How Does Tolerance to Cocaine Develop?

Cocaine is powerful and addictive. Even after one single use, initial tolerance to the drug may develop. Many users report it is difficult to get the same level of euphoria and pleasure achieved during first cocaine exposure. Cocaine can be addictive after the first use. Cocaine addiction develops over time typically as tolerance builds. Learn how tolerance develops and what to do if it happens to a loved one.

Tolerance to Cocaine

Drug tolerance is defined as attenuation of a drug’s effects, most often following repeated or prolonged exposure. When tolerance develops, higher doses are required to feel the original effect. Initial tolerance develops rapidly with use but after the initial level is reached, people who use the drug don’t appear to develop tolerance. Regular users of the drug may develop ‘reverse tolerance’ whereby the people experience effects of the drug more intensely. This is known as cocaine sensitization. Cocaine sensitization can lead to life-threatening effects like:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cocaine overdose
  • Respiratory failure

Tolerance Symptoms

Cocaine tolerance can manifest as the need for more cocaine to achieve euphoric effects. Cocaine is a compulsive drug with intense cravings. The more cocaine is used, the more a person wants. When a binge occurs, it takes more cocaine to get less dopamine for euphoric effect. Eventually, no dopamine is left and the individual has to wait several days before there is enough to get high again.

How Long Tolerance Takes

Building tolerance looks different in various people but some people who use build tolerance while increasing dosages to achieve the same high. Other users are more sensitive. The short duration of effects leads to increased tolerance over time as cocaine doesn’t stay in the system for long. As effects wear off, more drugs are frequently administered and a pattern of repeated use occurs.

High Tolerance

Often, people who increase frequency and amount of cocaine consumption due to a quickly developed tolerance have adapted to the drug. THe brain becomes less sensitive and produces less dopamine. Many people who use the drug report constantly seeking but failing to achieve pleasure. Tolerance builds over time and requires higher and higher doses. The build-up of tolerance and frequency of use can lead to increased serious health consequences or sudden death.

Lowering Tolerance

Many people initially drawn to the drug for a high find themselves in a sticky situation when tolerance develops and addiction kicks in. The risk of lowering and increasing doses of cocaine is overdose. Some signals cocaine overdose has occurred will be obvious in the following ways:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular respiration
  • Nausea
  • Rise in body temperature
  • Vomiting

Focusing on the above effects of cocaine tolerance, it is helpful to realize people with addiction need to seek help if tolerance builds to a point where overdose is possible, before it is too late. Without the right support and help it could be a high risk of serious complications or even death.

If you know a loved one struggling with addiction to cocaine, call us to find out how we can help provide you with the right support and resources to get them the help they need to recover and live a full life.