From blood clots to brain damage - expert reveals the harrowing long-term effects of regular cocaine use

The class A drug cocaine is a highly addictive substance that if used frequently has detrimental long-term consequences on the mind and body.

By Leanne Clarke
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 1:07 pm

Addiction specialist, Martin Preston at Private Rehab Centre Delamere discusses the damaging effects of regular cocaine abuse and the devastating impact it can have on a person’s life.

The nose and mouth

One of the most common symptoms of cocaine abuse is chronic nose bleeds, as blood vessels and skin in the nose are often damaged. For those using the drug for a long period of time, however, the effects can be more sinister.

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The class A drug cocaine is a highly addictive substance that if used frequently has detrimental long-term consequences on the mind and body.

Snorting cocaine will lead to damage to mucous membranes and narrowed blood vessels, meaning the inside of your nose cannot be kept healthy. The long term result of this means that cartilage and soft tissue can deteriorate, leading to a severely-damaged septum or a collapse of the nasal structure.

The heart

Chronic cocaine use can damage the cardiovascular system in a variety of ways and lead to multiple severe heart conditions, including:

Blood clots that can lead to a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or deep vein thrombosis.

Increased blood pressure

Arrhythmia (an abnormality of the heart's rhythm)

Tachycardia (a heart rate over 100 beats a minute)

Myocardial infarction (the death of heart muscle from lack of oxygen from poor blood flow)

Angina (chest pain caused by a reduced blood flow to the heart muscles)

The lungs

Those who ingest the substance by smoking it can cause the alveolar walls in the lungs and capillaries that carry oxygen to the rest of the body to be destroyed, resulting in an increased risk of:

Pneumonia (an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs)

Tuberculosis (bacterial infection in the lungs)

Acute respiratory distress (a lung injury that allows fluid to leak into the lungs)

Asthma (a condition where airways narrow and swell and can produce extra mucus)

Pulmonary edema (Fluid collecting in the air sacs in the lungs)

The brain

Regularly using cocaine can decrease a person’s cognitive functions significantly, affecting not only their attention span but their impulses, decision making, memory and mental health.

It can also lead to blood vessels in the body constricting, meaning the brain receives less oxygen and can increase the risks of:

Strokes (a blockage of blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts)

Seizures (sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain)

Cerebral atrophy (loss of neurons and connections between neurons)

Aneurysms ( a bulge in a blood vessel due to a weakness in the blood vessel wall)

Brain damage

The liver

Repeated cocaine use often can lead to liver damage and in more severe cases liver failure. This is due to a person’s body being flooded with toxins that the liver cannot filter out, leading to a variety of side effects that contribute to organ failure.

Conditions and side effects of cocaine use that contribute to liver failure:

Viral Hepatitis - Viral hepatitis is one of many side effects of cocaine that can damage your liver. The infection causes liver inflammation and swelling that is a result of the substance entering the body in harmful amounts and causing the tissues in the body to become injured or infected.

Rhabdomyolysis - Excessive cocaine use can also lead to rhabdomyolysis, which is a severe muscle injury that causes a breakdown of muscle tissue that enters the bloodstream and affects the liver.

Portal Hypertension - Portal hypertension is elevated pressure in the major vein that leads to the liver and due to this new red blood cells and other substances will bypass the liver and enter general circulation, resulting in more complications that may be hard to treat.