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Injecting Cocaine: Knowing the Risks

Injecting cocaine is very risky and can result in a myriad of adverse effects. Although it’s more commonly snorted as a white powder or smoked (crack cocaine), it can be diluted and injected similarly to heroin.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug, meaning that when a person ingests it, he or she will feel energetic, euphoric, and may stay awake for a prolonged period. It is derived from the coca plant native to South America. It has been classified as a Schedule II drug in the U.S., meaning that it has some limited medical purpose but also a high potential for abuse.

Cocaine is also often combined with other substances, which can range from relatively benign household products, like flour or cornstarch, to hazardous chemicals or other substances, such as heroin. Cocaine is often laced with other ingredients because it allows dealers to make a greater profit on a smaller amount of the drug.

When a person uses cocaine, the high is typically intense but also very brief. For this reason, cocaine is often used in a binge-like pattern repeated over the course of several hours in an attempt to sustain the high. Cocaine produces a high by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for feelings and well-being, such as dopamine.

There are two main versions of cocaine: water-soluble hydrochloride salt and another called freebase, which is not water-soluble. The hydrochloride salt can be snorted or injected. The base form of cocaine is processed with baking soda or ammonia and water and then heated, which produces a substance that can be smoked—widely known as crack.

Injecting Cocaine

Cocaine use in and of itself is risky, but injecting is the riskiest form of abuse. IV drug use is dangerous because it’s more likely that this behavior will develop into an addiction, and it can also lead to severe mental and physical side effects.

When you smoke cocaine, you get the fastest effects, but some people prefer shooting up cocaine because it gives a more intense high. Most people who inject cocaine do so to achieve a more intense high, or they have built up a tolerance to other methods and can no longer experience the effects they once did.

When injecting cocaine, it must first be dissolved in a water solution, and then it can be shot directly into the body, usually into a vein. It can also be injected just under the skin (subcutaneous) but not into a vein, using a method known as “skin popping.”

Some of the psychoemotional side effects of injecting cocaine include aggression, paranoia, depression, fatigue, suicidal ideations or behaviors, and confusion. The high may be more intense and rapid than other methods of administration, but the crash or “come down” is often more severe, as well.

Injecting Cocaine: Knowing the Risks

Other short-term effects of cocaine include the following:

  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Elevated mood
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Excited, rapid speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Although injecting cocaine is the riskiest method, ingesting cocaine in other ways can cause similar side effects. When a person develops a dependence on a drug like cocaine, their brain has adapted to operate normally within the context of the drug’s presence, and discontinuing use abruptly will result in unpleasant withdrawal effects.

When a person injects cocaine, there are other risks in addition to the general risks of the drug itself, many of which are related to administering multiple injections. This can cause blood vessel linings to deteriorate and collapse, as well as skin sores, abscesses, and infections.

Also, when cocaine is acquired on the black market, it often frequently includes adulterants, which can cause residue to accumulate along the blood vessel passages. When this occurs, injecting cocaine can result in cardiac problems, and there is also a risk of encountering infections, such as hepatitis C and HIV, particularly if needles were shared with someone else.

Getting Help for Cocaine Abuse

Using cocaine is never a good idea, and if you are planning on trying to inject it, you should think twice. Injecting cocaine repeatedly will likely lead to increased tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Escalating drug use is not the answer, and if you need help with an addiction, instead you should seek out professional treatment.

Midwood Addiction Treatment offers a modern, evidence-based approach to the treatment of addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Our programs, which include detox, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment, are comprised of a variety of services essential for the recovery process.

Recovery is a life-long endeavor, but thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please contact us today and learn how we can help!

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