Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that can be injected, snorted, or swallowed. The negative effects of cocaine can vary in intensity and duration depending on how this drug is used. There have been several reports about people who have ingested cocaine, whether to hide it from authorities or as a form of recreational use, and have suffered the consequences. Because such incidents have frequently occurred, our Massachusetts Clearbrook center is sharing the dangers of swallowing cocaine.
What Does Cocaine Do to Your Brain?
Cocaine works by affecting various areas of the brain, such as its mesolimbic dopamine system (reward pathway), to produce an energetic and euphoric high. Usually, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (space between neurons), where it binds to proteins called receptors on other neurons. Dopamine is then able to send messages between neurons. Afterward, another protein called a transporter removes or recycles the dopamine in the synapse for later use. Cocaine works by activating the release of dopamine and binding to transporters, preventing them from doing their job. This causes the dopamine to accumulate between neurons, producing a high.
When immediately taken, short-term effects of cocaine include euphoria, alertness, increased self-confidence, and energy. The drug’s mechanism of action is what makes it so addictive. When used for a long time, cocaine changes the way the brain functions. Cocaine can affect the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, affecting the way it communicates between neurons, as well as functions like memory and learning. In addition to cardiovascular disease, the long-term effects of cocaine most often include tolerance and addiction. Because this drug is so potent, most cocaine addicts require medical detox and treatment to recover. Without professional help, addicts risk overdosing and other physical complications that may result from withdrawal symptoms.
Can You Swallow Cocaine?
No, you should never swallow cocaine or use it at all. The dangers of swallowing cocaine are linked to the drug’s impact on the cardiovascular system, the autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, and the gastrointestinal system. One study showed that four people who ingested cocaine when confronted by law enforcement experienced acute toxicity related to all four of these systems.1
When a person swallows cocaine, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream through the gums and then through the stomach lining. Once it’s in the bloodstream, it’s metabolized in the liver before making it to the brain and producing a high. The effects of swallowing cocaine take longer to kick in than smoking or snorting it. This means that people who swallow cocaine are more likely to take more of it to experience the same side effects, increasing their risk of overdosing.
But what happens if you swallow cocaine? Some common side effects of swallowing cocaine include:
- Increased energy and alertness
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Increased self-confidence
- Increased sociability
- Increased sex drive
- Reduced appetite
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Bizarre and erratic behavior
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Heart attack
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Additionally, swallowing cocaine is different than injecting, smoking, or snorting it because it’s absorbed and metabolized differently. Because the drug is absorbed and filtered by the stomach lining and liver, cocaine users who swallow or eat it are more likely to experience problems in these areas.
Cocaine abuse can be difficult to recover from without cocaine addiction treatment. If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, do not wait to get help. Call Clearbrook Massachusetts now at 570-536-9621 to find out how our inpatient drug treatment can help.