Trusted Content

Effects Of Cocaine On The Body

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

February 11, 2019

Cocaine is a dangerous stimulant that can wreak havoc on the body. Seeking treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction can prevent long-term damage to a person’s body systems.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is known for its intense and addictive “high.” Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance and is illegal in the United States. This drug can be taken in powder form by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug intravenously.

Snorting or smoking this substance will result in a faster high that is usually felt within five to 25 minutes. This high creates a rush of euphoria throughout the body and brain and affects nearly every system in the body.

How Does Cocaine Work?

Central nervous system stimulant drugs such as cocaine increase the heart rate and blood pressure as well as raise respiration rates and body temperature. Most people who take this drug will feel more energetic and alert as well as focused, happy, and talkative.

Cocaine typically decreases an individual’s urge to eat and sleep, which can result in malnutrition as well as extreme exhaustion. However, most people taking cocaine will not feel the effects of these conditions until the drug is out of the body.

While cocaine often creates a euphoric high, it also tends to cause a “crash” feeling when the drug leaves the system. This can result in extreme levels of fatigue and lethargy as well as depression and isolation.

Because of the quick high that is often followed by a crash, cocaine is often abused by binging on the drug. Binge use entails using the drug multiple times in a row to attempt to maintain the high.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

What Are The Effects Of Cocaine On The Body?

Regular use of cocaine can have severe negative side effects. While many people experience mental and/or emotional symptoms such as aggression and paranoia, bodily symptoms of cocaine use are also possible.

When cocaine is ingested, it enters the blood system and travels through the body. This means that it can have an effect on nearly every organ and tissue on its way to the brain. This can wreak havoc on certain parts of the body when cocaine is used regularly.

The following are a few of the many ways in which cocaine affects the body:

Gastrointestinal Tract

Abusing cocaine can have a negative impact on the gastrointestinal tract and its functions. Stimulants decrease blood flow the gastrointestinal tract, which in turn can lead to ulcers and tears.

Cocaine abuse can also result in digestion problems as well as malnourishment. This is because cocaine reduces appetite, causing many people to forego eating while using the drug. Abusing cocaine can also cause bowel tissue decay, nausea, and vomiting.


Snorting the drug can wreak havoc on the interior of the nose. Cocaine constricts blood vessels, which reduces the oxygen supply in the nose and causes cells to die. This can result in unsupported cartilage which can lead to a hole in the septum.

In addition to a hole in the septum, also known as a septal perforation, other side effects that can arise in the nose and sinuses include:

  • snoring
  • infections
  • nosebleeds
  • whistling when breathing
  • loss of smell


Cocaine abuse can have a severe effect on the heart. Abusing stimulants like cocaine causes the cardiovascular system to work much harder. This can result in the heart aging faster and cause a number of heart-related health problems.

Cocaine causes an individual’s heart and blood pressure to increase while constricting the arteries. This results in decreased blood flow to the heart. This decreased blood flow can leave people who use cocaine more vulnerable to heart conditions such as heart attack and heart disease.


Inhaling or using cocaine intravenously can cause damage to the lungs and lower respiratory system. Cocaine can also cause the breath to slow down which can result in coughing, chest pain, and wheezing.

Taking too much cocaine can cause severe lung and respiratory damage such as pulmonary infection, asthma, and pulmonary hemorrhages.


Abusing cocaine for an extended period of time can also have serious effects on the kidneys. A condition known as rhabdomyolysis can occur, which is when muscle tissue breaks down and releases myoglobin into the blood.

Myoglobin is a harmful protein that can cause serious damage to the kidneys. Symptoms of this condition include weakness, muscle aches, infrequent urination, and red urine.

Symptoms Of Cocaine Abuse

Regularly abusing cocaine can cause a number of symptoms that may be noticeable to others. The most common symptom of cocaine use and abuse is an increased level of focus, energy, and socialization.

Other symptoms that may arise from cocaine abuse include:

  • mood swings
  • weight loss
  • tooth decay
  • dilated pupils
  • excessive talking
  • isolation
  • nosebleeds
  • regularly touching the nose or face
  • financial instability
  • partaking in dangerous/risky behavior

Additionally, long-term cocaine abuse can cause “coke bugs” to arise. This condition is characterized by someone imagining that there are microscopic bugs crawling on his or her skin. Coke bugs cause individuals to excessively itch their skin which can lead to sores and scabs.

Getting Help For Cocaine Abuse And Addiction

If someone is concerned about the effects of cocaine on the body, he or she may be struggling with an addiction to the substance. Seeking treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction is the best way to prevent long-term damage and illness.

Many people choose to participate in a formal treatment program such as an inpatient cocaine addiction program. Most inpatient rehab facilities offer individualized treatment plans to meet the needs of each individual.

To learn more about the effects of cocaine on the body and the treatment options available for cocaine addiction, contact us today.

Oxford University Press - Cocaine Use and Kidney Damage

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Respiratory Complications of Cocaine Abuse

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Find Treatment For Cocaine Addiction Today.
Find Treatment For Cocaine Addiction Today.
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592