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What does cocaine do to your body?

The risks of cocaine use are high for anyone who uses it, regardless of age and your current health. If you’ve already taken it, or are thinking about taking it, you may be worried about what cocaine can do to your body and brain. So it’s important to know that whether you’ve taken ‘coke’ a few times, or are struggling with regular misuse, it’s certain to impact you both your physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter whether cocaine is snorted, smoked or injected; all of these methods are dangerous to your health and can even be fatal.

Read more to find out what cocaine does to your body and brain.

What does cocaine do to your body?

Cocaine will affect your body in various ways from the first time you take it, even if you take what might be considered a small amount. The drug becomes more harmful with increased use (and carries an immediate risk of overdose, even if you take it once). Over time, when your cocaine use may have become an addiction, it can severely affect your body in various ways. The damage can extend to your heart, breathing, stomach and various other areas. Cocaine addiction is serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible, otherwise, the addiction symptoms can take over. 

Here are the some of main examples of what cocaine can do to your body:


When snorted, cocaine can cause:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • An irritated nasal septum
  • A runny nose
  • Lost sense of smell

Over time, regularly taking cocaine through the nose can erode the cartilage and even cause the nose to collapse, if it no longer has any tissue connecting the nostrils. This is because it constricts blood flow to the septum, which can eventually leave a gaping hole and a distorted overall nose shape.


As soon as you take cocaine, it will cause your heart rate and your blood pressure to increase. This is due to the blood vessels in the heart constricting, so the heart has to work harder as it’s more difficult to pump blood around your body. You are then at risk of a heart attack, as a faster heart rate requires more oxygen – this can be highly dangerous if it doesn’t receive a sufficient amount.

A cocaine habit can also cause blood clots, which can lead to:

  • Heart attacks
  • Pulmonary embolisms
  • Strokes
  • Deep vein thrombosis

Using cocaine can cause the arteries and capillaries in your heart to harden too, resulting in atherosclerosis. This condition can cause heart disease and other serious health issues. In addition to this, the main artery in the body is in the heart (the aorta); in some cases, this can be torn when the pressure on your heart increases, resulting in an aortic dissection (AD). An AD can be lethal.


One of the short-term effects of cocaine is a feeling of nausea and loss of appetite. This can develop quickly into stomach pain and nausea. Cocaine restricts blood flow to your stomach and intestines, which can cause tears and ulcers in the lining. Taking cocaine extensively can also lead to a seriously inflamed large intestine, called ischemic colitis.


If cocaine is smoked, this can stop oxygen from entering the blood stream and destroy your oxygen-transporting capillaries. This can lead to severe issues with breathing and risks grave health complications, including permanent damage to the lungs. You may develop asthma, contract pneumonia, bronchiolitis, pulmonary hypertension and emphysema.

What does cocaine do to your brain?

Cocaine affects your brain immediately. One of the first things you will experience is an intense feeling of intoxication, which is the main reason most people will take the drug. However, repeatedly chasing this pleasure is what leads cocaine users to become addicted. There are many dangers to using cocaine that aren’t as obvious as the perceived benefit of its initial rush. It’s crucial to know the impact it can have on different brain areas, some of which can result in irreversible damage, serious health complications and even death.

Read more below about what cocaine does to the brain and how that can affect you psychologically, emotionally and physically.

Mental state

Cocaine can affect you psychologically in various ways. First, it can give you a false sense of self-confidence for the duration of your high. You may suddenly feel better about yourself and talk more assertively; you may even experience ‘grandiosity’ (feeling that you are superior to others). However, once you come down from the initial rush, your self-esteem is likely to crash severely, and you can feel worse about yourself than ever. You can also experience anxiety, stress and panic attacks. 

Cocaine can also cause you to feel negative emotions more intensely, including paranoia, anger, anxiety and irritability. It is common for people who have taken cocaine to become more aggressive and confrontational.

Nervous system

Cocaine will cause you to experience an immediate but short-lived high. This rush of euphoria is caused by dopamine levels being boosted in your central nervous system, but will only last for around five to 30 minutes. Over time, your brain becomes less sensitive to this build-up of dopamine and you require higher amounts to feel the same intensity of a rush.

Energy levels

Boosted dopamine levels in the brain not only make you feel a rush of pleasure when you take cocaine, but also a rush of energy. This is because dopamine is involved in movement, so you will likely feel physically more energised, more talkative and more alert. People who take cocaine will usually talk much faster and more excitedly than usual.

How to get help for cocaine use

If you feel like you can’t control your ability to stop taking cocaine, you will greatly benefit from opening up to someone. You don’t have to go through this alone. With support, you can move past your struggles with substance misuse and lead a much more rewarding, healthier way of life.

At Manor Clinic, our experts have a wealth of experience in helping people to recover from challenges with mental health and cocaine abuse. There is every reason that you too can overcome your dependence on cocaine and make a lasting recovery.

We offer our 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme on an inpatient (residential) basis, at our beautiful Georgian manor house setting. This provides 24-hour support for those requiring treatment that is more intensive. Within our comfortable facilities, we deliver an array of therapeutic techniques in daily sessions consisting of both individual and group therapy, along with a specialist family programme. We may recommend a medically assisted detoxification programme before entering residential treatment, to stabilise your body for the withdrawal process. We also offer free aftercare for life.

We also offer the following addiction treatment formats at other Priory locations:

  • Outpatient therapy – this consists of weekly sessions that usually last for an hour, providing an accessible treatment option that you can fit around your current commitments
  • Day care – this gives you a more structured treatment option that allows you to continue living at home, but provides a full day of individual and group therapy sessions each week

Get in touch with Manor Clinic today to book a free assessment and we can recommend the next steps for your unique situation and needs. Our expert team will advise you based on the best possible outcome for you.

For more details please call 023 8046 4721 or click here to book a FREE CONFIDENTIAL ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. Alternatively, you can enquire online and one of our team will get back to you via your preferred contact method.  

COVID-19 Update

We continue to accept admissions into our treatment programmes but are adopting screening protocols through the pre-admission process. In order to protect our patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19, we have temporarily suspended family visits to those within our services. All patients will be supported to speak to their family over the phone and via video calls wherever possible.

This blog was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman, (Emotional Freedom Technique Master Practitioner (EFT), Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) NCAC), Addiction Treatment Programme Manager at Manor Clinic.

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