How does cocaine work?

Cocaine is a stimulant which acts on the central nervous system. More on how cocaine works, cocaine’s uses, side effects, and dangers here.

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Cocaine is a stimulant that’s occasionally used as a topical anesthetic, but is also available as an illicit street drug used to achieve a euphoric high.  In fact, cocaine works so well that you can get addicted to cocaine quickly. Here we’ll review how cocaine affects the body and brain, as well as its dangers and side effects. And we invite your questions about cocaine and how cocaine works at the end.

How does cocaine work in the body?

When cocaine is inhaled, snorted, or injected, it enters the bloodstream and is delivered to the brain. Cocaine works by interfering with the normal processes of the brain, flooding the pleasure-center of the brain with the chemical dopamine, creating a feeling of euphoria.  Cocaine stays in urine and is detectable via drug screens 2-4 days after use.

Cocaine also effects other systems of the body. As a stimulant, cocaine creates a feeling of alertness and energy, increases body temperature, and raises heart rate. However, the cardiovascular effects of cocaine can put cocaine users at risk of heart attacks and stroke.

How does cocaine affect the brain and nervous system?

Cocaine directly affects the central nervous system. As mentioned earlier, cocaine interferes with normal brain processes, causing dopamine levels to spike in the brain. As a result, cocaine can cause a variety of central nervous system effects, including:

  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • changes in behavior
  • euphoric feelings
  • paranoia
  • restlessness

How fast does cocaine work?

Depending on how cocaine is taken, it can begin to work within minutes. Smoking the crack form of cocaine will result in a high within seconds, but snorting cocaine will take several minutes for cocaine to work. Cocaine is not often administered orally, but takes about 30 minutes to take effect when ingested (as in the case of coca leaves).

How long does cocaine work?

The duration of cocaine’s effects depend on the method of administration. When cocaine is snorted the effects last longer, 15-30 minutes. When smoked, the effects of cocaine may only last 5-10 minutes. In other words, cocaine is not effective for a lasting high.

What makes cocaine work better

Cocaine works most quickly and efficiently when it’s snorted or smoked. However, because so much cocaine is flooding the brain all at once, these methods of administration come with their own particular dangers. Using cocaine can also damage the nasal tissues and the lungs.

Does cocaine work for everyone?

No, cocaine won’t work for everyone. Taking cocaine is always risky when it’s not used for medical purposes, particularly because street cocaine is often mixed with other drugs or potentially toxic substances. Furthermore, using cocaine opens you up not only to potential health problems, but also to the risks of addiction and overdose.

How cocaine works questions

Still have questions about cocaine and how cocaine works? Please leave your questions and comments about cocaine below. We will be happy to try to answer your questions personal and promptly.

Reference Sources: MedlinePlus: Cocaine
NIDA InfoFacts: Cocaine
DEA: Drugs and Chemicals of Concerns: Cocaine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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