Cocaine is a drug that has gained it’s ‘popularity’ over time. With more and more people taking the drug, it’s very rare that they know how it is effecting them. Cocaine is a powder that has a bitter ‘chemical’ taste and smell to it, while crack cocaine can smell like burnt plastic or rubber. There are three different types of cocaine: coke, crack and freebase. Coke looks like a fine white powder, whilst crack looks like small lumps or rocks and freebase looks like a crystallised powder.

There are plenty of risks to do with this specific type of drug, but this is not the only drug that carries many risks, many others do. Depending on what drug it is it can have a different impact on the individual and some are a lot worse than others. Drugs give of a certain kind of ‘high’ which people then become addicted too, but what they don’t realise is how bad the comedown is after and how quickly it can damage their mind and bodies. 


Cocaine is risky for anyone who suffers from high blood pressure or a heart condition, but your health is affected the most. Even young healthy people can have a fit or a heart attack after taking too much, like most drugs or alcohol to much consumption can have a life-threatening consequence, this could lead to an overdose. Over time, snorting cocaine can damage the cartilage in your nose that separates your nostrils, heavy users can lose the cartilage and end up with one large nostril or a misshapen nose.

Taking cocaine when pregnant can cause damage to the baby, it can cause miscarriage, premature labour, and low birth weight.

If you regularly smoke it, it can cause breathing problems and pains in the chest. Injecting cocaine can damage veins and cause ulcers or gangrene. Sharing needles or other injecting equipment can spread HIV and hepatitis infections too, injecting cocaine gives you a higher risk of overdosing. Regular use of cocaine can make people feel depressed, run-down, anxious and paranoid. It can bring previous mental health problems to the surface too, and if a relative has had any mental health problems, there might be an increased risk for you.

Any drug can have different effects on a person. This is true for prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and especially illicit drugs such as cocaine. Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, it produces ‘pleasurable’ effects by disabling the brain’s ability to handle certain chemicals occurring naturally within the human body.

The most obvious concern when taking cocaine is the issue that lies with addiction, becoming so drawn to a substance that you lose control and want it constantly and you’d do anything for it. That is when it becomes scary and a matter of needing help. Any drug addiction has the potential of becoming deadly, which is bad enough as it is. But not only that, it has the potential of destroying life, robbing finances, wrecking relationships, leaving them isolated and feeling like there is no hope for the future.

Long term side effects

When looking at drugs and how they effect the user, you really do have to look at the long-term impact.

  • Heart disease: The link between cocaine use and heart disease is undeniable, because of the stimulating effects of the drug, cocaine can exacerbate an existing heart disease considerably. But the problem is, with long term exposure it’s very easy to bring on heart disease even if it didn’t exist previously. As well as this heart attacks and other problems to do with the heart are more common among cocaine users.
  • Respiratory problems: Cocaine users are prone to all sorts of respiratory problems. Snorting cocaine can damage the nose while smoking the drug harms the lungs, airways, sinuses and nasal cavities.
  • Mental illness: One of the effects of cocaine that is rarely talked about is mental illnesses. Cocaine addicts are very susceptible to clinical depression, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, schizophrenia and many more.
  • Recklessness: Cocaine causes users to feel invincible, they tend to also engage in a lot of reckless behaviour. This behaviour can sometimes become quite violent, cocaine addicts are prone to violent outbursts.


Like any drug, you can become incredibly addicted. Cocaine is a very addictive drug, this is because regular usage changes the way the brain releases dopamine, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy. Cocaine is mostly known for causing physiological dependence (addiction) but users can sometimes continue to use cocaine just to overcome after effects of using. This can then lead into an almost binge-like pattern of usage and an increase of risk of dependence.

Drug addiction: getting help

The starting point to lead to recovery is going to your GP, they can discuss your problems with you and get you started on treatment. They may offer you treatment at the practice, or refer you to your local drug service. Talk to a counselor and tell them how you’re feeling, they can help you find the best possible way of overcoming the addiction.

If you’d rather not go to your GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself. Visit this website to find your local drug treatment service.

As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you.

What will happen?

Most likely your first appointment for drug treatment, staff will ask you about your drug use. They might ask about your work, family and housing situation. You may be asked to provide a sample of urine or saliva. They will walk you through all the treatment options and agree on a treatment plan with you. They might suggest local support groups, you may also be given a key worker who will support you throughout your treatment.

The treatment depends on your circumstances and the drug that you’re addicted to. The treatment could include, talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), help to see how your thoughts and feelings affect your behaviour. Couples therapy may be offered to you if your partner does not use cocaine. Incentives, you may be offered rewards, such as vouchers, for sticking to treatments and for staying off cocaine when it finishes.

Unlike treatment for heroin, there are certain types of medicines that work as a substitute for cocaine. However, you may be offered medication to help with related symptoms, such as sleep apnea.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help, as hard as it is. If you know anyone who is suffering from addiction to drugs or simply anything, reach out for them. It’s best to come to terms with the fact that it’s a problem and get on the road to recovery.

Call Recovery on 0203 553 0324 or chat with them on their live chat.

Call FRANK on 0300 123 6600 or email


Journalism Student