Cocaine is highly addictive. Injecting it raises the odds for addiction and elevates the rate of drug dependence more rapidly.
Injecting cocaine is highly dangerous. Consequences include overdose, contraction of infectious diseases, and death.
Cocaine is an extremely potent and addictive stimulant drug that is mainly found in the United States as an illegal recreational drug of abuse.
In rock form, crack cocaine is generally smoked. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) publishes that the white powder form of the drug is usually snorted or dissolved in water and injected.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that in 2016, there were close to two million Americans who were considered current users of cocaine.
Cocaine does have some minor medicinal uses as a topical anesthetic, but most of the time, the drug is illicit and therefore unregulated. As a result, purity and potency can be difficult to ascertain.
The risk of toxic overdose is high when injecting cocaine. The drug is a powerful stimulant drug that raises heart rate, body temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure. A cocaine overdose can be fatal.
Injecting cocaine sends the drug into the bloodstream quickly, which increases its possible risk factors.
As a stimulant drug, cocaine interacts with the central nervous system and speeds up life-sustaining functions. Cocaine increases energy, wakefulness, excitement, and pleasure.
Injecting cocaine causes the drug to rapidly cross the barrier between the blood and the brain, which can amplify the effects of the drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that cocaine is a fast-acting drug that wears off quickly. Injecting the drug can cause the effects to kick in within minutes and wear off within 15 to 30 minutes.
Since cocaine wears off so fast, it is often taken in binge patterns. This means that doses are taken back to back to hold off the crash that ensues when the drug processes out of the body.
Injecting cocaine increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which accounts for the rush of euphoria or the intense high. This is followed by the significant comedown after the drug wears off and dopamine levels drop.
A cocaine high can cause the following:
Large amounts of cocaine can also cause irritability, paranoia, agitation, aggression, panic attacks, and violent and unpredictable behaviors.
Cocaine use can cause irrational behaviors with no regard to consequences, which raises the odds for an accident, injury, criminal behavior, or unsafe sexual encounters.
The cocaine crash can cause side effects that are often opposite of those of cocaine high. These can include the following:
Regular use of cocaine interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate its brain chemistry, which can lead to drug tolerance and increasing dosages as a result. As you become used to certain amounts of cocaine, you will need more to keep feeling the same high.
Repeated use of cocaine also raises the rate of drug dependence, and injecting cocaine can lead to drug dependence quicker. When cocaine wears off after dependence has formed, the drug cravings and emotional withdrawal symptoms can be intense. Cocaine use can then become compulsive.
Cocaine is highly addictive, as addiction is defined by chronic and compulsive drug use that occurs as a result of brain chemistry disruptions and behavioral changes. A person battling addiction is unable to stop using cocaine without help despite a potential desire to do so.
NSDUH publishes that just under 1 million Americans struggled with cocaine addiction in 2016. Cocaine addiction can lead to social, emotional, occupational, legal, criminal, financial, and interpersonal problems.
Cocaine use can cause irregular heart rate, increased body temperature, dilated pupils, nausea, restlessness, hypertension (high blood pressure), constricted blood vessels, tremors, and muscle twitches in addition to the other listed emotional and physical side effects.
All possible risk factors and side effects of cocaine are amplified by injecting the drug, as it is a faster route of administration. The risk for heart attack or stroke is heightened when injecting cocaine, for example.
Long-term side effects of injecting cocaine include collapsed veins, scarring or “track marks,” skin infections, and an increased risk for contracting an infectious disease, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.
Injecting cocaine can also carry the following additional risks, as published by Psychology Today:
It can be next to impossible to know exactly what is in illicit cocaine, as the drug is often cut with other substances to stretch the product and make it go further on the street.
For instance, Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes that as of July 2009, nearly three-quarters of all cocaine coming into the United States contained levamisole, a toxin used as a deworming agent in animals. It can be highly toxic to humans.
Other common additives in cocaine are:
Cocaine purity can be difficult to determine. Injecting cocaine brings the risk for sudden death, even from one use, which may be due to an allergic or negative reaction to something else contained in the drug.
One of the biggest risk factors for injecting cocaine is the high potential for toxic overdose, which can be fatal. NIDA publishes that there were nearly 14,000 fatal drug overdoses involving cocaine in the United States in 2017.”
Injecting cocaine elevates the odds for overdose greatly, which is indicated by the following signs:
A cocaine overdose can cause a heart attack or stroke, both of which can be life-threatening. The risk for an overdose on cocaine is increased by injecting the drug and also by mixing it with other drugs or alcohol.
Cocaine can be deadly in small amounts. As an unpredictable drug often mixed with a variety of cutting agents, there is no safe amount of cocaine that can be injected.
Cocaine. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/cocaine
(September 2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm
(July 2018). What is Cocaine? National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
(June 2012). Complications Associated with Levamisole-Contaminated Cocaine: An Emerging Public Health Challenge. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498128/
(January 2019). Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates