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Side Effects of Cocaine

The side effects of cocaine tend to affect the entire body, especially the central nervous system and cardiovascular system.  The side effects of cocaine are thought to be due to excessively high plasma levels resulting from excessive ingestion of the drug and the subsequent rapid absorption into the blood stream.  Often this leads to overdose and death due to respiratory and cardiovascular failure.

The active component of cocaine must enter the brain by crossing a protective covering known as the blood brain barrier.  Once across this barrier, effects and side effects of cocaine due to central nervous system activity can be seen.  The central nervous system reactions are both excitatory and/or depressant.  These side effects of cocaine are characterized by nervousness, restlessness, and excitement.  As these side effects of cocaine progress, tremors and eventually epileptic-like convulsions may occur.  Vomiting is also common.  Following the excitatory side effects of cocaine is the depressive and more dangerous side effects of cocaine.   Respiratory depression results displaying slowed rate of breathing and decreased sensitivity to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the blood.  Eventually, at high doses, respiratory related side effects of cocaine result in respiratory failure and death

Side Effects of Cocaine
Side Effects of Cocaine

In the cardiovascular system, small doses actually cause the heart rate to slow down.  With increasing doses, the side effects of cocaine are stimulatory causing increasing heart rate and increasing sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight responsiveness) to increase.  Part of this response is to cause blood vessels to constrict.  These side effects of cocaine result in increasing blood pressure and body temperature.

Other side effects of cocaine include the shedding of corneal epithelium layers.  This causes clouding, pitting, and occasionally ulcer formation on the eye.  Due to the side effects of cocaine, this drug is not meant for ophthalmic use.