What are the long-term effects of
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine,
an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the
extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Cocaine's
stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result
of its ability to inhibit the reabsorption of dopamine by nerve
cells. Dopamine is released as part of the brain's reward system,
and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties
of every major drug of abuse.
An appreciable tolerance to cocaine's high may develop, with many
addicts reporting that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure
as they did from their first experience. Some users will frequently
increase their doses to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects.
While tolerance to the high can occur, users can also become more
sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine's anesthetic and convulsant
effects, without increasing the dose taken. This increased sensitivity
may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low doses of
Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly
and at increasingly high doses, leads to a state of increasing irritability,
restlessness, and paranoia. This may result in a full-blown paranoid
psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and
experiences auditory hallucinations.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Research Report Series 1999