7 Facts About Using Cocaine

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  1. Snorting Cocaine
  2. Smoking Crack is Harmful
  3. Possessing Cocaine Can Put You in Prison
  4. Cocaine Powder is Not Pure
  5. Cocaine is Highly Addictive
  6. Using Cocaine For a Long Period Can Damage Your Emotions
  7. Cocaine Abuse Increases Your Chances of Death
  8. Sources

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine, also known as coke or blow, is an illicit stimulant drug made from the leaves of coca plants.

Approximately 17 million people or .4% of the population worldwide abuse cocaine. Use is most common in North, Central, and South America, and Western and Central Europe.

What is Cocaine?

Short-term effects include increased energy and euphoria. It is typically snorted and the high lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the purity and amount taken.


Due to the short duration of desirable effects, users tend to use cocaine in a binge fashion in order to maintain the high. This pattern of abuse can quickly lead to a cocaine addiction.

Negative side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Erratic or violent behavior.
  • Anxiety.

  • Paranoia.
  • Seizures.
  • Heart attacks.
  • Strokes.

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You can die the first time you use cocaine. This might happen as a result of cardiac arrest and cannot be predicted. The only way to prevent this is to avoid using cocaine. If you or someone you love needs help for cocaine addiction, help is available. Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to find the right treatment today.

Snorting Cocaine

The most common mode of administration for cocaine is nasal insufflation or snorting. There are many problematic nasal effects caused by snorting cocaine:

  • Chronic inflammation of the nose.
  • Ulcers in the throat.

  • Sinusitis.
  • Perforation of the nasal septum.

Smoking Crack is Harmful

Crack is the freebase form of cocaine and has the physical appearance of small rocks. Users will smoke crack out of a pipe and it elicits a more powerful but short-lived high.

  • Smoking crack cocaine produces a number of harmful effects:

    • Cough.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Chest pain.
    • Coughing up blood.
  • Some more rare pulmonary (lung-related) effects include:

    • Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs).
    • Pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding).

Possessing Cocaine Can Put You in Prison

man getting arrested by the police
Possessing both crack or cocaine has significant legal consequences and using cocaine puts one at a higher risk for getting caught.

Perhaps what makes this even more dangerous is that there is a discrepancy between the punishment for possessing crack and cocaine, even though they're the same drug in different forms. The sentencing ratio is 100:1.

This meant that if an individual possessed 1 gram of crack, then someone would have to possess 100 grams of cocaine in order to receive the same sentence as the first person. 

In an effort to further rectify unfair sentences, a year later the United States Sentencing Commission voted to apply the new guidelines to those who had been arrested and affected by the previous sentencing act.

  • Think about it—the temporary high of using cocaine or crack is not worth spending time in prison, or being away from your family, or being unable to fulfill your true potential. If you have been abusing cocaine for a long time, it is understandable that you cannot stop on your own. There are treatment programs that can help.

Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? and one of our treatment support staff will help you find the right treatment.

Cocaine Powder is Not Pure

Because cocaine causes a surge of dopamine to be released into the synapse and prevents its re-uptake or return to the neuron, it disrupts the natural reward mechanism of the brain.

When someone buys cocaine on the streets, the substance is never pure; it is always cut with different adulterants in order for the drug dealers to extend their supply and make more money.

Cocaine isn’t regulated and you never know what other substances you’re ingesting upon use, which can have deadly results. The adulterants either resemble cocaine powder or mimic cocaine’s effects. Some of the most common additives are as follows:

  • Laxatives.
  • Talc powder.
  • Flour.
  • Sugar.
  • Anesthetics.

  • Phenytoin: an anticonvulsant medication.
  • Levamisole: medication used to treat parasitic worms.
  • Other stimulants or powders.

Cocaine is Highly Addictive

Cocaine is profoundly addictive. When a user does cocaine, dopamine—a neurotransmitter associated with reward—is increased in the brain.

Typically, when an individual experiences pleasure or a reward such through activities such as eating delicious food or having sex, the brain releases dopamine then returns it to the presynaptic neuron, where it is stored.

