Cocaine is a drug that has been used for centuries, first in South America in the form of coca leaves, and then by the Western world, in its more distilled form. Cocaine is often snorted, but it can be injected or smoked. This article looks at the risks and health problems of ingesting cocaine orally and the long-term effects.

Understanding Cocaine

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant, and people have been chewing it for thousands of years. In South America, the Andean tribes used coca leaves for religious or medicinal purposes. In the 16th century, the Spanish were introduced to coca leaves during their colonization of South America, but it was only as recently as the 19th century that the alkaloid in coca leaves was isolated and purified to produce cocaine.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, cocaine was used as a local anesthetic in surgeries and dental procedures. As people became aware of its addictive potential, though, people began to use it at social gatherings. By the late 20th century, cocaine abuse had become a significant problem.

While coca leaves were traditionally chewed or brewed into teas, today, cocaine is typically snorted or injected, if it’s in liquid form. Cocaine also comes in rock-like crystals, crack cocaine, which is smoked.


Oral Consumption of Cocaine

The oral consumption of cocaine usually refers to people snorting the cocaine powder or rubbing it on their gums. When consumed orally, the drug must pass through the digestive system first before entering the bloodstream. This results in a slower absorption. Due to the slower absorption, users typically get a mild but prolonged high. The rush is also less intense.

Smoking crack cocaine involves inhaling vaporized crack cocaine crystals. Although users get a very quick high, the effects last only for a few minutes. Users may also choose to inject liquid cocaine. The cocaine is dissolved in water and injected directly into the bloodstream. Injection provides an immediate and intense high but also comes with high risks of overdose and infections (if needles are shared).

Users who are looking for mild effects that will last a long time tend to prefer snorting cocaine. Orally ingesting cocaine can be safer as users prevent the health risks that come with injecting it. Others may prefer chewing coca leaves or brewing them into teas as it may be more socially acceptable.

Immediate Effects on the Body

When cocaine users eat or snort it, the stimulant drug passes through the digestive system first. This process slows down the rate of absorption, which means the effects won’t be felt immediately. When users eat cocaine, it can take around 30 minutes to an hour before they start feeling the effects. Ingesting cocaine orally also produces a milder high as the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream gradually. Due to the slower metabolism and absorption, the high can last up to four hours.

Symptoms and Signs of Cocaine Intoxication

The immediate effects of cocaine are increased energy, feelings of euphoria, and feelings of alertness. There are physical effects, too. Users will experience an increased heart rate, dilated pupils, and elevated blood pressure.

Not everyone experiences euphoric effects, however. Some users may experience side effects like paranoia, agitation, and even psychosis. Psychosis is usually experienced in cases of higher doses.

After the effect of cocaine wears off, users may experience a “crash.” This is characterized by fatigue and even depression.

Health Risks and Dangers

Short-Term Health Risks

For users with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, taking cocaine can be dangerous. Using cocaine can cause irregular heart rhythms, an increase in heart rate, and elevated blood pressure. This can result in a heart attack or stroke, leading to sudden death.

Cocaine can cause agitation and anxiety in some users. If cocaine is taken in high doses or frequently, seizures or convulsions may occur. Some people may have difficulty breathing after taking cocaine. This can lead to respiratory arrest. If cocaine is taken in large quantities, users may also suffer nausea or abdominal pain. In extreme cases, there may be gastrointestinal bleeding.

Long-Term Health Risks

Long-term cocaine use can damage the blood vessels, leading to an increased risk of heart attacks or heart disease. Respiratory issues, such as asthma and bronchitis, can become a problem, too. In addition, users may suffer from neurological issues, such as bleeding in the brain, and memory problems as cocaine affects the brain’s neurotransmitter systems.

Although eating cocaine results in a milder high, there is still the possibility of an overdose. A significant danger of the delayed effect that comes with orally ingesting cocaine is that people will increase their dosage in an attempt to feel the highs sooner. This can increase the risk of an overdose.

Psychological Effects

The immediate psychological effects of using cocaine are often euphoria, increased energy, and intense pleasure. This is because cocaine results in the body releasing more dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Cocaine is a stimulant, much like caffeine, so using it improves people’s focus and makes them more alert.

For some users, though, the psychological effects can be negative. Cocaine can induce feelings of paranoia, agitation, or anxiety.

Because cocaine triggers the release of more dopamine, there is a high risk of addiction and psychological dependence. Plus, after long-term use, individuals may start to develop a tolerance, needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

Once psychological dependence sets in, there will be cravings for the drug as well as withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and slowing of activity (psychomotor retardation).

