Long term effects of cocaine on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Long term effects of cocaine on the brain

In general, cocaine disrupts normal brain function. Brain matter can atrophy. Both judgment and cognition are impaired. And behavior can become aggressive or violent. More adverse effects of cocaine on the brain here.

Specific long term effects on the brain

Long term effects on the nervous system:

Long term effects of cocaine on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

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  • blocked initiation and conduction of the nerve impulse
  • cerebral gray matter atrophy
  • decreased glucose metabolism in the frontal and temporal lobes
  • stimulates the central nervous system

Long term effects on the neurotransmitters:

  • accumulation of dopamine at postsynaptic receptors
  • chronic stimulation of postsynaptic dopamine receptors
  • dopamine builds up in the synapse
  • increased extracellular dopamine
  • interferes with the uptake of norepinephrine and serotonin
  • prevents dopamine from being recycled

Long term effects on the personality:

  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • hostility
  • irritability
  • nervousness

Long term effects on the behavior:

  • exhaustion
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • lose touch with reality
  • restlessness
  • violent behavior

Long term effects on the psychology:

  • anger
  • drug craving
  • dysphoria
  • paranoia
  • psychosis
  • severe depression

What are the typical doses?

Typical doses of cocaine abuse:

  • per day recreational dose …… 10-120 mg
  • purity of street cocaine …… 20-95%

Lethal cocaine typical doses:

  • oral administration ….. around 1.2 grams
  • intravenous or inhaled …… 750-800 mg/ml

How long is “long term”?

Heavy use of cocaine is defined as the administration of 2 or more grams a week, at least 4 times a month for one year. Chronic cocaine use = Cocaine abuse that follows a pattern and is constantly repeated over time which negatively impacts:

  • financial stability
  • health
  • relationships
  • work or school
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. My son snorting cocaine yesterday and he still not thinking straight I think it might have caused some kind of brain what should I do please answer soon as possible

  2. I was an almost daily weed smoker for years. Functional. Last April (2015) I tried coke for the first time (I’m 37) And it didn’t take long before I was using between .5 to 1 gram a day, everyday.. I had all kinds of signs it was terrible for me but I was hooked. I finally saw the light of day I decided to stop. Nobody knew I was addicted so nobody knew I was on a path to recovery, except my dealer. I quit cold turkey in Decenmber and haven’t relapsed once.. And won’t relapse! But here’s where it gets tricky. Some residual side effects that aren’t going away are worrying me. Insomnia most nights. When will I be able to sleep again. I never struggled with sleep in my life but for nearly 8 months now, it’s been a daily struggle. And weight gain. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I can’t seem to lose weight no matter how hard I try. I have no interest in weed anymore, which, quite frankly, I never thought would happen. I’ve never abused any other drugs. I still drink about once or twice a month with my husband but never in excess ( I hate feeling tipsy) . I still have ringing in my ears, probably from brain atrophy. I really screwed up when I allowed myself to experience it. I’m not interest in doctors prescribing pills and I’ve tried melatonin and Benadryl. Melatonin doesn’t work and might be why my problem is worse not better and Benadryl works like magic but I’m not willing to do it anymore because I’ve heard about long term consequences of that too and I’m not trying to be on anything. Period. How can I sleep though? Pretty sure that’s why I can’t lose weight. Pretty sure that is causing me other problems too. Any suggestions?

  3. I just started a couple of weeks ago, after being suffering from depression one night my boyfriend; who sales drug, ask me if he could leave something in my apartment. I said yes, after a few days we got into an argument then he left. I wasn’t able to sleep, nervous, sad, and complaining. A few moments later I ask myself why not, I’ll just try it for the first time. Just one time to see how it works. Now it seems like I will never stop. Like I can’t function without it. I have been using it for three weeks and have no idea on how to stop. Help me please. I just don’t want my family to know. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Ray. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before quitting cocaine. There are many factors involved when deciding on a course for cessation, the major one being your level of dependence and addiction.

  4. I have MS it seems to help my walking my speach. It makes me normal for a day or so. I am allergic to ever steroid and MS drugs. I also have bercitos, arthritis, neuropathy, and MS induced bipolar medication and PTSD. I am also a veteran. I truly believe all the shots you have to have made me worse

  5. I just wanted to know to do but I had to part ways with this family member I realize she has to want the help I cant do it for her it is sad she 22 smart as hell but cocaine is running her life she says she is okay but she is not she crashes, sleeps for ever

    1. Hi, Denille. She will need to work with professionals to help her detox, and start the recovery process.
      For start, you can call the free helpline number displayed on our website to get in touch with our trusted treatment providers who can help her access adequate treatment program. They can also help you stage an intervention that can get her into rehab. Also, you may check out SAMHSA’s treatment locator here: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to locate the drug abuse treatment programs nearest you.

  6. Hi I’m using I guess from reading your site very heavily!!! I’m using to hide from what’s going on in my life at the moment. Got in a lot of debt due to my addiction. Tried to stop but every time something goes wrong in my life I’m back on it and im talking about six to ten grams a weekend!!! Don’t touch the stuff in the week as I’m working !! Just wondering if anyone has any tips or advice about getting off the stuff !!! Cheers

    1. Hi, Dean. Have you considered supervised detox? I suggest you call our trusted treatment provider to get the help today.

  7. I am dealing with a family member who snorts cocaine refuses to stop refuse helps I do care and love this person very and have tried to help them with their kid and house work but I cant handle the mood swings. I am cant handle this if you could give me some advice to try and help this person or should Ijust through in towel

  8. Thanks, Ivana, i asked about my son……He’s been in and out of rehabs and is now in a few hour day program….He’s had a few relapses and at his age of 30, I wonder will the problem ever reverse?…

    1. I hope your son stays fully committed to his rehab treatment, Pam. He can succeed if he truly wants it and continues to treat his drug cravings and learns how to cope with the reasons that compel his dug use. Are you going to any kind of therapy? I know you are not the one with the substance abuse problem, but it may help you in various ways.

    1. Hello Pam. Yes, a lot of side-effects from long-term cocaine use are reversible over time, with a better lifestyle. Luckily, our brains have the tendency to heal and return to homeostasis. However, some damages such as internal organ damage (liver, kidneys, lungs) or damaged teeth, eye-sight, or other may be irreversible. But, the drug-free life is a blessing. Try to live it as best as you can.

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