Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, and prolonged use of the drug can lead to severe deterioration of your mental and physical well-being. It interferes with your cognitive processes, your respiratory health and appetite, resulting in health consequences that will start to develop after short-term exposure, and will only grow more severe with long-term use.
How Cocaine Affects the Brain
As a stimulant, cocaine directly affects the central nervous system. It does so by increasing levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates one’s perception of pleasure and pain.
Normally, dopamine is released and then promptly re-absorbed by the brain cells, which regulates how much of the chemical is present at one time. Cocaine causes the brain to become flooded with dopamine, which disrupts healthy communication between brain cells.
This will often lead to symptoms like:
- Loss of sexual interest
- Extreme nervousness and anxiety
Prolonged use of cocaine can permanently disrupt healthy dopamine production and regulation. Over time, this will cause the brain to stop naturally producing the chemical. As a tolerance develops, more cocaine will be necessary to experience minor feelings of pleasure, and it may become difficult to experience any feelings of pleasure or happiness without the use of the drug.
How Cocaine Affects the Body
By stimulating the central nervous system cocaine directly influences several fundamental aspects of the body. Almost immediately upon use, cocaine increases body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate and starts to constrict blood vessels.
Gastrointestinal issues are incredibly common with cocaine use, especially nausea and vomiting. Cocaine is known as a highly effective appetite suppressant, to the point that many people who regularly abuse cocaine will stop eating, causing them to experience dramatic weight loss and in some cases malnourishment.
Some common health consequences of cocaine abuse include:
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Sudden death
Cocaine will prompt changes to the body and brain after a single exposure. While prolonged use of cocaine will lead to more severe symptoms and can possibly be fatal, most people will experience health consequences shortly after first-time use.