Effects Of Cocaine Use On Health

XrayThe effects of cocaine use can damage your health in many ways and in some instances these can be fatal. Some of these risks can be increased by the way that the drug is used and also by the route of use.


When cocaine is snorted on a regular basis damage to nasal mucus membranes can occur causing the nose to bleed. The practice of sharing straws to ‘snort’ is quite common leading to the possibility of blood to blood transmission via the straw.

Effects on the heart:

HeartHeart failure can happen to anyone taking cocaine, it does not matter how much they are taking or how long they have been using for. People who already have heart disease or heart defects are at an even greater risk if they use the drug.

The increased risk of heart attack can come from a number of factors including:

  • Increased adrenaline (released because of cocaine use)
  • High blood pressure (increased heart rate caused by adrenaline)
  • Constricted blood vessels (cocaine releases endothelin which constricts blood vessels)
  • Hardening of the arteries (caused by cocaine use)
  • Weakened heart (congestive heart failure)
  • Arrhythmia (erratic heart beat)
  • Ashen gray skin (poorly oxygenated blood)
  • Current heart problems (made worse by cocaine)
  • Other drugs that may be used in conjunction with cocaine such as Viagra and alcohol (can increase the stress upon the heart)

Strokes and seizures:

Strokes are thought to be caused by the constriction of blood vessels and the repeated increase in blood pressure. These combined factors can sometimes cut off the blood supply to parts of the brain and also in some cases cause delicate blood vessels to break (causing bleeding in the brain).

Blackouts and seizures may also be caused by the above coupled with high body temperatures.

Respiratory system:

Taking crack or cocaine can cause many lung problems. These problems are not just isolated to smoking crack as injecting crack or cocaine can also cause lung problems. Some of the problems that are associated with the use of crack or cocaine include:

  • Pulmonary oedema – Build up of fluid in the lungs
  • Pulmonary haemorrhage – Bleeding in the lungs
  • Pulmonary barotrauma – Air escaping lungs (by holding in crack smoke)
  • Foreign bodies in lungs – Poor pipes, no gauzes used
  • ‘Crack Lung’ – Cough, shortness of breath, fever, inflamed lungs

Crack use can affect the cilia (small hairs) that line the main tubes of the lungs. These help to clean the lungs and prevent infections, which in turn leads to crack and cocaine users being more susceptible to bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy etc (this can be made worse by the impaired immune system).