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Long Term Effects of Cocaine on the Brain and Body

Most people are aware that cocaine is a highly addictive psychostimulant drug associated with increases in energy and feelings of euphoria. Cocaine functions by flooding the brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Some consider the “crack” format of cocaine to be among the most addictive drugs in the world.

In the United States, cocaine is considered a “Schedule II” drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and it’s only medical usage is as a topical anesthetic. Medical usage of cocaine is relatively rare, but recreational use of the drug is fairly common. Frequent partiers tend to seek out the drug for its ability to increase energy and confidence in social situations.

Although the drug is generally used by most on occasion, some individuals become addicted and use it often over a long-term. Without proper intervention, the long-term effects of cocaine can take a toll on a person’s brain function and physical health.

Factors the influence long-term effects of cocaine

Before getting to the long-term effects, it is important to highlight the fact that the effects a person experiences are often subject to individual variation. Two people could be using cocaine for the same amount of time, yet one may experience different effects than the other. Factors that account for differences include: exact duration of usage, frequency of usage, the format of cocaine, dosage, and other individual factors.

1. Time Span

The duration over which you’ve used cocaine may play a role in influencing the number and severity of long-term effects that you experience. If you’ve been using cocaine over an extremely long-term such as a decade, you’re more likely to experience unwanted effects than someone who has been using the drug for just a few years. That said, the frequency, format, and dosage also are important to consider.

2. Frequency of usage

How often have you used cocaine? Those that use the drug on a daily basis for a long-term are likely to end up with more severe long-term effects than someone who used the drug infrequently. Obviously the greater the frequency that you use the drug, the more likely you are going to end up with severe and prolonged long-term adverse effects.

Someone who uses the drug once a month isn’t likely going to suffer the same degree of impairment as someone who uses the drug four times a month. The more staggered the frequency, the less likely you will be to experience long-term effects.

3. Format + Administration

The type of cocaine that a person tends to use can play a role in the long-term effects that they experience. Snorting cocaine hydrochloride will not be as potent or addictive over the long-term as smoking freebase forms or “crack.” Those who use more potent formats of cocaine tend to end up with the most severe long-term problems.

  • Cocaine hydrochloride: This is a white, powdery cocaine that is often insufflated (i.e. snorted) through the nose, but can be injected. This type of cocaine cannot be snorted simply because smoking will destroy its effect.
  • Freebase cocaine: This is a type of cocaine that has been chemically altered. It is most commonly smoked and tends to make the user fee an instant “high.”
    • Crack cocaine: This is a specific subtype of freebase cocaine that is in the format of “rocks” or “crystals.” Preferred method of administration is generally via smoking. This format involves the blending of baking soda and water or ammonia and water (or both). This removes the hydrochloride from the molecule, creating a more immediate “high.”

Smoking vs. Snorting

Smoking tends to reach the brain more quickly than snorting. When a person snorts cocaine, it needs to travel from the blood vessels in the nose to the heart, then needs to get pumped up to the lungs for oxygenation. Next the oxygenated blood makes its way back to the heart, and the heart pumps it out to the brain; resulting in the “high.”

When the cocaine is smoked, it travels a direct path from the lungs to the heart and then brain, leading to a seemingly immediate high. People like immediate gratification and/or elevation in dopamine because it gives them a rapid pleasure response. Hence the reason that smoking various forms of cocaine is more likely to lead to abuse, addiction, and ultimately more unwanted long-term effects.

4. Amount (Dosage)

The amount of cocaine that you administer each time you use it plays a role in determining how severe the long-term effects will be. If you frequently abuse the substance and are smoking large quantities, you’re going to likely end up with more long-term problems than someone who only snorted a small amount. Since people tend to develop quick tolerance to cocaine, it is possible to end up using high doses to achieve a “high.” Unfortunately the higher the dose used on a consistent basis, the greater the severity of long-term effects.

5. Individual variation

It is also important to acknowledge that individual variation plays a role in determining what a person will experience after long-term cocaine usage. Various factors that likely contribute to long-term effects include: age at which cocaine was used, diet, genetics, whether the person also used other drugs, stress level, exercise habits, sleep patterns, etc.

A younger person who abuses cocaine may find that it affects the development of their brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex over a long-term. Genetics may also dictate the degree to which you experience impairment after long-term cocaine usage. Some people may have favorable genetics and may not experience much of any health problems from their usage.

Long term Effects of Cocaine on the Brain

Below is a list of long-term effects that are associated with cocaine usage. Keep in mind that you may not experience all of these effects and that not all of them are well-documented in the scientific community. Also realize that individual variation will contribute significantly in determining what effects you experience.

