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The Dangers Of Injecting Cocaine (Intravenous Use)

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 11, 2019

Injecting cocaine intravenously can be highly dangerous and addictive. IV use is one of the riskiest ways to take cocaine as it can result in several adverse health effects and may even lead to a fatal overdose.

Injecting cocaine is one of many ways to abuse the drug. Commonly referred to as “shooting,” injecting cocaine is incredibly dangerous and can result in a host of health problems.

One risk of injecting cocaine is a condition known as sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s response to infection, and someone who inject drugs are at an increased risk of this problem. That’s because the injection process often involves breaking the skin and the possible development of wounds or cuts.

Another risk of using cocaine intravenously is the additives that are commonly mixed with cocaine. Some popular additives include sugar, ephedrine, baking soda, and animal dewormer. All of these additives can cause serious health problems and damage to the body.

Cardiac problems are also seen with cocaine abuse, especially intravenously. In short, shooting cocaine is very dangerous and can result in a number of health problems and even death.

Why Is Injecting Cocaine Dangerous?

One major danger that comes with shooting cocaine intravenously is the high risk of overdose. Injecting the drug can cause immediate effects that last only a short period of time, causing individuals to want more of the drug sooner.

Regularly injecting cocaine in a short period of time can result in a higher level of the drug in the system. This can lead to potential overdose or even death.

Also, cocaine is not filtered before entering the bloodstream. Cocaine is also not obtained legally through a pharmacy, so the drug can be full additives that can wreak havoc on the body.

By injecting cocaine directly into the body, the risk for infection, poisoning, and toxicity are much higher than taking the drug another way. It can also result in organ damage and trouble with blood vessels.

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Health Risks Of Using Cocaine Intravenously

There are many health risks that come with using cocaine. Long-term health problems of shooting cocaine can include bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Other long-term health risks can include movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Additional long-term risks of injecting cocaine include stiffening of the arteries in the heart, which can result in a higher chance of heart attack.

Short-term effects of cocaine abuse can include:

  • panic attacks
  • paranoia
  • insomnia
  • violent or unpredictable behavior
  • heightened anxiety
  • psychosis

Other risk factors for cocaine injection include:

  • collapsed veins
  • poor blood flow
  • track marks
  • inflammation around the injection site
  • blood system bacteria growth

IV Cocaine Use And Overdose

Injecting any substance into the body puts a person at a higher risk of overdose than taking it another way. This is due to many factors, including additives in the drug and potency of the substance.

Cocaine is not legal and is therefore produced illegally. This means that the quality of the drug is not monitored and the amount of cocaine in each dose is not measured. Taking cocaine in IV form can end in overdose when there is no way to know the potency of the drug.

What’s more, cocaine in intravenous form has fillers. These fillers are not monitored and can consist of dangerous additives. Cocaine and any additives in it are not intended for intravenous use. Using this drug intravenously can come with severe outcomes and an increased risk for overdose.

Symptoms of a cocaine overdose may include:

  • delirium
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • irregular heartbeat

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of a cocaine overdose, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. A cocaine overdose can be fatal.

Treatment For Cocaine Abuse And Addiction

Injecting cocaine is not only dangerous and potentially fatal, but is highly addictive. Treatment programs that address cocaine addiction and abuse can help people get on the road to recovery.

Most people suffering from a cocaine addiction will need to begin treatment with a medically monitored detox program. This helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and keep patients safe throughout the detox process.

Once the detox process complete, many patients will need to continue onto a formal treatment program. Inpatient cocaine addiction programs are often recommended for those addicted to intravenous cocaine use.

Individualized treatment programs are often provided and focus on helping people learn how to get and stay sober. Patients learn coping mechanisms and tools needed to stay drug-free and live a meaningful life in recovery.

To learn more about the treatment options available for those addicted to cocaine IV use, contact our dedicated treatment specialists today.

National Center for Biotechnology Information - How Stimulants Affect the Brain and Behavior

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Drug Use and Viral Infections (HIV, Hepatitis)

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus - Cocaine Withdrawal

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