Cocaine is a popular stimulant drug that is known for producing euphoria and high levels of energy in those who use it, and it is one of the most commonly abused illicit drugs today.
Some mental effects of cocaine use may seem positive, such as raising a person’s self-esteem and making them feel happy and powerful in the moment.
However, it also has a number of negative effects, including cocaine-induced headaches.
For some people, headaches caused by cocaine abuse can be immediate, while for others they can begin around 40 to 90 minutes after the last dose was taken.
In some cases, cocaine headaches can even begin after a long period of abstaining from chronic cocaine use.
What Causes Cocaine Headaches?
Among the effects of cocaine are high blood pressure (hypertension), a fast heart rate, abdominal pain, and a mild to severe headache.
Headaches are one of the most common side effects of cocaine use and abuse, and have been reported in up to 90% of people who use cocaine according to some studies.
Sympathetic Nervous System Stimulation
Cocaine has numerous effects on the body and brain, and much of what happens during a cocaine high takes place in the central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.
It is possible that this initial stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is what triggers a cocaine headache so quickly after ingestion.
Narrowing Of Blood Vessels
Using cocaine causes a person’s blood vessels to constrict throughout their body, meaning to get smaller and narrower.
This vasoconstriction is caused by the failed reuptake of norepinephrine, one of the neurotransmitters that is elevated by cocaine use.
Decreasing The Reuptake Of Neurotransmitters
As a stimulant, cocaine works by raising levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.
Cocaine use then prevents the reuptake of these important neurotransmitters, causing unnatural levels and chemical impairments within the brain.
Method Of Coke Use
Whether a person gets a headache from cocaine use also depends on their method of ingestion. People who use cocaine by injection tend to experience stronger and more immediate headaches.
It is also true that people who smoke crack cocaine (freebase) are more likely to experience headaches as opposed to those who use powder cocaine by injecting or snorting.
Can Cocaine Cause Migraines?
Migraines are the most commonly reported type of headache that people experience as a result of using cocaine.
A migraine is classified as a severe and throbbing headache that occurs on one side of the head and is often accompanied by dizziness, nausea, and sometimes even vomiting.
Headaches and migraine-like headaches can also be one of the side effects of cocaine withdrawal that a person experiences after they stop using cocaine.
Is It A Myth That Cocaine Can Cure Headaches?
It is not entirely a myth that the use of cocaine can cure headaches. In some cases, acute cocaine use has been shown to help with the treatment of headaches.
However, it is typically a small minority of people who feel headache relief from using cocaine. In most cases, cocaine will cause new headaches or make current headaches worse.
People who are suffering from frequent headaches or migraines should never take cocaine as a form of self-medication and should instead seek professional medical advice.
Risk Factors For Developing Cocaine Headaches
Cocaine-related headaches are most likely to occur in people who are middle-aged and that are female.
A person is also at an increased risk for cocaine headaches if they have a previous history of cocaine or other substance use, or a previous history of cluster headaches or migraines.
People who are at a high risk of stroke are also more likely to experience headaches when using cocaine, and, in turn, cocaine abuse can increase the risk of stroke or intracranial hemorrhage.
How To Treat Cocaine Headaches
In order to treat cocaine headaches, a person should address their concerns with their healthcare provider, as opposed to trying to treat their headaches on their own.
Treatment for cocaine headaches may include medications such as doxepin or amlodipine to help reduce their prevalence and severity.
In addition to taking certain medications, a person may want to also seek addiction treatment as a means of stopping their cocaine use for good.
Preventing Headaches With Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Cocaine is well-known for its addictive nature and it can be a very difficult drug to stop taking without professional addiction treatment.
For this reason, a person in recovery for cocaine dependence will always start with a period of detox, before progressing into either outpatient or inpatient treatment.
Dual diagnosis treatment can be effective when treating cocaine drug use, as it works to treat both a person’s addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders they have.
Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment Today
Cocaine addiction, and substance abuse in general, can be difficult to overcome without professional assistance.
If you have any questions about what treatment entails or about how to get started at a recovery center nearby, feel free to call our helpline at any time.Article Sources
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
- National Library of Medicine: PubMed.gov