  • Accelerated brain aging: There is some preliminary evidence suggesting that cocaine may cause the brain to age at a quicker rate than average. This is in part due to significant losses in the amount of grey matter in important areas of the brain, but also due to functional deficits in various brain regions. Cocaine usage over the long-term can yield significant detrimental effects on the brain, increasing speed of neurodegeneration.
  • Blood vessel damage: Some researchers believe that cocaine usage can contribute to blood vessel damage within the brain. The constriction of blood vessels within the brain can lead to increased susceptibility to experiencing a stroke. There also appears to be a significant drop in the overall speed of blood flow throughout the brain with increased cocaine usage.
  • Cognitive deficits: Many people experience long-term cognitive impairment resulting from cocaine. This is due to the fact that dopamine levels drop and activity in the prefrontal cortex decreases. Peak cognition is heavily reliant on the prefrontal cortex for processing complex data, attention, and logic. When this region is impaired, a person may display classic signs of ADHD.
  • Dependence: Many people become dependent on cocaine in order to function throughout the day. Once the brain has become tolerant to the drug, a person will continuously need more of it in order to maintain their same level of functioning. Should they attempt to go through cocaine withdrawal, symptoms may prove to be too severe to cope with. Over time, a person may become dependent on higher doses of the drug, leading to greater psychological damage.
  • Dopamine levels: It is known that dopamine is involved in regulating attention, appetite, motivation, and a variety of other processes in the brain. Those that use cocaine can endure lasting changes to the levels of dopamine within the brain. Increased usage leads to dopamine deficiency, which can create problems such as attentional deficits, impulsivity, mood swings, brain fog, and cognitive impairment.
  • Emotional dysfunction: It is extremely common to experience emotional disturbances over the long-term that stem from cocaine usage. Many of these emotional disturbances are associated with alterations in regional functioning within the brain as well as neurotransmitter changes. Fortunately most of these disturbances can be corrected if a person abstains from cocaine use for a prolonged period of time.
    • Aggression: Some people become increasingly aggressive over the long-term. This is due to the fact that the brain is unable to handle much stress and becomes sensitized. You may find yourself lashing out at others in order to cope with the pent-up aggression that you feel.
    • Anger: You may find yourself angry at the world as a result of cocaine use. The anger is believed to be due to changes in neurotransmitter levels as well as certain changes in regional functioning such as the prefrontal cortex.
    • Anxiety: It is common for a person to develop extreme anxiety as a result of their cocaine habit. This may be a result of dopamine deficiency and/or an alteration in the way their brain processes fear-inducing stimuli.
    • Apathy: When a person has severely decreased dopamine and prefrontal activity, they may become apathetic. This is characterized as a lack of caring about their situation and inability to summon up motivation to make changes.
    • Depression: With decreased prefrontal activity as well as deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine, depression can become a long-term effect.  This is why it is so important to consider dopamine vs. serotonin in depression among drug abusers as most who’ve abused psychostimulants likely have deficient dopamine production.
    • Paranoia: Most people tend to recover from paranoia over the long-term, but it still can last awhile and be highly disturbing. As a person remains sober and dopamine levels stabilize, paranoia tends to decrease.
    • Psychosis: The fact that cocaine can alter dopamine levels to a significant extent can produce a drug-induced form of psychosis. In other words, you may develop hallucinations and/or delusions that mimic schizophrenia as a result of long-term usage. Although this isn’t permanent, it can be difficult to overcome.
    • Stress response: It is thought that your resilience against stress significantly decreases the more frequently you use cocaine. The brain becomes unable to properly process stress and with frequent cocaine usage, you may react with more animalistic instincts instead of using higher-order brain functions (e.g. prefrontal cortex) to combat any stress. Things that previously wouldn’t have caused stress may start to drive you crazy over the long-term.
  • Gray matter reduction: Brain scans of individuals with cocaine dependence compared to a control group revealed that the group with dependence had lost significant amounts of grey matter. On average, those who used cocaine had lost approximately 3.08 ml (milliliters) of brain volume per year, which was approximately double that of the healthy control group.
  • Headaches: Many people report headaches as a long-term effect of using cocaine. This could be due to a variety of reasons including damage to the brain, changes in brain activity, alterations in blood flow, and constriction of blood vessels. Some individuals may even experience migraines as a result of their cocaine use.
  • Prefrontal cortex impairment: Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of using cocaine is that it alters activity in the prefrontal cortex. This is a region involved in high-level processes such as logic, decision making, solving complex equations, critical thinking, and attention. Using cocaine can result in lasting impairment to this region, leading the user to display increasingly animalistic behavior.
  • Receptor dysregulation: Some experts also hypothesize that the brain’s neurotransmitter receptors, particularly those for dopamine experience dysregulation. Not only do dopamine levels tend to be abnormally low compared to a non-cocaine user, but the receptors of these neurotransmitters are also affected; potentially causing a variety of problems.
  • Stroke risk: Some studies have suggested that using cocaine over a long-term may lead to increased risk for a stroke. A stroke is characterized as lack of blood flow to the brain, which leads a person to suffer (potentially) irreversible mental impairment.

Long-Term Physical Effects of Cocaine

Although this is a mental health website, it is important to highlight some of the long-term physical effects that have been associated with cocaine usage. Many of the physical effects are just as impairing as the mental effects.

  • Bone density decrease: You may find that using cocaine causes you to lose both muscle mass and bone density. People that use this drug often do not eat enough food because it suppresses the appetite. The malnourishment can lead to a host of health problems, one of which is decreased bone density. Studies in rats have also suggested that exposure may cause decreases in spine density.
  • Coughing: Another effect over the long-term that you may experience is chronic coughing. It may seem as if you’ve developed a cough that you cannot get rid of no matter how hard you try. This is due to an array of damaging effects that the drug has on the respiratory system.
  • Chest pains: Over time, chest pains may start to become more severe with increased usage. This is because the cocaine takes a toll on the heart, and some may experience cardiovascular toxicity. The damage endured by various organs may also contribute to the pain that you experience.
  • Heart problems: Some believe that there are clear links between long-term cocaine abuse and heart attacks. There is also some evidence to suggest that cocaine usage is capable of causing an irregular heartbeat. It is also thought that long-term usage is capable of damaging the heart muscle walls.
  • High blood pressure: You may find that your blood pressure spikes over the long-term from using this drug. Although it is common to experience elevated blood pressure while intoxicated, blood pressure may stay high as a result of long-term usage.
  • Malnutrition: The highly stimulating nature of cocaine leads people to experience a loss of appetite. A reduced appetite may lead a person to skip meals, resulting in nutritional deficiencies. If a person is deficient in various vitamins and nutrients, this can put them at increased risk for a variety of other chronic health conditions.
  • Organ damage: Cocaine can cause cumulative damage to major organs such as your heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs – especially when used over the long-term. This is mostly due to a chemical intermediate being released called “methylecgonidine.” It is this substance that is directly capable of eliciting damage, which can increase over time.
  • Reproductive damage: Another physical effect that’s associated with long-term cocaine usage is that of reproductive problems. Some hypothesize that long-term usage can damage sperm quality, decrease sperm count, cause sexual dysfunction, as well as infertility (in both males and females).
  • Tooth decay: Although tooth decay isn’t directly caused by cocaine, it can be caused by “bruxism” (or tooth grinding). Many people who use cocaine over the long-term are unable to deal with the tension they experience while “high” – leading to frequent grinding of teeth. This grinding mashes the tooth enamel and can lead to decay.
  • Weight loss: Using any CNS stimulant over the long-term can lead to a significant amount of weight loss. As was already mentioned, some of the weight loss is a result of bone density reduction and muscle loss (stemming from decreased food consumption). In some individuals, losing excessive weight can be unhealthy, and put them at risk for a variety of health conditions.

