Cocaine is one of the most powerful and addictive substances available in the United States, and consuming it can lead to a number of negative health effects. But, is an eating disorder one of them? Is it possible for a person to develop an eating disorder as the result of cocaine addiction? 

Cocaine Addiction

In order to understand how a cocaine addiction may or may not cause an eating disorder, it is necessary to understand cocaine and its many effects on a person. 

Cocaine Explained

Cocaine – also known as coke, crack, or crack cocaine – is a highly addictive, stimulant drug. It is derived from the leaves of coca plants that flourish in South America. Cocaine often takes the form of a fine, white powder; however, it can also be found on the illegal drug market in the form of a crystal-like rock. Both forms of this drug are potent, addictive, and dangerous. 

Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine has a number of effects on the body and mind. This is due to cocaine primarily affecting an individual’s central nervous system. As a stimulant, cocaine speeds up functions in the brain once consumed. This mental stimulation often leads to increased energy, alertness, and sensitivity. However, these effects are short-lived for a consumer. Most often, the effects of cocaine abuse will last for around half an hour, but they can also last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour at most.      

Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse 

Cocaine abuse and addiction can lead to a number of negative impacts on a person’s health and everyday life. The abuse of this illegal drug and its effects typically lead to consequences in an individual’s relationships, occupation, education, hobbies, finances, and more. However, some of the most damaging effects of cocaine abuse and addiction happen within the human body. 

The short-term side effects of cocaine abuse usually include: 

  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • Speedy or irregular heartbeat
  • Raised body temperature
  • Raised blood pressure

The long-term side effects of cocaine addiction can vary based on how the drug was ingested, but in any form of consumption, long-term cocaine abuse often leads to: 

  • Malnourishment
  • A weaker immune system
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Movement disorders

The Brain and Cocaine 

Like many other parts of the body, cocaine has a severe impact on the brain. As a person continues to ingest cocaine over time, the brain eventually adapts to the consistent presence of the substance. Not only does this make the high from cocaine less effective, but it also makes a person depend on cocaine mentally and physically. In fact, once a dependence is formed, the brain will restructure itself in order to ensure it receives the substance it depends on. It does so by making a person more likely to engage in addictive behavior, which in-turn makes them more likely to engage in immediate, repeatable pleasures like cocaine abuse. 

What is an Eating Disorder? 

Eating disorders come in several different forms and, in some ways, are unique to the individual living with them. In any case, an eating disorder is a medical condition where a person engages in abnormal eating habits and behaviors. Typically, these habits and behaviors possess some significant threat to their health and well-being. In some cases, an individual’s eating disorder may even pose a threat to their life if left untreated. 

Sadly, eating disorders are often misunderstood in the United States. To be clear, an eating disorder is not dieting or caring about one’s weight and appearance. An eating disorder is a condition that occurs when a person cares too much or too little about dieting, weight, and appearance. For individuals with an eating disorder, these factors often consume their thoughts, causing anxiety and even depression. 

Types of Eating Disorders 

Although eating disorders are somewhat unique to the individual’s experiencing them, there are three main categories of eating disorders: 

Anorexia Nervosa

A person living with anorexia nervosa typically believes that they are overweight  – even if they are extremely thin – and restricts their eating. In some cases, they restrict their eating to the point of starvation. 

Bulimia Nervosa

A person living with bulimia nervosa believes that they are overweight – even if they are not – but continues to eat anyway. However, in order to lose weight or maintain their weight, a person with bulimia nervosa will purge their body almost immediately after eating. Typically, they do so by forcing themselves to vomit or by consuming laxatives. 

Binge Eating

Unlike the other types of eating disorders, an individual with a binge eating disorder prioritizes food over their weight, appearance, and oftentimes everything else in their life. These individuals typically consume large quantities of food without regard for purging or being healthy.   

How are Eating Disorders Developed?

Eating disorders are developed as a result of several factors. One of the most important factors in whether or not a person will develop an eating disorder is their perception of themselves. Disorders like anorexia and bulimia occur because a person perceives that they are overweight. A binge eating disorder, on the other hand, is often the cause of a person using food to self-medicate. However, eating disorders can also develop as the result of changes in the brain. 

Cocaine Addiction and Eating Disorders 

Cocaine addiction can lead to a variety of medical conditions, including mental and physical health problems. This even includes eating disorders. In these situations, the eating disorder is developed due to consistent cocaine abuse affecting several areas of the brain, especially those that correspond with mood and behavior. When these areas are altered, a person not only becomes more likely to engage in addictive behavior but also to experience moods and behaviors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. 

However, living with cocaine addiction is not the only path to developing eating disorders. Eating disorders can also develop due to genetic predispositions, certain environments, and trauma.  

Treating Cocaine Addiction and Eating Disorders

If a person is living with a cocaine addiction as well as an eating disorder, it is important to treat both simultaneously. These disorders can lead to serious mental and physical health concerns and oftentimes perpetuate each other. To effectively treat one of them requires treating both of them in order to break the cycle and achieve more complete healing.  

Interested in Addiction and Eating Disorder Treatment?

If you or a loved one is living with a cocaine addiction, eating disorder, or both, help is available near you today! At Knoxville Recovery Center, our addiction specialists and mental health professionals work together to provide comprehensive treatment for one or both disorders. Contact us today to learn more about all of our treatment options!

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