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Can You Safely Inject Cocaine?

While snorting cocaine or smoking it in crack form are the two most common routes of administration, some people inject cocaine. 

There are unique dangers associated with this method of intake. There is no safe way to inject cocaine.

Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a commonly abused illicit drug. Approximately 968,000 people aged 12 and up said they started cocaine use in the past year, in 2015, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Cocaine speeds up the body because it is a stimulant. The short-term effects of this drug are felt quickly.

  • Increased mental alertness
  • Irritability
  • Extreme energy and happiness
  • Being hypersensitive to sound, touch, and sight
  • Paranoia

Additional physical effects may occur.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle twitches and tremors
  • Blood vessel constriction
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Heartbeat that is irregular or fast
  • Restlessness

Why Do People Inject Cocaine?

A syringe atop a pile of white powder

People usually inject cocaine because they feel the effects of the drug faster compared to snorting or smoking the drug.

In most cases, powdered cocaine is cocaine hydrochloride. This makes the powder soluble in water, so people can liquefy it for injection. If the cocaine is laced with other drugs, it could make it difficult to liquefy if the cutting agents are not water soluble. 

When cocaine is injected, the effects are more intense. However, they do not last as long as they do with other administration methods.

Since the effects wear off more quickly, it can lead to repeated use in an effort to prolong the high. This type of binge use increases the risk of overdose.
 

What Happens When Someone Injects Cocaine

When injecting cocaine, people first look for a vein. When cocaine is injected into a vein, it goes directly to the brain.

If drugs are inhaled, they first have to enter the blood before they can reach the brain. Injection bypasses that step and puts the drugs directly into the blood.

When injecting cocaine, there is the risk of accidentally injecting the drug into an artery. If this occurs, the person does not experience the euphoria they are seeking.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings says the following complications are possible with injection use:

  • Peripheral nerve damage that can lead to prickling or tingling sensations
  • Gangrene
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Death
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Loss of the affected limb
  • Significant pain

Effects of Injecting Cocaine

The following are the possible consequences of intravenous drug use:

This issue happens when air gets into an artery or vein. If someone is injecting cocaine and there is air in the syringe, it can result in an air embolism. These bubbles can go to the heart, lungs, or brain and cause serious issues, such as stroke, respiratory failure, or heart attack.

This viral infection weakens the immune system. It can progress to AIDS, especially when it is untreated.

This is a type of bacterial infection that can affect the skin near the injection site. It can become serious if not detected early enough, and the infection can spread quickly. In the most severe instances, irreversible lymph vessel damage and potentially life-threatening blood infection are possible.

People who use intravenous drugs are more likely to contract hepatitis B and C. These are viruses that affect the liver. Since needles come into contact with blood, users who share needles are at risk for both viruses.

This is a type of bacterial infection that can result from sharing needles with someone who is infected. The muscles can become painfully tight, making it impossible to swallow or open the mouth.

This condition is characterized by inflammation. It results in a clot developing that blocks a vein.

This infection results in a collection of pus. It can occur at the injection site.

This is an infectious condition that affects the heart valves and lining. It comes on suddenly. Within a few days of the infection starting, it has the potential to be life-threatening without immediate treatment and possible hospitalization.

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The Risk of Overdose

When someone injects cocaine, they are at a higher risk of death due to overdose, according to the World Health Organization. This is because the drug goes directly to the heart.

Overdose is more likely when someone combines cocaine with other drugs such as heroin. People commonly mix cocaine with it in a mixture known as a speedball. Many people also drink alcohol when using cocaine.

When someone is experiencing a cocaine overdose, the following symptoms are possible:

  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Extreme agitation
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety

There is no way to safely use cocaine recreationally. Injecting the drug can be even more dangerous since it goes directly into the bloodstream and affects the brain almost immediately.

If you are injecting cocaine or any other drug, it is a clear sign of a problem. Professional help is needed to reduce your risk of overdose and other health complications.

SOURCES

State Estimates of Past Year Cocaine Use Among Young Adults: 2014 to 2015. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2736/ShortReport-2736.html

(July 2018) Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

(June 2005) Complications After Unintentional Intra-Arterial Injection of Drugs: Risks, Outcomes, and Management Strategies. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15945530

(July 2018) Cocaine Frequently Asked Questions. Verywell Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/cocaine-frequently-asked-questions-66710

(November 2012) Mortality Among People Who Inject Drugs: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. World Health Organization. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/2/12-108282/en/

(August 2017) Air Embolism. Healthline. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/air-embolism

Cellulitis. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/rashes/cellulitis

(March 2018) What is Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis? Healthline. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/subacute-bacterial-endocarditis

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