When you were younger, you might have heard stories about how substance use affected the appearance of friends or family members. Maybe in school, you were shown pictures of people who had an addiction and were told that you could end up like that through drug use.
In the past decades, there have been a variety of campaigns in schools and in the public space to try and dissuade people from getting into drug use and prevent addiction. Sometimes, the messaging could be very aggressive and instead of helping people, making people feel inadequate or too ashamed to seek help for substance use disorders. We want to make you feel welcome in getting treatment.
If you or someone you know uses cocaine, you might not approve. Or, you might be neutral or even view occasional, recreational use as a harmless thing. Wherever you stand, it’s always important to know how things you put into your body can affect your health.
At Pathways Recovery, we believe very strongly in developing programs to help people recover from substance use disorders and lead to healthier lifestyles. Healthier lifestyles don’t just mean the absence of drug use. Instead, it means that you commit to things like physical exercise and healthy eating habits in addition to maintaining your drug and alcohol sobriety.
We aim to provide you the most accurate information possible so you can take charge of your own healthy habits and regain control of your life. Today, we’ll be taking on the questions surrounding cocaine use.
Repeated cocaine use causes multiple physical changes, notably red-looking eyes. Why does this happen? Is there a way to prevent this side effect? Can I recover from a long habit of cocaine use? We’ll answer all these questions and more in this blog. Keep reading to find out!
What Is Cocaine?
Well, first, we need to explain the basics so that we all understand the same terminology and can get on the same page.
Cocaine is identifiable as a white and very fine milled powder. The cocaine base can also appear as small white rocks of unusual shapes. This is an illicit drug that is made from the coca plant, a plant native to South America. Cocaine is a stimulant drug. Stimulants are a specific class of drug that targets the body’s central nervous system and speeds it up. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, stimulants on the illicit market end up there because of diversion and interruption in legitimate channels of distribution.
Cocaine is used occasionally and in a very limited capacity in some medical operations. Sometimes it may be appropriate to use as local anesthesia in some surgeries. However, recreational cocaine use is illegal.
On the street, cocaine is sold in its powder form, but the illegal street drug trade can pose many dangers to users looking for their drug of choice. It has been observed that dealers often mix in other substances that look like cocaine into the cocaine powder mix. By charging a user the price for a pure bag of cocaine for something like a cocaine and kitchen flour mix, the dealer gets to keep the profits even though the bag would not be worth the price paid. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that common mixed substances besides flour include cornstarch and talcum powder.
Although a cornstarch mix might not sound all that dangerous, common kitchen and home items are not the only things that get cut with street cocaine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also cautions that substances such as amphetamine, another kind of stimulant, or synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl can be used. These drugs cut with cocaine can make the chance of suffering an overdose more likely. Negative reactions to other drugs in a cocaine mix also pose a threat to the user who is unaware of the tempered cocaine.
As with many illicitly used recreational drugs, cocaine is often referred to as a variety of nicknames. Popular nicknames for cocaine include:
How Is Cocaine Used?
There are a variety of ways for an individual to use cocaine. Cocaine can be snorted in its powder form through the nose. The powder can also be dissolved into a liquid and then injected into a person’s bloodstream.
Some users might combine cocaine and heroin to create a concoction known as a speedball, which is then injected into a vein.
Although cocaine is typically seen in its powder form, it can also be smoked through its base form known as crack. Crack is rock crystal cocaine that looks like small white irregularly shaped rocks. The name “crack” is a reference to the sounds that the rock makes as it is warmed up. When crack is heated it lets off some vapors into the air, which users can inhale for a high. Crack can also be added as a topping of sorts to marijuana or tobacco and smoked in a cigarette form.
Cocaine’s Impact on Your Brain
Many people turn to substance use to chase those great feelings that they get off a high. But what causes those feelings?
Well, when you use cocaine, the drug increases the levels of dopamine, a natural chemical in the body, in the part of your brain that manages movement and rewards. Dopamine naturally exists in a certain amount and is produced by our bodies. It plays a big role in how we feel and is often associated with feelings of happiness of pleasure. You might have heard people suggest exercising can help you feel better because physical exercise can release hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin that can improve mood.
The body uses dopamine to send messages and communicate between nerve cells. Because of this function, dopamine is sometimes called a chemical messenger.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dopamine is usually recycled back into the cell that it was released from, effectively shutting off that communication between cells. However, cocaine use prevents dopamine from being recycled back into the cell and causes it to build up. With lots of dopamine built up in the brain, the reward center of the brain will eventually become used to the excess dopamine and begin to reinforce the habit of using cocaine.
Cocaine is often taken in a binge—frequent and high doses of the drug. Cocaine binges are often done to maintain a high. When the brain is accustomed to high amounts of dopamine, the effects of a cocaine high are not as strong as before. Therefore, users need higher amounts of the drug to make themselves feel the same way.
Short-term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
In the short-term, cocaine will offer users some of the more pleasant effects, such as the high and energy that is often sought after by many users.