Mental Health Complications

Long-term cocaine use can increase the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders and psychosis. Chronic use can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions that users may already have. The mental and psychological complications are reversible, though, once users stop using the drug.

snorting cocaine

Overdose and Emergency Situations

It’s important for individuals to recognize what a cocaine overdose looks like so they can react immediately.

  • Cardiovascular Symptoms: rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pains, tightness in the chest, palpitations, and elevated blood pressure.
  • Respiratory Symptoms: shallow breathing, rapid breathing (tachypnea), or difficulty breathing.
  • Neurological Symptoms: seizures, convulsions, hallucinations, or feelings of disorientation. They may also lose consciousness.
  • Physical Symptoms: feeling nauseous, vomiting, sweating profusely, or feeling dizzy.

Actions to Take in Case of a Suspected Cocaine Overdose

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Keep the person comfortable and awake.
  • Monitor the person’s vital signs, such as their breathing rate and pulse.
  • Stay with the person at all times until emergency responders arrive.

Once emergency medical responders arrive, they will assess the person’s condition and then start cocaine addiction treatment. This may include providing intravenous fluids and administering oxygen. They may also have to help open the airway if the person is having difficulty breathing. In extreme cases, medications are administered to prevent the person from having a seizure. Once the person has stabilized, they will be taken to a hospital for further treatment and monitoring.

Legal and Social Consequences

Legal Consequences

In the United States, it is a criminal offense to consume, possess, and distribute cocaine. While each state carries different penalties, it is still considered a criminal offense in all states. Possessing and distributing crack cocaine carries the heaviest sentence.

The severity of the sentence will depend on the amount of cocaine that was in your possession when you were arrested, your past criminal history, and the local laws. Having a criminal record due to cocaine-related offenses can affect your future employment opportunities, housing, and any licenses you may carry.

Social Consequences

One of the key social consequences of excessive cocaine use is strained relationships. Your cocaine use may affect your relationships with your family and your partner. Continued use of cocaine may make it difficult to maintain employment due to below-average job performance and absenteeism. Job instability will directly affect your finances, depleting your savings and making it difficult to make payments on your home and other bills. Chronic use can also end up pushing others away, resulting in social isolation and stigma.

Treatment and Recovery

Like with any physical addiction, cocaine addiction can be challenging to overcome. Individuals typically need customized treatment plans as there may be a variety of reasons for their addiction. Furthermore, their addiction may be tied to mental health disorders or there may be an addiction to substances other than cocaine, such as alcohol.

At ReCreate Life Counseling, some treatment options include:

Inpatient Rehabilitation

For individuals suffering from severe addiction to cocaine, inpatient rehabilitation is recommended. Inpatient rehab programs provide a structured treatment with 24/7 care. Clients live at the center and receive medical monitoring and daily therapy sessions.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs allow individuals to live at home while attending therapy sessions during the day. These programs are designed for individuals with a milder addiction to cocaine.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies help individuals identify the reasons for their addiction. These therapies also teach coping skills to prevent relapses. Common behavioral therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some individuals find withdrawal symptoms difficult to manage. In addition, their cravings for cocaine may be overwhelming. In cases like this, healthcare professionals prescribe specific medications to help with their insomnia, anxiety, or depression.

Support Groups

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can be helpful for individuals recovering from a cocaine addiction. Support groups can offer peer support and encouragement.

Customized treatment plans go a long way in helping clients recover. Here are some of the success stories from ReCreate Life Counseling.

“Recreate literally saved my life. The staff were all so genuine. So loving. So caring, compassionate and understanding. And if one truly wants help Recreate provides the tools and programs to achieve and embrace a sober life and all of its gifts. Addiction is rooted so deeply. And with their guidance and support I’ve been able to recognize my personal challenges that were actually getting in my own way.” – Beth De Falco

I just left Recreate after finishing their PHP program and I had such a great experience there. The month I was there flew by and when it was time for me to go, I honestly didn’t want to leave. All of the staff members I interacted with were great people who truly care about your well-being and they’ll go out of their way to help you out or simply be a listening ear when you need someone to talk to.” – Kenya Mayieka

ReCreate Life Counseling

Although ingesting cocaine orally can give you a boost of energy and create feelings of euphoria, it’s important to remember that cocaine is a highly addictive drug. Furthermore, there are legal consequences as well as long-term health risks.

If you or a loved one has a cocaine addiction or substance use disorder, contact our team at ReCreate Life Counseling. We offer a variety of treatments for addiction as well as therapies. If you are ready to start on your recovery journey, we can help.


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Published on: 2024-01-27
Updated on: 2024-05-13