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What Are the Medical Complications of Cocaine Abuse?

In the body cocaine causes the release of large amounts of the stress hormone noradrenaline, which causes the blood vessels in the body to narrow and your blood pressure to go up. As a result, some of the most frequent complications are effects on the heart. Cocaine can increase the heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. It can disrupt the electrical messages to the heart and bring on serious irregularities of the heart beat, called ventricular fibrillation. It can cause heart attacks and stroke.

The main blood vessel in the body, known as the aorta, can be damaged by cocaine use. This can lead to a tearing of the lining of the aorta, known as an aortic dissection. This tends to cause a crushing pain in the upper back or chest.

Cocaine can affect the lungs, causing chest pains, and sometimes the lungs may stop working. It can affect the brain, resulting in fever and headaches as well as strokes and seizures, and it can affect the stomach, causing abdominal pain and nausea. Chronic cocaine users can lose their appetites and become run-down, with accompanying weight loss. Eating cocaine can damage the blood supply to the bowel, resulting in gangrene.

Mental health effects are many and varied. Cocaine commonly causes anxiety, restlessness, panic attacks, depression and feelings of paranoia. This can lead to a paranoid psychosis where the person loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations (a sensation of hearing voices).

Regular users of cocaine can become impulsive and aggressive in their behaviour and lose their sense of perspective. This can lead to more violence and risk-taking, for example when driving.

Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

There is a potentially dangerous interaction between cocaine and alcohol. Taken in combination, the two drugs are converted by the body to cocaethylene. Alcohol makes cocaine last longer because of the way the drugs interact in the liver. Mixing cocaine and alcohol significantly increases the risk of heart attack.


What Is Cannabis?

The cannabis plant contains many different chemicals and can come in many different strengths, with variable effects. The plant is used as either the resin (a brownish/black lump) or as herbal cannabis, which is made from the dried leaves and flowering tops. Other names for cannabis include ‘marijuana’, ‘weed’, ‘puff, ‘hash’ and ‘wacky backy’. Cannabis is usually taken by mixing it with tobacco. It is then inhaled deeply into the lungs for a number of seconds. Cannabis can also be smoked in a pipe and can be brewed as tea or even cooked as ‘hash cakes’.