Signs and Symptoms
Adverse Signs and symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Increased agitation.
- Effusive enthusiasm.
- Increased movement (i.e. hyperactivity).
- Increased common cold-like symptoms and/or nosebleeds.
- Signs of involuntary movements (i.e. muscle tics).
- Changes in concentration and focus.
More serious effects of cocaine abuse are heart muscle damage. Cocaine may cause damage by inducing cell death in the muscles of the heart. Intravenous cocaine use can lead to inflammation of the inner tissues of the organ (endocarditis).
- Inflammation of heart muscle.
- Rupture of the aorta, the major artery leading from the heart.
- Severe declines in health and life quality due to reductions in cardiac function or severe blood loss.
Cocaine-induced heart failure or damage may also increase the risk of stroke, or brain damage resulting from interruptions in the blood supply available to the brain.
The abuse of this drug is also associated with kidney damage. The prolonged use of cocaine is thought to be related to the inflammation of important microstructures within this organ.
Cocaine and Changes in the Brain
Cocaine abuse is also associated with changes in brain chemistry over time. These changes are associated with the increased ‘need’ for cocaine over time, as well as behavioural abnormalities that may result from taking cocaine. These behavioural anomalies associated with its effects may include:
- Unusually erratic behaviour (which may even result in unintentional trauma incurred during accidents).
- Psychotic symptoms.
Even users who regard their use as ‘recreational’ are at risk of neurological changes that affect their lives. ‘Recreational’ use is associated with the decreased ability to regulate and control behaviour, leading to reduced abilities to control movements, react to environmental stimuli and carry out daily activities. Long-term use is also associated with deficits in cognitive performance, attention, and decision-making abilities.
Other risks stemming from abuse include infectious conditions such as HIV or hepatitis C (HCV). These risks are related to the injection of cocaine, and the adverse effects of irresponsible and non-sterile needle use.
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