Is it possible to overcome the long-term effects of cocaine?

There’s no definitive answer to this question simply because long-term effects are largely based on the individual. Someone who heavily abused cocaine may not be able to fully repair the damage that they’ve inflicted upon their brain and body. Another person may be able to achieve nearly 100% recovery by making the right changes and targeted efforts.

Obviously the sooner you quit using the drug and the more time you’ve been off the drug, the better your long-term prognosis.  With proper efforts and lifestyle changes, most people should be able to restore their mental and physical health (over time).

Does everyone experience long term effects from cocaine?

No, not everyone is going to experience long-term effects from cocaine. Someone who snorted a small amount at a party may not experience much (if any effects). However, someone that frequently abused cocaine over a long-term is more likely to experience long-term effects. The severity and number of long-term effects that you experience will be highly individualized.

If you want a more in-depth understanding of what cocaine has done to your brain, you may want to have some tests conducted. By having tests conducted, you will know what can be done to repair any potential damage that you endured.

Have you experienced any unwanted long-term effects from cocaine?

If you have used cocaine for an extended period and have endured long-term effects, feel free to share them in the comments section below. Be sure to mention what effects you experienced and whether they’ve lessened in intensity over time. Also discuss how long you had used cocaine, the type you used, and frequency at which you used it. Any other details that you’d like to include such as steps you’ve taken to mitigate the long-term effects may be helpful to others.

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55 thoughts on “Long Term Effects of Cocaine on the Brain and Body”

  1. I’m 23 and I only used for about a month. The first weeks I would use about 2 times a week and gradually increased to the point where I was doing small amounts about 4 times a day. The last day I used it I was already getting mild chest pain and waited until it subsided to take my last blow.

    Big mistake. I realized I should’ve listened to that warning sign when I had a full blown panic attack from that last line. In less than a minute I panicked, kept having chest pain and shortness of breath and felt like i was about to faint.

    Completely convinced that I was having a heart attack, I had my friend take me to the hospital immediately and they took an EKG, blood work, chest X-ray and urine sample. Everything came back normal and I was discharged with “no damage”. I went cold turkey easily after that scare but kept getting panic attacks and nonstop anxiety along with random chest pains and dizziness.

    Weeks went by where I would still get all those symptoms so I had another blood test and another EKG, just to have it also come back normal. It’s been a month a half and I’m still having random mild chest pains, random muscle twitches, palpitations and back pain along with constant anxiety and depression.

    It also doesn’t help that I literally Google all my symptoms and freak out even more when “Heart attack”, “Artery disease” and “Aortic dissection” keep popping up. I’m just really hoping I didn’t cause too much damage from that short binge and that I can feel normal again.

  2. I have used cocaine on a daily basis heavily from age 28 to 50. I have been in recovery for 18 years now and believe me for as healthy as I should be I am not. I have chronic pain in my bones that keeps me from enjoying my life. I did however go the the gym and workout vigorously till age 60.

    I just did a brain and neck MRI to see what is causing my pain, Jaw, ears, neck throat etc. No tumors were found after 3 years of tests. Trust me – I really believe that this drug wreaked total havoc on my once unbelievable health and physique.

    Tell everyone you know say NO TO DRUGS. I have a beautiful home, 2 nice cars, a motorcycle and I am miserable due to my broken body!!! Not living happily after all this!!

  3. I have used crack for ten years. Rehab has not worked for me. On and off use is my current situation. A lot less than before. This website is the best thing I’ve found to relate to my personal issues. I experience most of the same side effects as posted in these comments.

    Nervous system shakes brain fog loss of balance and memory seriously affected and severe agitation dealing w people. (More than before using lol). My best advice is to always know future use will only make these issues worse. Forgive yourself and don’t let it be the last of your legacy in life.

    Try to personify the drug as a person you don’t like and stay away from him/her. For they will only bring destruction your way. It is extremely difficult to not beat yourself about the past up but don’t do it. When an urge comes immediately think forward to the aftermath you know it will bring.

    Another thing I tend to forget is that life is hard even with out a drug problem. Recovery is not a door to a perfect life, living itself is a constant struggle and we must focus on finding and keeping the strength to keep it moving. You have it in you.

    Just reach in there grab it hang on like cowboy hangs on to a raging bull. People all over the world are suffering from all sorts of different conditions. You are far from alone. Thanks to this website and other people for your comments they helped a lot. STAY STRONG… GOD BLESS!

