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What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?

Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately after a single dose and disappear within a few minutes or within an hour. Taken in small amounts, cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that the drug helps them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, although others experience the opposite effect.

The duration of cocaine's euphoric effects depends upon the route of administration. The faster the drug is absorbed, the more intense the resulting high, but also the shorter the duration. The high from snorting is relatively slow to arrive but it may last 15 to 30 minutes; in contrast, the effects from smoking are more immediate but may last only 5 to 10 minutes.

The short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts of cocaine may intensify the user's high but can also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior. Some cocaine users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia. Users may also experience tremors, vertigo, and muscle twitches. There also can be severe medical complications associated with cocaine abuse. Some of the most frequent are cardiovascular effects, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks; neurological effects, including strokes, seizures, headaches, and coma; and gastrointestinal complications, including abdominal pain and nausea. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.

In addition research has also revealed a potentially dangerous interaction between cocaine and alcohol.

This page was last updated September 2010

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National Institute on Drug Abuse (2010). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?. In Cocaine. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use

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​Research Reports

This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.