Problems using cocaine

Short term

  • Increased heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Long term

  • Cocaine psychosis (paranoid delusions, hallucinations, bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour)
  • Eating and sleeping disorders
  • Impaired sexual performance
  • Ongoing respiratory problems
  • Convulsions
  • Kidney failure
  • Increased risk of experiencing a stroke
  • Risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

The immediate effects of cocaine intensify when it’s taken in larger quantities, and can produce an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, hyperthermia, seizures or stroke.

When you snort cocaine, you can damage your nasal membranes and septum, and in rare cases this can lead to its eventual collapse. Injecting cocaine can cause severe vasoconstriction, a condition that prevents blood flowing to tissue resulting in severe tissue damage.

Some people have cocaine binges, where they take the drug repetitively over several hours or days. The binge is then followed by the ‘crash’, with the user experiencing feelings of intense depression, lethargy, and hunger.

Using cocaine in combination with alcohol can also be dangerous. When the two are mixed the body produces a substance in the blood called cocaethylene, which can be more toxic than cocaine alone.

Mixing drugs causes additional problems. For example, using heroin and cocaine at the same time affects the part of the brain that controls breathing, causing a labouring of the respiratory system and increasing the risk of the user falling into a coma.

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This page was last reviewed in March 2014.