  4. I started using at age 29, I was tired of my mother running my life, telling me to buy a house I did not want, telling the woman that was living with me at the time to get a job. I hated the life I was living, so I got fired from the post office, left the house I bought, got rid of the woman I was with at the time, went gambling and did drugs for twenty years.

    I did the drugs because I felt like I was not good enough to be around people with a life, and being around people who did drugs and did not try for a family life was easier. I didn’t have to get anyone else’s permission to live. My brother called and said my mother died six or seven years ago.

    I’ve been off for five years now trying to get the life I wanted at first. I think about the money I gave to people – the words that come from them, the people that I found myself around, was death. I am so grateful that my mother died, so I can get away from those people and never see them again. I’m not completely free at this time but soon, thank you God.

  5. Hope is a precious thing to hold onto. I have been clean now for exactly 30 years. When I was addicted I did anything and I mean anything to get ahold of the worst of the worst. The pull was far too strong for me until one day my girlfriend was murdered in front of me. That was the last straw for me.

    I had to get clean. I locked myself into a safe space for a month to get clean. No, I don’t advocate that everyone take that route it’s just what worked for me. Now here’s the good part. The lessons I learned about myself even through the ugly. I learned that I am clever, resilient, and am able to handle a lot more than I ever gave myself credit for.

    You can find these within yourself. Yes in the beginning you want to die. I understand that feeling. This may seem silly to you but just try it. Find a park or a forest or a beach, sit down and feel the grass, hear the birds, and feel the sun on your face. Walk barefoot and feel the earth beneath you.

    Forgive yourself and understand that addiction is a disease. Being able to once more connect with the natural world will remind you that life is far better than getting high in a cramped room feeling guilty. By forgiving yourself you start the process of healing. Take each day one at a time. If need be take it one hour, one minute, one second at a time.

    There is no rush and being able to just breathe again is a triumph. After being cleaned for so long I can tell you that the journey is worth it. The bridges I burned have been rebuilt. The self denigration I flogged myself with have been resolved.

    I can enjoy the sun on my face, the vision of a full moon on the horizon in summer, and the wonderful sounds of river at a campsite. Have faith in yourself, remind yourself to believe in YOU, and you can DO THIS! Good luck to all of you!

  6. Alright, I started snorting cocaine at age 17. At the age of 21 I started smoking cocaine and did not quit until I was in my late 40s. I smoked everyday usually an 8-ball. I am now 58 years old. 13 years clean, with COPD, chronic bronchitis, and most recently my first bout of pneumonia where I was sick for two months. My newest Dr. mention the word emphysema (as I also Smoked Cigarettes the whole time I smoked).

    I have a rescue inhaler I am on Advair regularly, with steroids and antibiotics. It is hard for me to believe that I used to run 8 miles a day, and went to the Olympic trials in 1976 for the hundred yard dash. I don’t know where 35 years went but I have been through the ringer and back and put my life at risk more times than there is in a month, all to do anything for the finding and ways and means to get more.

    I knew a few years ago something was wrong with me. I don’t do social situations, I am now on Zoloft for depression and it’s helped. After two treatments for hep C one was ribavirin and Pegasys interferon for 6 months and it didn’t work, then I did harvoni with a ribavirin cocktail. And and yes I finally got cured the hardest genotype of Hep to get rid of but I got cured. Unfortunately the Cure has now left me with a mild form of leukemia because my white cells are below sea level!

    Well I know I need to work at least 13 more years to be able to afford to retire if I live that long! My only regret is that I wish the party would have ended more than three decades ago, I’m pretty tough and I don’t want to end up being one of those little old ladies Towing around a tank of oxygen. This is what over three decades of smoking cocaine and cigarettes and alcohol, can do for your retirement!!

    I was suicidal about 4 years ago and pulled it together and quit smoking cigarettes, because I have no family that even cares about me at all then that’s my fault. Many decades of of Christmases by myself and holidays and I started to feel suicidal so I quit smoking cigarettes and I got a rescue dog. My little baby dog Domino is the love of my life and turned out so much better than my daughter (the Apple didn’t fall far from the tree and she does not listen to anything that I went through) and even even though I rescued Domino he’s the one that truly rescued me he’s saved my life and showed me how to love and showed me how to care and that’s just part of my story.

    The moral is three and a half decades will fly with the blink of an eye and one day you’ll be 21 years old and the next day you’ll wake up and be almost 60 with nothing and working really hard to try and make up for lost time. Good luck to anybody that is struggling that’s been there, and God bless you.

  7. Hey there, 34 years old and 18 months cocaine free. I used about a gram 2 times a week. The addiction lasted 16 years. When I wasn’t on it, I was recovering from it. These days, I have a poor attention span. Eight hour long seminars for work are arduous for me. Luckily, I still have the ability to feel a wide range of emotions.

    I still have tremors, shaky fits that can last up to an hour. Stupidly enough, I still drink. I have a stopping point for alcohol now though. I don’t want it to trigger cravings, so I stop after a couple of drinks. My boyfriend has daughters. I disclosed to him the night we met that I have a problem with cocaine.

    He said a condition of being with him was that I stop and never do it again. I took him up on it and we are still together. I was looking for a reason bigger than me to quit. None of us want to still be in that kind of misery. Anyway, that’s my story.

  8. I have been using cocaine for about a year now inconsistently, there’s been months when I do the drug 4-5 times as months were I don’t use it at all. Recently in the last two months I’ve used it 9-10 times and I have started to feel depression, anxiety as well as paranoia. I have decided to quit completely and I’m wondering if the side effects will ever wear off. Some recommendations to help cope with this?

