Cocaine’s Impact on Health Over Time

Boy concerned about Gaining Weight After Anorexia treatment

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. A stimulant drug can give users a euphoric feeling or can increase their energy level and ability to concentrate [1]. Cocaine’s impact on the user provides a short-term euphoric boost that motivates people to continue using.

Continued cocaine use is known to cause changes in the brain [2]. This is because when someone uses cocaine, their brain produces more dopamine than it normally does. Over time, people become less sensitive to the dopamine that their brain makes on its own.

This decreased sensitivity can lead people to feel bad because they are getting less of the feel-good chemicals than they are used to having [2]. To make matters worse, the brain also becomes more sensitive to stress.

This basically means that after repeated cocaine use, someone is more susceptible to adverse emotional feelings. At the same time, their brain is less capable to produce the “feel good” chemicals that would help off-set this [2].

This is one way that cocaine can impact someone’s health over time because they often become dependent on the drug in order to feel good [2]. This becomes even more complicated when someone develops a tolerance to cocaine and needs more of the drug to reach the feeling of euphoria they desire.

This dependence often turns into an addiction. Addiction to cocaine can have some dangerous long and short-term consequences for someone’s physical and mental health. There is a wide range of medical issues that can result from cocaine use.

Some of Cocaine’s Impact on the Body Include:

  • Gastrointestinal Damage – Cocaine is shown to damage the gastrointestinal system [2]. This can result in people having intestinal tears or ulcers. This can also lead to people struggling with severe weight loss and complications from being malnourished.
  • Cardiovascular Issues – Cocaine is also known to cause significant stress to the heart [2]. The drug also increases someone’s risk for stroke [2].
  • Brain Damage – Bleeding in the brain is a known side effect of prolonged cocaine abuse. People may also develop other disorders, such as Parkinson’s, that impact someone’s ability to move. Other cognitive effects may include memory and concentration impairments [2].

Girl with Horse battling cocaine's impactWhile these side effects are consistent regardless of the way someone uses cocaine, there are also unique consequences depending on how someone consumes this substance [2]. If someone snorts cocaine, they can lose their sense of smell, having swallowing issues, and chronically irritated nasal system [2].

For people who smoke crack cocaine, there is an increased risk of damage to their lungs [2]. Individuals who inject cocaine are at increased risk for contracting viruses such as Hepatitis C and HIV [2]. While the physical impact of cocaine use can be severe, the psychological and emotional consequences are also concerning.

Addiction typically takes over someone’s life. This is because, despite the consequences to someone’s academic, professional, financial, or social life, an addicted individual will continue to use the drug of choice.

Addiction often leaves people feeling shame, guilt, or sadness which makes it challenging to get sober or want to get into recovery. As a way to cope with these destructive emotions, they may continue to abuse the cocaine just to numb these feelings.

Even though the long-term impact of cocaine can be disastrous, there is still hope for recovery. Treatment in residential and outpatient settings can be effective for helping someone reclaim their life from addiction.

Treatment typically includes care from a medical professional, mental health professional, and support groups. Getting treatment for this condition can be life-saving and help someone thrive.

Everyone deserves that. Don’t you think?


[1] American Addiction Centers. (2019, June 13). Stimulant drug types, effects, & addiction signs.

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 6). What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 27, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 27, 2021
Published on

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.