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Understanding Cocaine Side Effects

Aside from the serious physical effects of both short- and long-term cocaine abuse, other consequences result from addiction to the drug, most of which revolve around damaging behaviors that lead to problems with personal relationships and depression that comes from cocaine addiction denial.

Issues with cocaine addiction and relationships are perhaps the most obvious indicators that someone is abusing the drug. Because of the highly addictive nature of cocaine, users make choices and behave in ways that prioritize their needs for the drug while dismissing the needs of family and friends. In addition to financial and legal problems that can result from addiction, chronic users become so preoccupied in securing their use of cocaine that little time is left to foster connections with children and spouses. In essence, users’ withdrawal from relationships, and as a result those family members and close friends develop their own problems—both emotional and psychological—to cope and adapt.

Within the family unit, children who have seen a parent withdraw into cocaine addiction are twice as likely to develop addiction problems of their own, whether due to a mimicking behavior pattern or simply because they are experiencing a lack of attention. And when loved ones choose to confront the addict about his or her behavior serious conflicts can erupt, a common sign of cocaine addiction behavior.

Cocaine addiction and depression is a condition nearly all long-term users experience at some point. Because of the drug’s effect on dopamine levels—the chemicals that lead to feelings of pleasure—once cocaine’s effects have worn off mood swings occur and users find themselves experiencing extreme sadness characterized by feelings of hopelessness. For those who use cocaine less frequently, this depression is likely short term; however, studies show that for chronic users this depression can be severe and cause a person to make rash decisions to obtain more of the drug, including committing crimes. And those same studies have made a direct link between cocaine abuse and suicide as a result of these depressive episodes.

Lastly, like expectant mothers who drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, children exposed to cocaine are often delivered prematurely, have low birth weights and smaller head circumferences and are shorter in length. And for women in the 1980s who abused crack cocaine during pregnancy the result was a generation of “crack babies,” infants born with cognitive problems and severely compromised social and information processing skills.