Cocaine abuse can have a number of short and long-term effects on an individuals physical and mental wellbeing. In this article we will discuss the long-term effects of cocaine abuse and discuss how you can get help if you’re struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction.
The long-term effects an individual may face as a result of cocaine abuse can range from mild to severe depending on the amount used, the frequency it is taken and the method by which they take it e.g. smoking, snorting or injecting. The individual may not even notice or be aware of the impact cocaine is having on their mind and body in the long-term due to the way in which the initial effects, including feeling of extreme happiness, dilated pupils and alertness, last only for a short amount of time.
However, over time, more severe and long lasting effects can take over, affecting various parts of the body. Some of these effects are irreversible, so noticing the signs and getting help early on can prevent further damage being done.
Over time, snorting cocaine harms the mucous membranes inside the nose, in turn reducing the blood flow and damaging the soft tissue and cartilage. With heavy use, this can cause a perforated septum (the part of your nose that divides the nostrils) and collapses the nasal structure. It is also possible for an individual to lose their sense of smell and have frequent nosebleeds.
The palate (roof of the mouth) can also develop holes as a result of the fragile blood supply being cut off from heavy cocaine use. Initially, an individual may notice problems with swallowing but as the palate lining begins to die, the effects will become worse and they may struggle to drink, taste or pronounce certain sounds. It is also possible for food to get trapped in the cavity, leading to infection.
If the individual smokes cocaine, they may begin to experience serious respiratory problems as a result of the lack of oxygen entering the bloodstream. The smoke can also destroy the capillaries that transport oxygen around the rest of the body, leading to a greater risk of problems such as asthma, pulmonary edema, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress.
Kidneys and Liver
Heavy use of cocaine makes an individual more likely to overdose and as cocaine is toxic to the body, there may be damage to the liver as it metabolises. Following the recovery of an overdose, most damage can be healed, however, there have been cases of death as a result of acute liver damage.
Damage to the kidneys is also a long term effect of taking cocaine, and can be done in two ways. The kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage through a lack of oxygen and the individual is also at risk of developing Rhabdomyolysis (the destruction of skeletal muscles). As the muscles die, toxins are released into the body, flooding the kidneys and liver and causing kidney failure.
Heavy use of cocaine increases the risk of blood clots which could potentially cause heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms as well as inflammation or death of the heart muscle, reducing the heart’s ability to contract, permanently increasing the individual’s blood pressure.
With a reduced blood flow to the stomach caused by cocaine, the digestive system is susceptible to tears and ulcers as well as heightening the chances of ischemic colitis (inflammation and injury of the large intestine).
Brain and Mental Health
Chronic cocaine use causes blood vessels to constrict reducing the levels of oxygen being carried to the brain, causing brain damage, aneurysms, strokes, seizures, cerebral atrophy (shrinking of the brain) and cerebral vasculitis (inflammation of brain’s blood vessels). The lack of oxygen can also impair the individual’s cognitive functions, affecting their motor skills, decision making and attention span as well as impacting their long-term memory.
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 Treat Cocaine Addiction
Treatment for cocaine addiction at Acquiesce begins with a free confidential consultation with a recovery practitioner either over the phone or by booking an appointment to see us at the recovery centre. We will then determine your individual needs and suitability for safe treatment with the service.
Once the correct treatment pathway has been established to ensure a smooth and hassle free admission, Acquiesce will provide a safe and therapeutic environment which is 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. Behavioural therapy is one of the most common ways to treat cocaine addiction.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approaches can help you to understand your addiction and change your way of thinking, and in turn, behaviour and decisions. The therapies 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.