How Does Cocaine Affect The Appearance Of Your Eyes?

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Abuse of cocaine can have a number of adverse effects on the cornea, pupils, vitreous layers, retinal film, and other parts of the eye. This condition is commonly called cocaine eyes.

Cocaine Eyes

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that has many effects on the body, including the eyes. The drug can cause your pupils to dilate and your blood vessels to constrict.

This can lead to red, bloodshot eyes. Cocaine can also cause dryness and irritation, and in more severe cases, cocaine use can lead to vision problems.

The most obvious physical effect of cocaine on the eyes is its dilating effect, resulting in ‘cocaine pupils.’

This is a result of cocaine releasing endorphins, dopamine, and other chemicals, causing norepinephrine reuptake to be inhibited.

The release of these chemicals causes pupil dilation as a response to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which along with adrenaline, causes the pupils to constrict.

What Do Cocaine Eyes Look Like?

Cocaine causes the pupils to dilate and blood vessels to constrict, leading to widened pupils, red eyes, and a glossy or ‘glassy’ appearance over the eyes as the retina film begins to dry out.

Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine Use On The Eyes

Cocaine abuse can cause vision problems, such as blurry vision and difficulty seeing in low light.

In addition, cocaine can damage the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to vision loss.

Cocaine abuse can also cause inflammation of the eye, a condition known as iritis. Symptoms of iritis include pain, redness, and blurred vision, which can lead to permanent vision loss.

Bloodshot Eyes

The effects of cocaine on blood vessels causes constriction. This causes the eyes to receive less blood and oxygen, resulting in bloodshot eyes.

Involuntary Eye Movement (Nystagmus)

One of the long-term effects of cocaine use is involuntary eye movement, or nystagmus, which is an involuntary, rapid, side-to-side movement of the eyes.

Cocaine use can lead to nystagmus, because the drug interferes with the normal functioning of the central nervous system (CNS).


Long-term use of cocaine can lead to glaucoma, a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged, resulting in vision loss.

Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can cause blindness if left untreated, and can lead to pain, nausea, vomiting, and even blindness.


Jaundice is caused by an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is produced when the liver breaks down red blood cells.

In healthy people, bilirubin is excreted in the bile, but in people with jaundice, it builds up in the blood and causes the characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Eye Ulcers (Ulcerative Keratitis)

One of the most serious potential complications of cocaine use is the inflammation and ulceration of the cornea.

These changes can lead to ulcerative keratitis, which is a potentially vision-threatening condition.

Cocaine drug use can also cause dry eyes, increased intraocular pressure, and other changes that can contribute to ulcerative keratitis.

Retinal Detachment

Heavy cocaine use can cause retinal detachment, which occurs when the retina, the thin layer of tissue on the inside of the eye that is responsible for vision, becomes separated from the underlying layer of the eye.

Vision Loss

The effects of cocaine on the eyes can be both short term and long term. Short-term effects of cocaine include dilated pupils, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and rapid eye motions.

Long-term cocaine use can also result in a condition called talc retinopathy, which happens when the layer of tissue in the back of the eye is damaged by a buildup of talc particles.

While talc retinopathy is a relatively rare condition, it is most common in people who use the drug intravenously.

How To Treat The Effects Of Cocaine On The Eyes

Some treatments for the effects of cocaine on the eyes include laser surgery for retinal detachment, antibiotics for eye infections, and eye drops for red or dry eyes.

However the most efficient and safe way to treat the effects of cocaine on the eyes — and any other part of the body — is to stop using cocaine and seek out an addiction treatment program.

Addiction treatment is the best way to avoid the adverse physical and mental health effects produced by drug abuse, and can help you to achieve sobriety and live a healthy life.

What Are The Other Risks Of Cocaine Abuse?

The eyes are not the only part of the body affected by cocaine abuse, and the negative side effects of such use do not limit themselves to only physical symptoms and manifestations.

Cocaine abuse can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental disorders, while other physical side effects can be far more harrowing and dangerous.

Some of the other risks of cocaine abuse are:

  • overdose
  • death
  • seizures
  • memory loss
  • nosebleeds from snorting cocaine
  • respiratory illness
  • mood disorders
  • high blood pressure

Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction

There are a number of treatment options available for cocaine addiction.

Treatment typically begins with detox, followed by counseling and support groups. Medications may also be used to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Other treatment approaches include:

  • inpatient and outpatient programs
  • residential rehab programs
  • counseling
  • individual and group therapy
  • partial hospitalization programs (PHP)

Find A Drug And Alcohol Rehab Center For Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one is seeking addiction treatment for a substance use disorder involving cocaine, give our helpline a call today to learn more about rehab centers near you.


Canton, Massachusetts

Bedrock Recovery Center


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Plymouth, Massachusetts

Ohio Recovery Center


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Spring Hill Recovery Center


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