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What Does Cocaine Do To Your Brain

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is highly addictive and can cause severe damage to the brain. Even if you only use cocaine a few times, you are still at risk of damaging your brain. In this article, you’ll learn what cocaine is, what exactly it can do to your brain, and which treatment options are available to help you overcome your cocaine addiction.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is made from the leaves of a coca plant and is typically snorted. It can also be injected (known as crack cocaine). Cocaine is an extremely dangerous drug and can have many short-term and long-term effects on the brain, affecting your health over time. It is considered a stimulant, which means it affects the central nervous system.

How Does Cocaine Abuse Affect the Brain?

Cocaine abuse can have serious effects on the physical brain. Specifically, when cocaine is used, energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety levels, and breathing rate are all increased very rapidly. While people might feel like they have increased mental alertness, energy, and happiness, this is very short-lived and the toll the other symptoms take on the brain and body is severe. Because all of these symptoms occur so quickly, the brain experiences a large amount of activity very fast, which is taxing. 

Cocaine increases dopamine levels within the brain, which affects brain function. Essentially, when cocaine is used the brain receives such a large amount of dopamine that your brain cells are not able to communicate the way they normally would. 

Additionally, the brain becomes desensitized to dopamine levels over time and therefore, people need even higher amounts of cocaine in order to feel anything from the drug. It also becomes difficult in life to feel joy and happiness without using cocaine. 

Cocaine affects the brain with both short-term and long-term use.

What are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use on the Brain?

Short-term effects of cocaine on the brain include:

How Chronic Cocaine Use Affects the Brain

Long term cocaine use can have serious implications on the brain. These can include:

Cocaine Overdose

If you are someone who uses cocaine, even just a few times, you are at risk of overdose. The symptoms of a cocaine overdose can include (but are not limited to) nausea and vomiting, chest pain, tremors, paranoia, and increased heart rate. If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately.


Cocaine use is a serious problem that needs the treatment of professionals.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

The good news is there are several effective treatment options for helping you with your cocaine addiction. Professional medically-supervised detox is the first step in treating this addiction, as it helps remove the drug from the body. 

Once the detox process is complete, inpatient rehab can provide you with a structured, supportive environment that provides around-the-clock care. The purpose of inpatient treatment is to help you identify your underlying reasons for wanting to use drugs in the first place, and provide you with emotional tools to deal with life’s challenges in healthy ways. Individual therapy and group therapy sessions are incorporated into the program.

Mental health services are also proven to be very effective when it comes to addressing and treating cocaine addiction since it’s common for individuals to have co-occurring disorders (such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, or others). By addressing both the addiction itself and the underlying causes, individuals are set up for the highest chance of success at overcoming their addiction for life.

Get Treatment For Drug Abuse

Our team at Gloria Rehab is here to help you get your life back from substance abuse. Each of our therapies and programs provides patients with a unique and individualized approach to care for both drug addiction and alcohol addiction, as well as co-occurring disorders. 

Contact us today to begin the treatment process. Our team is also available to answer questions related to your health insurance coverage for our therapies. 

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Review by: Hasmik Karapetyan, PMHNP, MSN, RN​

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