  9. I have been using cocaine for 17 yrs. I am 34 yrs old so almost half of my life. I still have most of my teeth but they are brittle. I have tried several attempts to quit, but I have not been successful for very long periods of time. It is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t want this drug to take my life. Jesus help me.

  10. I’m 29, 30 next week had a bad cocaine habit for about 3 years (half oz per week). I’m not taking it as I used to but still lapse 1s a month or more. I had a good life my own business 2 children and a perfect girlfriend to me before I started taking every other day. I have managed to cling on to her and my children but I know I’m not the person I used to be.

    I went to prison for a brief period (lost my business as a result) all because of my addiction. I hope to recover from the mental and physical problems that have troubled me for the past year now, not sure how much is down to the coke but suspect all are caused direct or indirectly. I have good days where I still have a glimmer of love for life, but like a lot of which I have read on this thread I feel death is the only way out of my emotional state most of the time.

    Most of my daily thoughts are about my health now. I never gave it a 2nd thought before I started on my road to recovery. All my anxiety and stress I experience is about my health and what I have put my mind and body through. I hope to gain the mental strength to abstain from this sh-t forever so I can be happy to be me again and remember never to jeopardize my family’s happiness ever again!

    I must forgive myself for the past which I defiantly intend on working on cause I can’t forget nor change it! I intend on improving as a person with each day and live with hope not dread.

  11. I’ve been smoking crack on and off for 23 years. It has ruined my life. I messed up my body and mind so much that I’m disabled. I seem to can’t keep a job when I could work. I stay to myself, don’t eat or sleep. I’ve had several mental breakdowns which landed me in the psych ward and jail a few times.

    I’ve lost all my kids and my family cut ties with me. My psych doctor says I have disassociate identity disorder, manic bipolar, manic depressive, anxiety disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and acute homicidal tendencies all caused by my drug use. My teeth have fallen out or I had to get them pulled.

    I have a abnormal heartbeat and I’m scared to go outside because I know I will find the drug! I’m isolated which is not heathy either. I moved to a different state and I find the crack. It calls me!!! I hate this drug! I hate that I allowed it to mess up my life. Crack has really messed me up badly!!! Death sounds better than how I’m living.

  12. I wanted to offer all you guys hope!!! I did cocaine for over 15 years heavy. I used to vomit blood. No hope lost dreams unresolved trauma. Yeah I was f#cked up. However I’m now 4 years clean and a certified recovery specialist. You can beat it!!! Coke, crack, meth, weed. Whatever change your environment. Change your so called friends. Remember what used to make you happy before the addiction?? You have kids? Let them be your strength! Don’t give up!! Life is so much better on the other side!!! Come join me!!!

  13. I used cocaine for about 6 months 5 years ago. I could tell I was enjoying it too much as I started craving it more frequently and the amount I was doing increased. I quit cold turkey and then relapsed 2 years ago. I am struggling to quit now, I lay in my bed crying wishing that my brain would function the way it used to and that I had never touched cocaine. After reading this article and talking to medical professionals I know it probably won’t and it breaks my heart.

  14. I live in Mass. Unfortunately, Mass doesn’t look at coke as physically addicting so in order to get in a program I would need to pretend to be an alcoholic. I have 2 kids and was smoking crack all the time. I lost everything. I don’t have my kids. I haven’t touched it since 9 months ago, but it’s a huge process to get your kids back. I wasn’t making smart choices and couldn’t tell how bad the crack had ahold of me. I didn’t even enjoy it or the people who do it anymore. I’m never going back.

  15. I am crack free for 155 days after a 23 year addiction. Their were some minor time periods in rehabs where I was clean, but it’s an honest statement that the addiction was 23 years long. My issue is now that I’m clean and productive and exercising vigorously, my head gets bombarded with thoughts of how life really sucks for me now. I’m not concerned with relapse due to the devastation I caused myself which will not be repeated.

    My concern is not wanting to continue a life where putting in 100% effort with dialectical behavioral therapy of 2 hours per day. Pedal bike riding 10 to 20 miles a day and swimming 30 to 50 laps in an Olympic pool 4 days a week… will lead to nothing. Absolutely nothing… what’s the freaken point? I am going no where in the fast lane. Is this what sobriety is?

  16. I hate this drug. I hate all drugs. They really mess you up. My high school boyfriend got into drugs when we were in collage, and he was never the same after. His speech patterns changed, he was depressed and super aggressive at random. He stopped going to school, and has still never graduated. He literally tossed his whole life in the trash. When I met him he was the smartest most outgoing person I had ever met.

    Obviously his drug addition ended our relationship. He chose drugs over me, and found a girlfriend who he could do coke with. It’s really it sad. That breakup was like mourning the death of a person. He may as well have been in a car crash because all the drugs he took make him into a totally different person.

  17. I’m 24 and I’ve been using cocaine for 10 years heavily, smoking crack for 10 and injecting the last 5. I have such bad damage done. I am paranoid all the f-cking time, and I’m a year clean. I used to have an IQ of 145 and could solve really complex problems, now I’m easily confused and am always anxious. Will I ever get better? I live in f-cking hell and have a hard time going in public now. What can I do?

  18. I’ve bookmarked this blog as motivation to quit. Its been a struggle to shake and over 10+ years since I’ve consistently used (30 now). I was gifted as a child – scored great in school, always top of my class, and a little of bit of a trouble maker. I’ve always believed in trying everything at-least once (except IV stuff). Westcoast living made it easy to get caught up with people that glamify usage – we liked to party and I’m sure that’s a main reason why everyone posting comments likes it.

