Injecting Cocaine: Dangers & Risks

Cocaine can be taken in several ways such as snorting, rubbing inside the mouth, or injecting. Of these methods, injecting cocaine presents the fastest effects. However, the intravenous use of cocaine also poses health and safety risks. Understanding why injecting cocaine can be dangerous to your body enables you to take a step towards addiction treatment.

Cocaine is an illicit stimulant that has been a household name for many drug users. Originally coming from the leaves of the coca plant, “Coke”, “Big C”, or “Crack” was initially intended to battle problems in fatigue or to improve focus.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over an estimated 1.5 million Americans are taking cocaine annually, of which the highest rate is among people ages 18-25 years old. It is easy to see how this drug is addicting–with stresses, personal problems and everything else in people’s plates, cocaine may seem like the only means to cope.

However, it is important to know the effects of using cocaine, and specifically how cocaine abuse leads to a devastating host of problems. In this post, we will be elaborating on the effects of cocaine shooting and the addiction to this drug.

The Dangers Of Using Cocaine Intravenously (IV)

The most common way of using cocaine is by snorting or taken orally by rubbing on the gums. However, many people wonder “Can you shoot coke?” like heroin and other types of drugs. Many believe that this process can help the drug reach faster in the bloodstream, which results in faster stimulating effects. According to NIDA, cocaine can also be taken intravenously via injections, but this is a very risky procedure. Below are some of the possible dangers of injecting cocaine.

Increased risk of addiction

Some people with an apparent cocaine addiction may wonder, “Can you inject coke instead of snorting?”, with the intention of getting faster results. Others who have other drug addictions would also think if IV is applicable to cocaine if they are trying it for the first time.

Those who dabble on these thoughts should also think about the increased risk of developing a severe form of cocaine addiction. Since cocaine shooting brings higher doses of the drug much quicker in the bloodstream and then in the brain, the progression of drug tolerance, dependency and addiction happen at a faster pace.


Repeated injection of cocaine or any drug can also increase your risk of developing an infection. If a needle is unsanitized or people end up sharing needles, diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis C, or Tetanus can develop. In essence, any type of infection can develop when IV use of cocaine is done frequently. Every time you shoot up cocaine, there is a chance that a foreign body can pass through your body’s circulation system and cause an infection.


Overdose also happens more frequently in IV cocaine use. Some users underestimate the potency of a drug when they inject–and this is where it goes downhill. They may think that they need the same amount of drug in liquid form, only to make the mistake and experience an overdose. Cocaine overdose is potentially fatal, and there is an increased risk when you attempt to inject this drug.

Physical Signs Of Intravenous (IV) Cocaine Abuse

Now that we have understood the potential health effects of both intravenous cocaine use and cocaine abuse in general, below are some of the signs we can detect these problems in a loved one or yourself.

  • Unusual marks on the arms: You will notice needle-like wounds similar to marks when you have taken a vaccine shot. Bruises are also common.
  • Lack of hygiene and self-care: People with cocaine abuse often lose interest in daily life and other responsibilities. Thus you may notice that they have an unkempt appearance or look sickly.
  • Wearing long sleeves: To hide the marks on their arms, they may wear long-sleeve shirts, jackets or coats even when it isn’t appropriate.
  • Swollen hands or feet: Infections from IV cocaine use can also cause swelling of the hands or feet. A sign of swelling is when joint areas may look bigger or appear without wrinkles.

Psychological Signs of Intravenous Cocaine Abuse

Aside from physical signs, you can also take note of some psychological changes that indicate cocaine abuse:

  • Aggression and hostility: When people who are addicted to cocaine lack supply or attempt to stop their use, drug withdrawals can be comfortable at the very least. This can cause a person to be irritable, aggressive and hostile. They may shout, isolate themselves, or abuse others in various ways.
  • Anxiety and paranoia: Those with cocaine use problems have brains that are overstimulated–which means that they can have racing thoughts and irrational fears. When this problem persists even outside cocaine use, they are described as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Paranoia Disorder.
  • Depression: Some people who wonder, “Can you shoot up cocaine to self-medicate?” may often think that this drug can cure depression. The truth is, cocaine or any illicit drug use can worsen depression symptoms especially when you have developed a dependency. The loss of control, worsening health, and brain damage related to cocaine use can bring in severe depression when people don’t seek treatment right away.

How Intravenous Cocaine Affects The Brain

Those who may wonder, “Can you inject cocaine intravenously?” should also be aware of how this drug affects the brain. IV cocaine affects the brain the same way as inhaled or ingested cocaine does but at a much faster rate. Below is a progression of how intravenous cocaine enters the blood, and then the brain:

  • Cocaine is injected intravenously and enters the bloodstream.
  • Once that particular flow of blood passes in the brain, cocaine binds to the brain receptors related to “pleasure and reward circuits”.
  • The brain receptors become stimulated with cocaine, thereby releasing dopamine, a chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure. Compared to natural dopamine-releasing activities, cocaine provokes the brain to release large amounts of this chemical, which leads to substance-seeking behaviors.
  • As the addiction progresses, physical and mental health problems arise, which can be lethal when left untreated. Overdose of cocaine can sometimes be unexpected, and life-threatening when one isn’t aware of the signs.

Symptoms Of Cocaine Overdose

Identifying the early signs of overdose can be crucial to saving a life. If you suspect a cocaine overdose, here are some clear symptoms you need to take note of:

  • Fever or high body temperature
  • Fast heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lack of comprehension
  • Loss of consciousness

If you notice these signs, it is best to seek emergency medical services right away.

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Cocaine Detoxification And Withdrawal

Even if you notice signs of cocaine abuse in yourself or a loved one, know that there is help available. Cocaine addiction can be treated with several evidence-based approaches. The key to overcoming a cocaine addiction safely and effectively is through detoxification in the initial stages.

Detoxification can be done by using agonist or antagonist drugs that help dampen the addicting effects of cocaine in the body. It can also be done by tapering off the dosage of cocaine until the person doesn’t experience drug dependency. Detox should be done in high-quality rehab facilities in order to be safe and effective.

Additionally, it is expected to experience withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Cocaine comedown can include physical discomforts such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, tremors, and even emotional distress. However, being in a rehab center makes the process more comfortable and avoids the life-threatening risks of withdrawal.

Treatment For Cocaine Addiction

Following the detoxification process, treatment will proceed for cocaine addiction. These can include a variety of methods that suit each patient’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Some people prefer a spiritual approach to healing, and others would want a more scientific, self-management method for recovery.

The most popular methods include:

  • 12-Step Rehab
  • Non-12-Step Rehab
  • Luxury Rehab
  • Inpatient Drug Rehab
  • Holistic Rehab
  • Dual Diagnosis Rehab

Patients and addiction specialists may choose to combine these treatments to provide a customized approach that is deemed effective to achieve sobriety from cocaine.

Various Methods, Same Addiction

Whether you or a loved one injects, snorts, or ingests cocaine, it is still what it is–an addiction. Understanding the signs and the dangers of cocaine abuse can help someone get back to living addiction-free.


  • – “What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?”.
  • – “How is cocaine used?”.
  • – “Substance Use and HIV risk”.
  • – “Overdose: Cocaine Overdose”.
  • – “Cocaine and the heart”.
  • – “Cocaine potentiates defensive behaviors related to fear and anxiety”.
  • – “Serious Infections Other than Human Immunodeficiency Virus Among Intravenous Drug Abusers”.
  • – “Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia”.
  • – “Nuclear attitudes and reactions: Associations with depression, drug use, and quality of life”.
  • – “Subsecond dopamine release promotes cocaine seeking”.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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