Cocaine is currently one of the most popular drugs on the market thanks at least in part to its accessibility and, in many environments, its social acceptance as simply “a way of life”. Cocaine use is now so widespread that recent statistics suggest that almost one in ten Brits have tried the drug at one time or another. Furthermore, due to cocaine’s highly addictive nature, is therefore no surprise the number of those addicted to the drug are on the rise.
However a reliance on cocaine also a darker side as there are some thoroughly unpleasant cocaine side effects that may be experienced. Its effects on the central nervous system can be severe and long-lasting if an addiction isn’t rapidly nipped in the bud. As evidence, statistics from the US reveal that an astonishing 50% of all drug-related visits to hospital are as a direct result of cocaine abuse so the side effects of cocaine should not be underestimated.
The Appeal of Cocaine
Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter in the brain that helps to control the brain’s pleasure and reward centres. In essence the “good feelings” we get from experiences like eating food we love, laughing out loud or the buzz of completing a video game are all a direct result of dopamine being released in the brain.
Normally dopamine is “recycled” by the body – it is released into the system, the buzz is felt, and then it is reabsorbed thus returning your levels to normal until the next reward is required. Cocaine serves to heighten this feeling by preventing the dopamine from being reabsorbed. In this way the normal buzz is heightened, giving an exceptional feeling of goodwill.
In essence the draw of cocaine its ability to create feelings of euphoria, wellness and alertness that can last for several hours after use. Some users liken it to a feeling of being “unstoppable” that can make them perform more highly in everyday life.
As a result cocaine is used both recreationally, as a way to relax and unwind from the stresses of everyday life and also, in an increasing number of cases, professionally. Those with high-stress jobs or positions requiring considerable stamina can find their results improved thanks to cocaine’s ability to increase focus, attention and energy levels.
Cocaine Side Effects
Not surprisingly, for something that affects the brain’s chemistry, the news isn’t all good. Despite the initial good feelings that cocaine causes, there are some far more serious cocaine side effects you should be aware of. It’s also worth noting that while these side effects from taking cocaine are most frequently observed in heavy or repeated users it is possible to experience them at any stage.
Irritability & Restlessness
The most common cocaine side effects seen as a result of taking cocaine are irritability, restlessness and an inability to sleep. This is hardly surprising when the brain is “over firing” and providing repeated stimulants to your central nervous system. These issues can not only lead to subtle personality changes but also a feeling of excessive tiredness on coming down. This, of course, can tempt the user to take another hit; a process that over time can lead to addiction.
Sadly the personality changes caused by cocaine aren’t always quite so subtle. Another common side effect experienced by cocaine users is a growing paranoia. Depending on the individual these may be mild or, in more advanced cases, serious paranoid episodes and psychiatric problems may can occur. This is clearly then not a drug whose use can be easily hidden; over time cracks may begin to show that can have a deleterious effect on your career and your personal relationships.
An unfortunate side effect of cocaine use is its tendency to reduce the appetite. In cases where cocaine users become addicted to the drug and use it on a regular basis this lack of appetite may snowball.
Greatly reduced food intake over an extended period of time can lead to serious cases of malnourishment. Symptoms may include significant weight loss, aching joints, long-lasting headaches and a significantly reduced immune system.
Constriction of Blood Vessels
Arguably cocaine’s most devastating side effect is its tendency to significantly constrict the blood vessels. When this is combined with an increase in heart rate, the end result is a rapid increase in blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, seizures or cardiac arrest.
Not surprisingly this side effect is the most common cause of death in cocaine users.
It can be tempting for light or occasional cocaine users to ignore the risks of the drug, believing that they are unlikely to be affected. However this would be a mistake. Not only are light users still at risk, but in addition it should be mentioned that most cocaine users rapidly build up a tolerance to the drug, requiring ever more of the drug in order to achieve the same feelings of wellness and alertness that first attracted them to the drug. In this way even an occasional user can quickly find their consumption – and hence the risks involved – increasing at an alarming rate.
In essence, it is recommended that even light users of cocaine should discontinue its use as quickly as possible. It’s worth noting that as a highly addictive drug it may be necessary to utilize a drug abuse treatment program to fully beat the addiction.