Find Support Hear from others on their journey through addiction and recovery Cocaine differs from natural rewards because it blocks the dopamine from returning to the neuron, causing an unnatural accumulation of the neurotransmitter in the synapse.

This excess amount of dopamine is responsible for the intense euphoria and sense of well-being characteristic of a cocaine high.

With prolonged use, the brain’s dopaminergic pathways become altered and addiction is likely to develop. 

Using Cocaine For a Long Period Can Damage Your Emotions

It is common for cocaine users to experience emotional blunting or anhedonia. After binging on cocaine or using for a prolonged period of time, many people are unable to feel pleasure. This is directly related to the dopaminergic mechanism of action.

Because cocaine causes a surge of dopamine to be released into the synapse and prevents its re-uptake or return to the neuron, it disrupts the natural reward mechanism of the brain.

  • This means that once the individual stops using cocaine, the lack of dopamine will inhibit the pleasure that was felt while engaging in previously enjoyable activities.

  • Research has revealed that regular cocaine users exhibit less positive social behaviors than non-cocaine users and this is due to the fact that they feel less of a reward from social interactions than non-users.
  • The user’s brain assigns a higher value to cocaine than it does to natural rewards and thus these users have difficulty in feeling empathy for others. The reward pathways become desensitized and the user requires more cocaine to achieve a desirable mood, which in turn perpetuates the addiction.

Cocaine Abuse Increases Your Chances of Death

As previously stated, you can die the first time you use cocaine. There is no safe way to use it and even small amounts can have life-threatening results. Sudden death due to cocaine use is usually associated with cardiac arrest.

Many cocaine users drink alcohol while using and this can have deadly results. Cocaine and ethanol (the active ingredient in alcohol) form a toxic substance in the liver called cocaethylene and many studies have found that this chemical is more harmful to the heart than cocaine or alcohol alone and is often responsible for sudden death from cocaine use.

Cardiac risks associated with cocaine use are as follows:

  • Accelerated atherosclerosis: plaque buildup on walls of arteries.
  • Formation of blood clots.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Sudden constriction of blood vessels.
  • Arrhythmia.

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  1. Drug Facts: Cocaine. (2013, April 1). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from
  2. What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? (2010, September 1). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from
  3. World Drug Report 2015. Report no. E.15.XI.6, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna, Austria 2015.
  4. Tseng, W., Sutter, M., & Albertson, T. (2014). Stimulants and the lung: Review of literature. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, 46(1), 82-100. doi:10.1007/s12016-013-8376-9.
  5. Boghdadi, M., & Henning, R. (1997). Cocaine: Pathophysiology and clinical toxicology. Heart & Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 26(6), 466-483.
  6. Fair Sentencing Act. (2015). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from
  7. Preller, K., Herdener, M., Schilbach, L., Stampfli, P., Hulka, L., Vonmoos, M., . . . Quednow, B. (2014). Functional changes of the reward system underlie blunted response to social gaze in cocaine users. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(7), 2842-2847. doi:10.1073/pnas.1317090111
  8. Leventhal, A., Brightman, M., Ameringer, K., Greenberg, J., Mickens, L., Ray, L., . . . Sussman, S. (2010). Anhedonia associated with stimulant use and dependence in a population-based sample of American adults. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 18(6), 562-569.
  9. Leventhal, A., Kahler, C., Ray, L., Stone, K., Young, D., Chelminski, I., & Zimmerman, M. (2009). Anhedonia and Amotivation in Psychiatric Outpatients with Fully Remitted Stimulant Use Disorder. Am J Addict American Journal on Addictions, 17(3), 218-223. doi:10.1080/10550490802019774
  10. Lange, R., & Hillis, L. (2010). Sudden death in cocaine abusers. European Heart Journal, 271-273.
  11. Roldan, C. (2014). Phenytoin Toxicity from Cocaine Adulteration. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine WestJEM, 15(2), 127-130. doi:10.5811/westjem.2013.12.20010
  12. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2015, from
  13. Larocque, A., & Hoffman, R. (2012). Levamisole in cocaine: Unexpected news from an old acquaintance. Clinical Toxicology, 50(4), 231-241. doi:10.3109/15563650.2012.665455

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