Trusted Content

Risk Factors Of Cocaine Abuse

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

February 12, 2019

Abusing cocaine can put individuals at risk for a number of health problems and other negative side effects. Seeking treatment for cocaine addiction can help individuals avoid the risk factors of cocaine abuse.

Cocaine is an incredibly addictive substance that is abused by millions of people throughout the world. Abusing cocaine comes with a number of risk factors, including overdose, infections, cardiovascular damage, and cognitive problems.

Cocaine is a strong stimulant drug that has a high rate of abuse and addiction. This substance is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration and is illegal in the United States.

This drug is a central nervous stimulant that produces feelings of euphoria, focus, energy, and excitability in individuals who use it. It can also result in elevated mood and self-confidence.

While the effects of cocaine may be pleasurable in the short term, using this drug comes with a number of risk factors and negative side effects.

Other risk factors of cocaine abuse include:

  • individual brain characteristics
  • biological factors
  • outside influences

Individual Brain Characteristics

Research has shown that people prone to abusing drugs have certain brain characteristics. How a brain develops can affect whether a person will be susceptible to addiction to drugs such as cocaine.

There are a number of factors that can negatively impact how the brain develops, especially in a person’s younger years. These include sleep deprivation, being exposed to bullying, trauma, malnutrition, and unhealthy environments.

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Biological Factors

Someone’s genes can also put a person at an increased risk for cocaine abuse and addiction. Having someone in the family with a substance use disorder can increase the chances that a person will develop an addiction themselves. Gender and ethnicity may also influence a person’s predisposition to drug abuse.

Outside Influences

Being exposed to certain outside influences can drastically enhance the risk factors of developing a drug addiction. If someone grows up in or is surrounded by an environment of drug use and abuse, he or she is much more likely to start abusing drugs as well.

This is especially true for children who grow up in a drug-abusing home. Parents who use cocaine or other drugs set an example for their children that drug use is acceptable and a part of life.

Physical And Psychological Risks Of Abusing Cocaine

Cocaine abuse comes with a number of potential risks that can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. The more a person abuses cocaine, the more likely they are to experience the many risks of cocaine abuse.

Risks of cocaine abuse include:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • bloodborne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis B
  • elevated blood pressure and body temperature
  • mood disorders
  • memory problems
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • gastrointestinal disease
  • sleep problems
  • weight loss and malnutrition
  • depression
  • trouble focusing

Additionally, cocaine abuse and addiction puts individuals at an increased risk of overdose and possible death.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, more than 5,000 U.S. residents went to the E.R. for cocaine-related medical emergencies. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 5,000 cocaine-related deaths in 2013.

Does The Method Of Abuse Matter?

Cocaine can be abused in a number of ways, including by snorting, injecting, and smoking the drug. Cocaine is primarily available in a white, fine powder and in rock form. In its rock form, cocaine is referred to as “crack.”

How cocaine is used can affect the risk factors associated with the drug.

Risk Factors Of Smoking Cocaine

A person who smokes cocaine, or crack, is at a higher risk of developing respiratory and breathing problems. People who smoke cocaine can also develop lung damage, oral problems, and “crack lip,” which is painful blistering on the lips.

Smoking cocaine can also put individuals at risk of something known as “crack lung.” This condition is caused by constricted blood vessels in the lungs. Crack lung can cause damage and scarring that results in chest pain and trouble breathing.

Risk Factors Of Snorting Cocaine

Someone who snorts cocaine is at risk of developing problems with the nose and sinus cavities. These problems may include loss of sense of smell, nose bleeds, nasal septum perforation, and trouble swallowing.

Risk Factors Of Injecting Cocaine

Injecting cocaine can put individuals at risk of a number of health problems. This is in part due to the fact that many people who inject the drug share needles. Sharing needles can increase the risk of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

Injecting cocaine can also lead to a skin condition known as cellulitis. This condition is when an infection forms where the needle is injected. Cellulitis can spread throughout the soft skin tissue and cause tetanus, abscesses, and heart valve infections.

Why Do People Abuse Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous stimulant that works by increasing the dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure and is part of the reward system in the brain.

Cocaine causes excess amounts of dopamine to be released in the brain which can lead to intense feelings of euphoria. When someone abuses cocaine, this process repeats itself. This can result in the brain changing and becoming dependent on cocaine for the release of dopamine.

People who abuse cocaine often feel depressed and lethargic when not taking the drug. This can lead to using the drug more and more to feel good. Repeatedly using the drug can lead to addiction.

Getting Help For Cocaine Abuse And Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted to cocaine, a formal addiction program may be needed to overcome addiction. Inpatient treatment programs are often the most effective form of treatment for those dealing with a substance use disorder.

To learn more about the risk factors of cocaine abuse or to get help for cocaine addiction, contact of dedicated treatment specialists today.

Drug Abuse Warning Network - National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Overdose Death Rates

Foundation for a Drug Free World. (n.d.) - Short- & Long-Term Side Effects of Smoking Crack Cocaine - Drug-Free World

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