocaine use causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing the levels of oxygen being carried to the brain, resulting in serious issues such as brain damage, aneurysms, strokes, seizures, cerebral atrophy (shrinking of the brain) and cerebral vasculitis (inflammation of brain’s blood vessels). 

The lack of oxygen caused by the constricted blood vessels can also impair an individual’s cognitive functions, affecting their motor skills, decision making and attention span as well as impacting their long-term memory.

What About Mental Health?

Cocaine doesn’t just impact the physical parts of the brain, but the way we think and feel too. The level of the natural chemical messenger, dopamine, in the brain is related to the control of movement and reward. 

This rush of dopamine, through the use of cocaine, in the brain’s reward circuit strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviours, because the reward circuit eventually adapts to the excess of dopamine caused by cocaine, and becomes less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses in an attempt to feel the same high they first felt and to obtain relief from withdrawal symptoms.

How To Get Help for a Cocaine Addiction

If you think you, or someone you know, is struggling with a cocaine addiction, it’s absolutely essential that you seek help quickly. At Acquiesce, treatment for cocaine addiction begins with a free confidential consultation with one of our expert recovery practitioners either over the phone or by booking an appointment to see us at the recovery centre. 

Together, we will then determine your individual needs and suitability for safe treatment with the service. Once we have established the correct treatment pathway, Acquiesce will provide a safe and therapeutic environment, ideal for the recovery from cocaine addiction.

A combination programme of evidence based therapies are then delivered by a team of experienced professionals. Unlike other addictive substances, such as heroin and amphetamines, cocaine doesn’t have a medical substitute that can be used to prevent withdrawal symptoms so an effective and safe detox is necessary to remove the drug from your system. 

Our physical and physiological based approaches address the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of cocaine addiction, utilising holistic therapies, social activities and regular gym and exercise. Individuals will learn to understand their addiction and gain the knowledge and tools for an ongoing sustainable solution and recovery.

Upon completion of rehab treatment individuals will have a personal and comprehensive relapse prevention plan and on-going support and aftercare that is provided as standard.

To start your recovery journey, get in touch for a free, confidential consultation with one of our helpful team members at Acquiesce or find more help and advice here.

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