Typical short-term effects include:
- Extreme and exaggerated feelings of happiness
- Increase in energy
- Higher mental alertness and awareness
- Experiencing sensitivity, sometimes extreme sensitivity, to sight, sound, and touch
- Feeling irritable or easily agitated
- Suddenly developing paranoia (an extreme distrust of others)
Long-term Effects of Cocaine Abuse: Cocaine eyes
If you use cocaine for a long time, there are a variety of long-term effects that you could experience. As regular cocaine use continues for a long period of time, the toll on the body begins to show and you could suffer from poor health or complications.
Typical long-term effects include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils (leading to sensitivity to light)
- Increase in body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Shaking, tremors, or muscle twitches
- Elevated pulse
Bloodshot Eyes and Dilated Pupils: How Does Using Cocaine Affect the Eyes?
Many drugs can have an effect on the appearance of a user’s eyes. Even people who are not very familiar with substance use and addiction seem to have some kind of understanding that drug use can affect eyes. Usually, through drug education programs, media, and entertainment, drug use is portrayed in individuals through bloodshot or glassy eyes. In this regard, cocaine isn’t that different.
As a stimulant, cocaine use can trigger chemical and endorphin releases in the brain. The result of this is that the pupils can dilate. This means that the pupils (the small black circle in the middle of your eyes) will grow larger. When your pupils are dilated, they will expand and take in more light. This is what causes many on a cocaine high to be sensitive to light.
Think of when you last went to the eye doctor. It’s common in routine check-ups for the eye doctor to dilate your pupils using particular eye drops. These eye drops don’t just dilate your pupils, but they keep them in a dilated state for some period of time. This helps your eye doctor better inspect your eyes, but it can make your eyes sensitive to light because they will absorb more light. That’s why after an eye appointment sunglasses are typically offered.
Those who use cocaine may need to wear sunglasses or some other kind of protective gear in order to make themselves more comfortable. Cocaine can make lighting that doesn’t seem bright to other people, very bright, and highly uncomfortable to those experiencing the effects of cocaine.
You can observe pupil dilation yourself with just a mirror and a flashlight. If you shine a flashlight in one of your eyes, from the side so you can watch your pupil in the mirror, the pupil will shrink. When you move the light away, the pupil will grow back to its normal size. Be sure not to shine the flashlight into your eyes for more than a few moments! The growing and shrinking of your pupils is a sign of normal functioning eyes. This happens throughout the day in order to adjust your eyes to the level of light in a room so that you can see as best as you can.
If you walk into a dark room, your pupils will expand to try and let in light. You might notice that after a brief period of time, your eyesight adjusts in dark rooms and you can see better. Likewise, if you walk into the sunlight after sitting in a movie theater for a while, the light might seem blinding. However, after you give your eyes some time, they will constrict to let in less light and you won’t feel as though the light is as intense anymore.
Besides pupil dilation and light sensitivity, cocaine use can also cause blood vessels to expand. This can lead to redness and bloodshot eyes, which are commonly referred to as cocaine eyes. The redness occurs in the white part of your eye called the sclera.
Although this condition is colloquially called cocaine eyes, cocaine is not the only substance that is responsible for bloodshot eyes. The use of other substances such as marijuana, benzodiazepines, and depressants such as alcohol or sedatives can also contribute to redness in the eyes.
Seeking Help For Cocaine Addiction
If you or a loved one is suffering from Cocaine addiction, contact Pathways Recovery right away. We will work with you, your physician, and your family to determine a treatment plan that covers Cocaine addiction.
Pathways Recovery is a prestigious detox treatment center that services the greater area of Sacramento. Here at Pathways Recovery, we know how hard it is to start the road to recovery from drug addiction and alcohol addiction while having compassion and patience for those recovering. We have many services to cater to each individual in regards to their lifestyle and budget. Our detox treatment center is made to make everyone feel safe and at home with many of our services, including detox from Cocaine.
Call us today at (916) 735-8377 for further information on our services and see which one fits for you or a loved one. Don't think you are alone; we are here to help you on your road to recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are eyes red after cocaine?
As a stimulant, cocaine will trigger certain hormonal and chemical releases in the brain. It can also prompt blood vessels to expand, which will make the eyes appear red.
How long after using cocaine do the eyes stay dilated?
This depends on the person and the amount of cocaine that has been taken. On average, after two hours half of the amount of cocaine in the body’s system has already been removed. Therefore, it could be concluded that dilated pupils might last at least several hours. If dilated pupils persist for days without continued cocaine use, you might consider seeing a doctor.
Why do eyes get bigger after doing cocaine?
The chemical consequences of cocaine use include the dilation of your pupils. Pupils are the small black circle in the center of both of your eyes. When you use cocaine, pupils dilate, that is, grow in size. When pupils grow, they take in more light. This can give the impression that your eyes are larger than they actually are. This can also lead to light sensitivity, just like during your visits to the eye doctor.