    But why I’m posting this is to remind myself and others that this addiction does effect you, even some of the best of us. Here’s a little bit about what its done to me:

    I’m almost positive that consistent usage (2-3 times every week, 9 months+ a year for 10 years)– has definitely changed the person that I could have been – my SAT score was 1400+[out of 1600], dropped out of university(due to partying) for the US Navy and scored a 99 on my ASVAB.

    To this day, I’ll be in team meetings with my startup and co-workers/investors are amazed with the analysis + ideas I come up with. Execution is a completely different story. I have problems focusing and following through, which I’m working on — but it’s a daily struggle.

    Potentially, I see myself as someone that should be a CEO type (I’ve worked myself up into a creative manager position), but, sometimes my crazy rambling and thoughts are always all-over-the-place. I don’t have the confidence to chase the gold and be the best version of myself, yet (or ever).

    I started noticing negative effects maybe 5 years ago. Anxiety, headaches, and panic attacks started first. I never had these problems before. Then, daily negative effects like chest pains, headaches, and more anxiety attacks. I took time off using for maybe a year.

    What really helped me was going to the doctor consistently (thank you, Obamacare). The “white coat effect” – knowing whats going on in my body – quieted my anxiety and gave me confidence, physically. My blood pressure was high (for someone at a normal weight), heart palpitations, headaches were caused by HBP… Took some medication to reduce HBP and I lost weight, worked out more, and ate healthier… Things have gotten better this last year.

    But I do all of this and see blow as a reward for maintaining my health to an OK point for a 30 year old. I really want to shake this part. My career is super high-stress and I’m at point in life where I can’t stop working. I dealt with depression for a long time, I don’t want to go back. But, I end up drinking after work every Friday and that always leads to me chasing the yayo.

    [The only real thing that really got me off it for an extended period recently (and I didn’t care) was TRAVELING. Go out, see the world if you can. The HIGH of exploring new places and meeting new people was better than any of the purest stuff I could find. I enjoyed it so much that I put myself into debt and now I’m back into the cycle I explained before. Hope this helps someone.]

    • Mat, we have a very similar story. I would love to talk about it sometime if you want to of course. Maybe we could help each other.

  19. I am 47 now very worried about what will happen… I am struggling to stop still having 1 day binges every 4 weeks.

  20. I used for no longer than 6 months 2-3 days a week and I feel like I have the long term effects of a 6 year user. I forget things almost instantly sometimes. I’ve always been so smart and focused but now my anxiety is shot and I can’t hold a conversation. I find myself losing my train of thought constantly and can’t even listen to people for long periods of time without spacing out during the middle of the conversation.

    Even the most simple things like counting money confuses me at times… I am young and made a stupid decision, I have my whole life ahead of me I truly hope I won’t be this way forever.

  21. I am 24 and I have been using cocaine heavily off and on since I was 19. I sobered up for the most part, but never fully. I grew up in a good home, and the drugs have caused me to do some pretty horrible things. I’m trying so hard to fully stop and I am doing really well, but how long is it going to take to feel normal again? Did I cause enough damage that it just wont. Time will tell I guess. Feeling caught in the middle of a horrific battle with myself. It’s terrifying not knowing if you will ever feel/think like you used too.

  22. Cocaine is hell of a drug. I’ve been snorting/selling it very consistently now for about 10 years and I’m only 26. I’ve been to the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but just recently I’ve decided it’s time to throw in the towel. And as much as I try, it seems to just want to pull me back in… doesn’t help knowing where to get it.

    As with long term effects, I can tell I’ve got a long road ahead of me. I’m in shape and somewhat healthy, but between my nose and paranoia, I’m definitely in need of a doctor’s visit. If I can pass any knowledge or insight for anyone – just never try the damn drug… nothing BUT trouble.

    • Same here River I’m in the same vicious circle… as I write this I have just had my last line (I say for the millionth time) and have been awake since 8am Monday and a 1/4 ounce gone… wish I hadn’t had the first line 10 year ago… I wish you all the best in your battle with your demons.

  23. Firstly, thank you for compiling what is the most reasonable and non-alarmist lists on this topic I’ve found. Fighting back my lack of motivation I can report that after three years of usage (1-8 grams on weekends) I’ve had the following effects:

    – Memory degradation, primarily with new memory formation (anterograde)
    – Anxiety
    – Heart palpitations
    – Reduced spatial awareness (maps, location)
    – Difficulty concentrating
    – Reduced motivation
    – Difficulty spelling (which was completely alien to me beforehand)
    – Difficulty reasoning out complex tasks
    – Paranoia
    – GI problems

    If it’s of any interest to anyone but me, I’ve reduced my intake to <1g per week and many of the symptoms are significantly reduced. I hope to stop altogether.

  24. Hello reader, I am a 25 y/o female who has been abusing cocaine for about a 1-2 years now. I’ve found myself at times getting high alone. How did any of you guys address the issue and are living a sober life? I have never felt so lost, I never really understood the ‘high’ of yay. But I can’t stop chasing it. I guess I’m curious about the ‘euphoric’ high–I’ve only felt close to that with large amounts of abuse in little time. I go about a gram a day… F*ck me right?

    • I’m 25 too, used for 2 years, gram a day. I just started going to church and start outpatient tomorrow. It has started to dramatically impact my life and I realize it had become bigger than me. I can’t quit alone.

    • I’m 29 and in the same situation I’ve been using for about 3 years now – sometimes during the week but large amounts on the weekend. The more I have, the faster I do it… I too feel like I’ve lost my way, and it’s stronger than me. I miss myself … in the back of my mind I’m usually thinking about getting high. Anyways I’m looking around and ready to make the steps I need to to change and get off it. Good luck.

