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Dangers And Effects Of Cocaine Rectal Use (Plugging Cocaine)

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 29, 2019

People who struggle with cocaine abuse may try dangerous methods of use, including rectal use of the drug (“plugging”). Rectal use of cocaine can lead to infection, addiction, and overdose.

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that is typically snorted. People who struggle with cocaine abuse may use cocaine rectally, called “plugging.” Plugging cocaine puts people at risk for serious medical conditions, including sudden death.

This potent drug can lead to heart problems, addiction, and overdose. Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant and is purified into powder form. Common street names for the drug include coke, C, blow, powder, and white.

Cocaine is highly addictive, especially in large doses. When a person plugs cocaine, the drug hits their bloodstream faster than it would if a person were snorting it. Rectal cocaine use can also lead a person to ingest a higher dose than intended.

Why Do People Plug Cocaine (Rectal Use)?

People struggling with cocaine abuse may plug the substance out of curiosity. Rectal use of cocaine involves using a syringe to inject a mix of water and cocaine powder into the rectum.

Some people may experiment with plugging because it seems like an exciting way to intensify the high. However, plugging cocaine is a clear indicator of dependence and addiction.

Some people who suffer from cocaine addiction inject the drug into their veins, which can leave sores or scars at the site of injection. Plugging cocaine may seem like a good way to avoid these marks, which are a telltale sign of intravenous drug use.

People may think plugging cocaine is a safe alternative to injecting the drug. However, rectal use of cocaine still carries risks like infection, overdose, and death.

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What Happens In The Brain When You Plug Cocaine?

This central nervous system stimulant can quickly result in dependence on the drug. Even short-term use can lead to cocaine addiction or overdose.

Plugging cocaine causes the drug to reach the bloodstream in a rapid manner. This could lead to an intensified high, which includes feelings of euphoria and alertness.

A person may feel talkative and energized from plugging cocaine. This drug causes the brain to release hormones like norepinephrine and dopamine, hormones that are part of the brain’s reward system.

Plugging cocaine may cause feelings of confidence, and a desire to repeat the experience. Cocaine is linked to a short-lived high, which can lead a person to quickly crave another dose.

This immediate craving may cause a person to engage in risky activities to ensure their next dose, including crime or unprotected sex. Many people use cocaine to promote pleasurable feelings, but this drug can also cause severe anxiety.

When a person runs out of cocaine or begins to come down from the high, they experience what is called a “crash.” This comedown period may cause a person to feel restless or panicky.

Rectal use of cocaine can impact the brain in additional ways, including:

  • agitation
  • feeling jumpy or on edge
  • poor judgment
  • change in personality
  • unhealthy decision-making
  • paranoia, or feeling that someone is out to get you

What Happens In The Body When You Plug Cocaine?

When a person uses cocaine rectally, they will begin to feel the drug’s effects within a few minutes. In addition to feeling alert or talkative, some people experience rectal muscle relaxation when they plug cocaine.

Any recreational use of cocaine can lead to serious health consequences, including heart attack, seizure, and stroke. Cocaine may also be diluted or “cut” with various chemicals, and these additives can increase a person’s risk of infection in the anus, rectum, and abdomen.

Plugging cocaine can impact the body in additional ways that include:

  • diarrhea
  • shakiness
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • increased alertness
  • euphoria
  • irregular heartbeat
  • restlessness
  • sexual dysfunction (men and women)
  • coma
  • death

Plugging cocaine can also result in damaged anal or rectal tissue. This is a vulnerable part of the body, and sustaining rectal tissue damage increases a person’s chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms

Cocaine poisoning (overdose) can happen with any method of cocaine use. Whether a person snorts, smokes, or plugs this substance, cocaine overdose can be fatal.

Plugging cocaine also makes it difficult to know the exact dosage a person is ingesting, which contributes to the risk of overdose.

Signs of a cocaine overdose include:

  • seizure
  • unconsciousness
  • loss of bladder or bowel control
  • extremely high body temperature
  • excessive sweating
  • bluish lips, skin, or fingernails
  • difficulty breathing

Taking cocaine with other drugs, especially alcohol or benzodiazepines, heightens a person’s risk of overdose. If you see a person experiencing signs of a cocaine overdose, call emergency services as soon as possible.

Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox

When a person’s body is dependent on cocaine, they require the drug in order to function. People who suffer from cocaine addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not in their system.

If someone suddenly stops using cocaine, their body may experience a type of shock known as acute withdrawal. Signs of cocaine withdrawal may include depression, fatigue, and strong cravings for the drug.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms also include:

  • restlessness
  • hostility
  • preoccupation with the drug
  • insomnia
  • increased appetite
  • low energy

Because these symptoms can be uncomfortable, many people continue to use cocaine simply to avoid withdrawal. Medical detoxification programs assist individuals through the withdrawal period and help people find lasting recovery from cocaine addiction.

Medical detox staff may also provide support and medication-assisted treatment, in order to soothe withdrawal symptoms and help people detox from cocaine.

Treatment For Cocaine Addiction

More than 1.5 million Americans currently struggle with cocaine abuse. Addiction rehab centers offer innovative, personalized treatment programs in order to help people recover from cocaine addiction.

Inpatient treatment centers offer detox and recovery therapies on-site, while outpatient rehab programs provide treatment on a flexible schedule. Counseling, group therapy, and sober living skills are offered at most treatment programs, regardless of the setting.

For more information on the dangers of plugging cocaine, or to find an affordable rehab program near you, reach out to one of our specialists today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Cocaine

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?

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

U.S National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Investigation of a death caused by rectal insertion of cocaine

U.S National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction

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