Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered, hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated.

Regardless of how cocaine is used or how frequently, a user can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which could result in sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.

Health Hazards

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that interferes with the reabsorption process of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with pleasure and movement. The buildup of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of receiving neurons, which is associated with the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers.

Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses, may lead to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This can result in a period of full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the user loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.


  • Disturbances in heart rhythm

  • Heart attacks, chest pain, and respiratory failure

  • Strokes

  • Seizures

  • Abdominal pain and nausea

  • Loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds and problems swallowing

  • Severe bowel gangrene and reduced blood flow

  • Increased risk of HIV and blood-borne diseases

Physical Effects

Physical effects of cocaine use include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Some cocaine users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety, both while using and between periods of use. An appreciable tolerance to the high may be developed, and many addicts report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure.

Paranoia and aggression. High doses of cocaine and/or prolonged use can trigger paranoia. Smoking crack cocaine can produce particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine, they may become depressed. This depression causes users to continue to use the drug to alleviate their depression.

Added Danger. When people mix cocaine and alcohol, they are compounding the danger each drug poses and unknowingly causing a complex chemical interaction within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to manufacture a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects and possibly increases the risk of sudden death.

Sources: The Mayo Clinic -


The widespread abuse of cocaine has stimulated extensive efforts to develop treatment programs for this type of drug abuse.

In addition to treatment medications, behavioral interventions-particularly cognitive behavioral therapy-can be effective in decreasing drug use by patients in treatment for cocaine abuse. Providing the optimal combination of treatment and services for each individual is critical to successful outcomes.

Sobriety Works has a proven track record in treating cocaine addiction effectively. If you think you, or someone you care about, may have a problem with cocaine, we encourage you to contact us. All correspondence is caring, confidential, and respectful. Remember, there is hope for a substance free future.

Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) -