Experts Explain The Impact Long Term Cocaine Use Can Have On the Liver

Cocaine addiction is a medically recognised brain disorder, which interferes with the brain’s natural system that regulates and motivates emotion. But that’s not the only problem that comes with misuse of the substance.

In fact, studies have found that long term misuse of cocaine can have a toxic impact on your liver, among other issues that can stop it from functioning properly if not treated.

Private rehab clinic Delamere, explain how cocaine misuse can impact the health of your liver and what you can do to help someone that might be suffering from dependency on the drug.


What is cocaine addiction?

Cocaine addiction is a medically recognised chronic brain disorder, strongly characterised by relapse. Cocaine, a powerful stimulant with addictive and psychoactive properties primarily acts on the brain’s limbic system and dopamine transporters, interfering with the brain’s natural system that controls and regulates motivation and emotions.

Using the substance can produce a build-up of dopamine in the brain which is one of the chemicals that makes users feel good for doing activities like exercise. When we repeatedly use cocaine, our brain prioritises it over anything else.

Once addiction takes hold, the effects on the brain cannot be fully reversed back to how they were before a person started using even after giving up the drug altogether.


What are the effects on the liver?

Though cocaine has a profound effect on the brain, regular use of the drug can have the following effects on the liver and is important to seek help as soon as possible:

1. Liver Failure 

One effect that repeated cocaine use can have on the liver is the failure of your organ as well as the failure of your kidneys, which both help remove toxins from your body.

When liver failure happens, it can often be life-threatening and can stop your body from its normal functions. It can happen over a number of years and may trigger nausea, fainting, diarrhoea and in later stages, yellowing of the skin and fluid build-up in the abdomen.

2. Viral Hepatitis 

Viral hepatitis is another side effect of cocaine use that can damage your liver. What this means is that the liver becomes inflamed and swollen due to the substance going into your body in harmful and toxic amounts.

If you recognise the problem early enough, either as part of cocaine recovery or symptoms that start to occur, you can get medicine that will help reduce the damage that’s been caused.

3. Portal Hypertension

When drugs like cocaine are taken in excess or frequently, it can cause significant damage to the liver meaning it is unable to perform its usual functions of breaking down toxic substances.

This kind of liver disease can lead to what is known as portal hypertension, which is when stress is put on your portal vein due to slowed blood flow and causes high blood pressure. If this is allowed to happen, new red blood cells and other substances will bypass the liver and enter general circulation causing further complications that may be hard to treat.

4. Rhabdomyolysis 

Rhabdomyolysis is a severe muscle injury that causes muscle tissue to break down and enter the bloodstream as a result of using cocaine on a regular basis.

When a person starts to experience Rhabdomyolysis, complications can begin to occur with the kidney and liver, and can prevent them from functioning properly.

5. Severe Liver Injury 

Using cocaine on a regular basis can also cause severe liver injury that results in abnormalities to normal functions and can often go unnoticed for quite some time.

If your liver becomes too damaged before the condition is recognised, it can be hard to fully recover and may result in a liver transplant, in order for it to start functioning properly again.


How to help someone with cocaine addiction

You can help someone who you fear is addicted to cocaine by letting them know you care for them, are concerned for them and want to help.

Try to avoid getting angry or blaming the person for their addiction. Usually, addiction is a coping mechanism that someone has formed to deal with stresses in their lives or to escape some form of physical or emotional pain. While their behaviour may be deeply hurtful and damaging, the addiction isn’t intentional and is something they need support to deal with.

You may have to raise the topic numerous times before you begin to be heard. In the meantime, it is important that you take whatever action is necessary to keep yourself safe from harm – including emotional pain.

You can let someone know you love them and want to help but can’t live with them until they deal with their addiction, for example. A crisis point such as losing a job or a loved one moving out may feel disastrous but can actually motivate an addict to seek the help they need.

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