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Shooting Cocaine: Side Effects and Dangers

Shooting Cocaine: Side Effects and Dangers

What Happens When You Shoot Cocaine?
Besides increasing the odds of addiction and overdose, injecting cocaine can lead to hallucinations, chest pain, seizures, confusion, and paranoia. Users may develop track marks, collapsed veins, and infections from shooting the drug. Cocaine also contains many additives that can be toxic to users.

Cocaine is a stimulant with potential effects that include euphoria, increased energy, and talkativeness. It’s an extremely addictive drug and is most commonly abused by injection (shooting) or nasal insufflation (snorting). The high associated with cocaine use is relatively short-lived, lasting about 15-30 minutes when snorted and even shorter when injected.

Cocaine is often used in a binge pattern in which the person who uses it repeatedly takes the substance over a short period of time. Binging is a dangerous practice that can increase the risk of developing an addiction to cocaine.

Intravenous (IV) use cocaine is particularly risky because it can quickly lead to addiction. There are a number of harmful consequences associated with shooting cocaine, including:

  • Aggression.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Paranoia.
  • Auditory hallucinations.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Chest pain (angina).
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Seizures.
  • Confusion.
  • Coma.

If a person suffers from chronic anxiety, lethargy, or stress, the allure of a stimulant such as cocaine might be understandable. But the positive effects from shooting cocaine – such as becoming more personable, energetic, and self-confident – are eclipsed by the severe long-term psychological and physical harm the practice can cause. Shooting cocaine is highly addictive and the effects wear off quickly, triggering a craving for more of the drug.

Effects of Shooting Cocaine

As a stimulant drug, cocaine works by manipulating various elements of brain chemistry. Part of the reason for its profoundly rewarding, pleasurable effects is its influence on a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine.

Dopamine is primarily associated with regulating reward and pleasure in the brain. Cocaine increases dopamine activity, inducing a feeling of pleasure when the drug is used. This pleasurable feeling acts as positive reinforcement within the brain and leads to long-term changes in brain chemistry.

When someone uses cocaine for an extended period of time, they develop a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of using the substance. They then need more of the drug to experience euphoria. This pattern of ever-increasing use can lead to dependence and addiction.

How cocaine affects an individual depends on a wide range of factors, some of which include:

  • How it’s ingested.
  • The amount used.
  • How pure the batch is.
  • The types of additives used to cut the batch.
  • A person’s emotional state at time of use.

Persistent cocaine use creates a domino effect that changes the brain chemistry, throws off the regulatory process of the central nervous system, and damages physical processes in a person’s body. The side effects and dangers associated with IV cocaine use are many, and they tend to grow worse with ongoing use.

If you or someone you know struggles with cocaine addiction, understanding how the drug works on the mind and the body, as well as finding the best private cocaine inpatient facility available, might bring you closer to breaking its addictive hold on your life. Call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to speak to a treatment placement advisor about finding the best cocaine abuse recovery center for you.

Dangers of Cocaine Additives

Cocaine’s ability to damage the body depends heavily on what is used to prepare or “cut” a particular batch of the substance. Cocaine sold on the street has most likely been cut with additive agents designed to thin out the dealer’s stash or approximate the effects of the drug. While some additives might be relatively harmless, some cuts can be toxic.

Over time, the effects of cocaine additives can also wear on the health of the user. The most common additives found in illicit supplies of cocaine include:

  • Baking soda.
  • Sugar.
  • Ephedrine.
  • Local anesthetics.
  • Other drugs, such as methamphetamine.
  • Animal de-wormer.

Animal de-wormer has become very popular to cut cocaine with. It has a number of harmful effects, including:

  • Death of skin cells.
  • Low white blood cell count.
  • Skin lesions.
  • Joint pain.

The high can be much more intense among people who shoot cocaine compared to those who snort it. Shooting up creates the quickest and most intense effects because the drug goes directly into a person’s bloodstream. The trade-off for this speed and intensity is that shooting up creates another set of risk factors.

Cocaine and Emergency Room Visits

People who experience physical problems from cocaine use might require emergency room care. The Drug Abuse Warning Network found that in 2009:

  • Nearly 423,000 emergency room visits were associated with cocaine use.
  • More than 150,000 emergency department visits involved concurrent alcohol and cocaine use.
  • More boys and men than girls and women required emergency room care for cocaine use.
  • The most common age range for cocaine emergency room visits was 35-44 years old.