  25. I smoked crack for 10 years… on a daily basis. I am now disabled, even though I have been cleaned for 6 years, will be 7 years on Oct. 18th, I am now experiencing things with my muscles and nerves. I still have paranoia I have to deal with and a host of other things… Let go and let God.

  26. I used crack cocaine since 93 until 2010 with the longest clean time being 1.4 years due to jail, rehab, and halfway house. All court ordered and some small periods being clean but only of a month or so here and there. Using was insane, .25 to .50 ounces on many days with sharing and selling some but partaking in most of it.

    I think my brain went into detox shock when I finally stopped for good in Oct 2010. Then I had serious nervous breakdown as I am bipolar I with Psychotic Features. This occurred one month after stopping alcohol and cigarettes for good. I ended up relapsing as help from outpatient and psych. meds were not helping the severe depression and psychosis.

    I’ve been in and out of psych hospitals and jail and different out patient programs forever now and still have a therapist and regular shrink. I think I am fried for life as I’ve had some absolutely insane episodes like flashing my neighbors, running up my hill screaming find them. The pow’s. What is wrong with me? I had cops to my house several times as well.

    I was singing the National Anthem in front of neighbors window at the top of my lungs. Perhaps being in the Marine Corps for just a year due to psychiatric problems and drug problems may have set me up for some of my crazy behavior. The time in solitary in the brig and psych hospital were both crazy and filled with mania.

    I’m sorry I ever left the Marines as that may have been the best place for me. I can’t go back so I’ll just have to plow ahead with what I’ve got. Good luck to everybody with your issues. Anyone else as f*cked up as me? Frank

    • Frank I did coke heavy for 32 years. Decided to stop because the quality went way down. I’ve been clean over 6 years and never felt so bad. No interest in anything. I don’t bathe , shower or shave. I still brush my teeth though. Life is a living hell. EVERY DAY.

      I think coke because it’s so caustic eats your cartilage away. I have had one hip re-surfaced and on 11/17 going for the other hip. Both my knees and right shoulder need replacing. I have no interest in anything. I was a big baseball and football fan. Had partial season tickets to the Phillies.

      Now I don’t know one player on the team. NOTHING gives me joy or pleasure. I contemplate suicide every day to get out of this living hell. All I know is that things will never get better. I sit in pajamas all day and just keep crying. I’m doomed and know it. Best of luck, Frank and God Bless, Nicholas.

      • Thanks for reply Niklas. I’m in hell with you. No pleasure in life at all. Plus October I had my large intestine removed due to ulcerative colitis which may have been caused from cracking and coke. Wearing iliostomy bag and my sh-t hangs off my body til I empty bag. Sleep like sh-t, food, girls, try to work now… Time just looks at me laughing saying “suffer.” So much regret because I had so much and f-cked it all up with drugs and alcohol and bipolar 1 disorder. G’day.

  27. Hello, I am 21 and I’ve done cocaine on and off since I was 17. I would guess I have done cocaine 60-200 times. I’ve also smoked weed since 16 and have been doing adderal for 2 years. I use cocaine as a study drug when I don’t have adderall. I’m about to complete my 4th year in college and I have a 3.72, but at the expense of drugs that are reducing my fitness.

    This past year in particular I have done a lot of cocaine because I was living with my boyfriend (an enabling fiend) who had a brother that sold it and would hook him up. In the past year I have experienced a tight pressure on the left side of the chest, palpitations, and orthostatic hyportension on occasion. I do cocaine in such high doses that I become irritable, and very stiff, especially in the neck, as well as tight in the shoulder muscles.

    I’ve had my psychotic moments and done crazy things on cocaine… I even got a frlony possession charge when I was 17. I have always picked coke up and left it alone, but never for good. But I want to change that tomorrow, because I don’t want to possibly do damage to my peripheral nerves or brain, and I don’t want to strain my young heart any longer. I’m frightened to think that the orthostatic hypotension (which I experienced today) may be a precursor to CHF.

    My bones feel dense too, and it doesn’t help that I’m on Depo-provera: I don’t eat good because of my financial situation and because of my stimulant use, which is why I also rely on weed. It’s just so hard because I don’t feel like I have a good support system or means of coping with all the stress I feel, but I will try to overcome my problems and seek help with someone I can trust. I’m too young to feel like I’m burning out or not good enough to achieve my dreams (I want to be a P.A… Yeah).

    I’d also like to mention that sometimes when I use cocaine and marijuana more frequently than usual I feel tingling in the arms and feet/legs. One summer (2014) my hands kept falling asleep while I would drive which was scary. I did so much cocaine that summer that I got fired from my job for making an obscene gesture to some rude customers.

    • Livas you can still help your body by exercising every week. Go to NA meetings every week even though you think it’s not helping you and get a sponsor, this really helps.

  28. One of the most insightful websites on long term use and very few comments. So sad. Wish there was more discussion as I feel 90% of my issues at the age of 44 are due to what’s described here compared to most.

  29. I am having a terrible time after eight years of quitting crack cocaine. I used the drug for over twenty years, one day I was using and the next day I had no cravings at all. After many attempts in drug rehabs I tried a Christian Free Indeed weekly meetings and this is how I stopped by praying. Thinking my life would be better at age 53 my life just go worse. I stayed with the church for over a year practically living there volunteering and attending Friday night meetings with other ex users.

    The effects on my brain were just beginning. I continued to suffer with depression that I sought help for several times over the eight years with no success. After therapy sessions I would still come home with a big question mark over my head because I noticed I was experiencing the same behavior as when I was getting high. I began using the computer more which I substituted for the cocaine.

