Cocaine Health Risks: Brain damage

A cocaine user is becomes far more likely to suffer damage to his brain due to his drug use, although he will probably not know about the effects until the damage becomes severe. Until that time, there can be changes in the brain that are “silent,” in other words, not showing symptoms while the problem advances.

Narrowed Blood Vessels, Slow Blood Flow


Scans of the brains of cocaine users compared with the brains of those who did not use cocaine show that arteries and veins in the brain become narrow after use of cocaine. This is because of the well-known vascular constriction associated with cocaine. It may only take a small amount of the drug to cause this change in occasional users.

Headaches, Convulsions, Strokes

A review of the effects of cocaine revealed that 3% of cocaine users suffered severe headaches, sometimes requiring hospitalization. And 3% suffered convulsions. Cocaine may also make a person more prone to seizures.

Cocaine not only causes blood vessel to constrict, it also changes the blood so that it is stickier and more likely to form clots. If a blood clot forms in one of the arteries that was already narrowed by cocaine abuse, fatal problems can result.

If the carotid artery (in the neck, supplying the brain with blood) or an artery in the brain is affected in this way, part of the brain may lose its supply of blood, resulting in a stroke. A stroke may be mild or fatal.

Many of those suffering from cocaine-induced stroke had initially suffered from severe frontal headaches with other symptoms similar to migraines.

Brain Hemorrhage

Cocaine abuse can place so much stress on the arteries and veins that aneurysms can occur. The most likely areas for aneurysms are in the heart and the brain. If an aneurysm bursts in the brain, the resulting hemorrhage can be fatal.

Reviews done in 2013 of those who had experienced a particular kind of brain hemorrhage showed that if the patient had recently used cocaine, he or she was much more likely to die in the hospital. This likelihood was greater for powder cocaine users than crack cocaine smokers.

Cocaine kills more than 15,000 people each year, through overdose, accident or direct physical effects like heart attacks or strokes. Would a person who knew all the risks ever start using this drug?


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