Emergency room visits related to cocaine use are associated with:

  • Lack of blood or oxygen to the heart (cardiac ischemia).
  • Seizures.
  • Chest pain.
  • Psychiatric changes (such as symptoms of psychosis).
  • Bodily injury.
  • Skin infections.
  • Dental problems.

Brain Effects of Shooting Cocaine

Shortly after a person injects cocaine, the drug enters the brain and influences the dopamine-releasing cells (neurons). The high concentrations of dopamine that result create the intense high brought on by cocaine.

Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating a range of bodily functions, including:

  • Attention span.
  • Learning.
  • Movement.
  • Physical and emotional tension/relaxation states.

Dopamine’s effects on these functions explain why people experience bursts of energy, racing thoughts, and extreme happiness after shooting cocaine. Over time, a person needs more and more cocaine to create the same effects. This need for increased amounts of the drug to achieve the desired results is a driving force toward the development of addiction.

Dopamine also is associated with regulating pleasure and motivation. It’s typically released when an individual engages in pro-survival activities such as having sex and consuming food. This release positively reinforces these behaviors. Dopamine is typically released into the brain space between neurons where it elicits its pleasurable effects prior to being returned to the neuron. This process is called dopamine re-uptake.

Cocaine hijacks the brain’s reward system and disrupts this process by blocking the re-uptake of dopamine back into the neuron, thus increasing concentrations of the neurotransmitter in the brain.

This accumulation of dopamine is responsible for the “high,” or the euphoria experienced when cocaine is abused. It can motivate an individual to keep injecting cocaine to feel the intense pleasure associated with using it.

Eventually no amount of cocaine can create the substance’s desired effects. By the time a person reaches this point, their nervous system and brain functions have undergone considerable damage.

If you see these signs in yourself or a loved one, you need to get help. Our treatment placement advisors can help you find a comprehensive cocaine addiction treatment program that suits your needs. Please call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? and start the journey to recovery today.

Addictive Effects of Shooting Cocaine

Injecting cocaine causes the drug to reach the brain more quickly than other methods of administration, such as snorting or smoking. However, the high doesn’t last as long in people who shoot up. This quick turnaround can cause individuals to use cocaine repeatedly in a short period of time, a practice that can quickly lead to dependence and addiction.

Many people who inject cocaine feel a craving for more of the drug soon after shooting up. These cravings are a sign that the brain has begun to balance out the abnormally high levels of dopamine. When this happens, a person might start to feel anxious, irritable, or paranoid while maintaining some of the positive high effects.

A person who has used cocaine repeatedly may feel diminished amounts of pleasure from survival needs, such as eating and having sex. Important changes to the neurons occur and the brain begins to need cocaine to function normally and experience euphoria. When a person stops using cocaine, he or she goes through unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Slow movements and thoughts.
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
  • Trouble staying awake (hypersomnia).
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Severe cravings.
  • Inability to feel pleasure.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

In order to alleviate or prevent these withdrawal symptoms, some people will continue to use cocaine. This practice can lead to a severe addiction, especially in those who inject the drug. The overall toll cocaine can have on the body may lead to a wide range of mental and physical problems depending on how long a person has used cocaine and his or her health condition.

Physical Signs of Cocaine Abuse

Shooting cocaine
Shooting cocaine is associated with rapid progression towards addiction. This type of addiction tends to be more severe than it is in people who snort cocaine.

Cocaine addiction can develop as quickly as within a few weeks or months after beginning use. When a person who’s dependent on cocaine stops using, they’ll likely have a strong craving to use the drug in addition to characteristic signs and symptoms of acute cocaine withdrawal. Cravings and withdrawal avoidance can both perpetuate problematic use.

Repeated cocaine use results in tolerance to the stimulant, meaning the person using feels a decreased response to cocaine, diminished euphoria, and increased feelings of unease or dissatisfaction. Some of the risks of repeatedly shooting cocaine include:

  • Needle marks on the skin (“track marks”).
  • Collapsed veins.
  • Contraction of hepatitis C or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Abscesses.
  • Infection in the lining of the heart (endocarditis).

Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose

People who’ve used cocaine long-term are at serious risk of overdosing because their bodies crave increasingly larger doses over time. Some of the symptoms to look for in someone who might be overdosing include:

  • Visual or auditory hallucinations (acute psychosis syndrome).
  • Delirium.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Cocaine Abuse and Heart Problems

Heart problems from cocaine
Cocaine is well known for its ability to increase a person’s mental and physical energy levels. These reactions have to do with cocaine’s effects on the body’s sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system centers on the heart and blood vessels, which operate at high speed under cocaine’s effects. With increased sympathetic “tone,” cocaine users experience an increase in heart rate and a narrowing of blood vessels. Together these conditions can lead to dangerous increases in blood pressure and compromised blood flow to the heart (myocardial ischemia, or heart attack) and other parts of the body.

According to the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research, these effects work to decrease the normal blood supply to the heart. Depending on a person’s overall health status, decreased blood supplies can trigger:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Rupture of the heart’s aortic valve.

With long-term IV cocaine abuse, an individual may experience stiffening of the arteries in the heart. This effect further increases the risk of heart attack, especially when a person continues to use the drug. The heart complications brought on by shooting cocaine, as well as by other methods of use, have sent cocaine users of all ages to the emergency room with complaints of chest pains, palpitations, and racing heart rates.

Chest pain (angina) and heart attack are the most common cocaine-related complications reported in medical journals. People who have a long history of IV cocaine use often frequent the emergency room, with up to 40% of these patients complaining of chest pains. Heart palpitation symptoms account for another 21% of cocaine-related emergency room visits.

These factors point to how cocaine weakens the heart and blood vessels over time. If you see these signs in yourself or a loved one, don’t panic. Treatment can help you overcome even the most severe cocaine dependency and related health problems. Call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to find out more about treatment options for cocaine abuse and addiction.

Disease Risks of Shooting Cocaine

The danger of ongoing IV cocaine use poses health risks beyond those faced by people who use the drug via other routes (e.g. snorting, smoking). Over time, the repeated piercing of the skin can develop into a condition known as cellulitis, an infection that forms at injection sites. These infections can spread deep into the soft tissue beneath an injection site.

Other conditions that can develop from cellulitis due to shooting cocaine include:

  • Tetanus.
  • Heart valve infections.
  • Lung abscesses.
  • Abscesses at the injection site.

Also of concern are the practices of sharing needles and “cooking” equipment when shooting cocaine within a group. Unless these items are sterilized each time a person shoots up, the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C increase dramatically, according to a paper published by Princeton University in 1990. While it’s well known that needle-sharing in drug use places every member in the group at risk, the sharing of equipment such as cotton balls, spoons, or cookers provides other ways for disease-related viruses to travel from person to person.

Getting Help for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

If you or someone you know is trying to stop shooting cocaine, call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? for more information. Rehab placement advisors are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you find the best cocaine treatment program for you.


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  2. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
  3. “Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies.” Substances. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/appsych/chibps/cocaine.
  4. Lee, Kachiu C., Barry Ladizinski, and Daniel G. Federman. “Complications Associated With Use of Levamisole-Contaminated Cocaine: An Emerging Public Health Challenge.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings6 (2012): 581-86. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  5. “Drug-Related Hospital Emergency Room Visits.” DrugFacts:. May 2011. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  6. Brody, Steven L., Corey M. Slovis, and Keith D. Wrenn. “Cocaine-related Medical Problems: Consecutive Series of 233 Patients.” The American Journal of Medicine4 (1990): 325-31. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  7. Koppel, Barbara S., Lawrence Samkoff, and Michael Daras. “Relation of Cocaine Use to Seizures and Epilepsy.” Epilepsia9 (1996): 875-78. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  8. Hollander, Judd E., Robert S. Hoffman, Paul Gennis, Phillip Fairweather, Michael J. Disano, David A. Schumb, James A. Feldman, Susan S. Fish, Sophia Dyer, Paul Wax, Chris Whelan, and Evan Schwarzwald. “Prospective Multicenter Evaluation of Cocaine-associated Chest Pain.” Academic Emergency Medicine4 (2008): 330-39. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
  9. “How Does Cocaine Produce Its Effects?” How Does Cocaine Produce Its Effects? 2010. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.

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