    Before I realized this, my therapist would tell me “your a very resourceful person and high functioning” The truth was I was going in circles, when I used to get high I had the euphoric feelings saying to myself ” I can do that or I can do this” but of course these feelings would dissipate and soon after I’d be on the computer looking for something else to do. I kept starting and stopping, getting interested in something that quickly faded away, having trouble concentrating, focusing the depression would come and go.

    This type of scenario would go on for the duration of the eight years I am clean I’m just sober now and the low functioning has intensified to the point where I’m extremely depressed now, absolutely no interest in anything, no connection to anything, all the things described in the article I am below that now. I kept searching my condition and what I was experiencing, I had no idea the drug could last in your body and mind this long.

    And I’m amazed with all the therapist I’ve seen and the many psychiatric hospitals I’ve had to admit myself in, explaining over and over again the cognitive problems I’m having no one ever mentioned it’s due to the long term crack cocaine use. This was never addressed, mental health is always saying if you need help reach out to someone. I am easily overwhelmed, it takes me forever to complete different tasks, I also have dementia in my family I have symptoms of ADHD.

    Yes, there could be a combination of things going on, schizophrenia was mentioned in a neuropsychological report. I didn’t suffer with physical withdrawals at all, the urge to get high was completely gone and I don’t even think about getting high. I could not connect with 12 step groups and I wondered did I miss something by not attending. I stole from myself, I got high by myself, recently I looked for alternative 12 step I’m so indecisive and unsure and uncertain of what I’m doing.

    I feel as though I’m in a maze and can’t get out and I’m tired of trying. I also have fatigue from two long term medical issues. I get a lot of minimizing the symptoms from others so I rarely discuss. I visited a online drug free foundation and the person could relate to what I was describing, however his referrals were to an outrageously priced holistic alternative drug rehab, but it was nice to finally speak to someone who understood. Thanks for listening. -cj

    • I feel the same exact way. That is called the chemical imbalance. Start juicing to give your body what it’s been missing and enjoy life. Even though I feel like you, I’m not going to let that stop me from living. Don’t let anything control you. Be a better person. Aliens are real and are coming soon. Look up.

    • I too have 9 years off crack. I’m am struggling mentally and physically with the same or at least some of the same issues as you are. I really don’t think they have a handle in the long term effects of coke use and in what way these effects can now be treated so that we don’t attempt self medicating and can live our lives out in a productive quality lifestyle.

    • I am recovering from over 20 years of crack cocaine use and have been experiencing mental health symptoms similar to yours – especially brain fog and apathy.

    • Keep seeking to find the right treatment. Don’t give up. Change your doc, get a new opinion. Some are more willing to try cavalier approaches to novel situations such as the one you’re in. Maybe look into HITT alongside an omega-3 rich diet. Look at ways to increase neurotrophic, especially BDNF, factors.

      There are some crazy fascinating and highly effective treatments that just might work for you, but you need to seek them and other opinions. I’m afraid to give medical advice and outline specific treatments on a mental health website as I’m not a doctor. However if one were to venture towards NMDA antagonist (a specific one) treatment, or a doctor that can prescribe it (I believe there’s still but only a handful of treatment centers for this) someone in your situation may find relief. Or not, but it’s worth a gander.

  30. Used excessive amounts of cocaine for 1 1/2-2 years. I’ve been clean for about 2 years. I’ve noticed since I’ve been clean that I have issues with my weight, I’ve lost more then I gained. I occasionally get nosebleeds, sometimes twice in one day or none at all.

  31. I have been clean for 3 months after I have been snorting coke for 4 years almost everyday 1/3 grams in weekends maybe more than 15 grams. I lost weight. Would I ever go back to my normal body weight? My brain is damaged. I forget easy or not recall names at all, will I recover from this? I’m still paranoid. At least it increased my level of alertness. LOL.

  32. I abused cocaine about three to four times a week for four months. There were times when I did very high doses. I haven’t done it in about five years. However I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in two years ago and doctors think it may have been caused by drug use. I also smoked weed for a year and did spice three times. Does anyone know which of these drugs could’ve caused the schizoaffective disorder?

    • I have a family history of schizophrenia I’ve heard doing this can trigger it. I’ve done it for about 9 years. Never daily but once a week. How did you figure out it was time to see a psychiatrist?

  33. Used cocaine on and off for ten years. Snorting or IV usage. It has been thirty years since I used. What can I expect healthwise? Where can I go to see if I can improve any damage that may have occurred?

    • Seeing a doctor would be the best way to start. Then look at diet and exercise. Exercise increases blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex as well as strengthen damaged vessels and increase bone mass. A healthy diet also helps the aforementioned items and will synergize well with regular exercise. Some people get results with magnesium supplementation. Some seek out a treatment consisting of a stronger NMDA antagonist, under the careful watch of a doctor, to increase synaptoplasticity (and thus brain health) and reduce the depression caused from stimulant abuse.

  34. I have been taking cocaine 3 times a week maybe between 4/8 for five years straight. I have given up on my own as I’m feeling too poorly to take it. I have times where my brain feels shaky and dizzy, irregular heartbeat, and palpitations. I’ve been clean 10 weeks. I’m going to gym and I feel like I get hot and wanna pass out. But I’m still going. Will I be able to mend myself? I’m 45 as well. I don’t drink or smoke. Cocaine is all I’ve known for 5 years and I’ve done it hard. I hope that I can change my body back and my brain.

    • With regards to brain function returning to baseline: most doctors say at at best 90 days, but between 6 months and 3 years is a good time frame for when things even back out. But that was a year ago, hope your sobriety is still going well.

  35. I was recently told after a breath test I have a “blockage” in my lungs…I still need to see a specialist but I attribute it to semi regular long term drug use.


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