Cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal substance worldwide. Because cocaine is highly addictive, it only takes one or a few uses to make a person dependent on the drug. Despite the initial allure of recreational fun, the devastating effects of cocaine on one’s life cannot be overlooked. Cocaine use poses significant risks to overall health and has detrimental effects on oral health.

This article will cover the effects of cocaine addiction, the oral condition known as coke jaw, the correlation between oral cancer and cocaine use, treatment options, and more.

man doing cocaine on his phone

What is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is an immensely addictive stimulant that comes in a white powder form and is typically snorted, smoked, or injected. Cocaine addiction, also known as cocaine use disorder, is a challenging and complex condition that is described as a compulsive craving for cocaine due to its impact on dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of euphoria, movement, and processing of rewards. When someone uses cocaine, they may initially experience these effects. However, as the drug wears off, they can experience unpleasant reactions like anxiety, confusion, irritability, and agitation. These negative effects can drive individuals to use cocaine more frequently to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Side Effects of Cocaine Addiction

On top of withdrawal symptoms, cocaine addiction presents a wide range of side effects that can affect an individual’s physical and mental health. Some common side effects of cocaine use include:

  • Headaches
  • Paranoia
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Seizures
  • Loss of smell or nosebleeds

Read more about the lifelong effects of cocaine abuse here.

What is Coke Jaw?

Cocaine use not only poses significant effects on overall health but can also have detrimental effects on oral health. One specific oral health concern associated with cocaine abuse is the condition known as coke jaw, which refers to the damage and deterioration of the jawbone caused by prolonged cocaine abuse.

Because cocaine use is a stimulant drug, it causes many of the body’s processes to speed up. This increase of activity in the central nervous system can result in varying side effects, with one being uncontrollable jaw movements. This movement is where the term ‘coke jaw’ comes from. Cocaine also constricts the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the jaw, resulting in tissue damage and bone deterioration.

man holding jaw in pain from coke jaw

Side Effects of Coke Jaw

There are many side effects of coke jaw, many of which are long-term effects that impact everyday life. Some of the long-term effects of coke jaw include:

  • Bruxism: Bruxism is known as the involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth and is a teeth-grinding disorder. This can result in jaw pain, headaches, and more severe dental conditions.
  • Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD): TMD refers to a group of health conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint and jaw muscles. Because this can impact jaw movement and affect how we speak, eat, and face movements, preventing these disorders will improve quality of life. Cocaine causes irritation or inflammation in this joint, resulting in difficulty eating, jaw pain, muscle stiffness, and locking of the jaw.
  • Gum Disease: Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an inflammatory disease that directly affects the tissue around the teeth that can result in tooth decay and tooth loss. Cocaine use can cause significant harm to the gums, which can then lead to the development of gum disease. Some other effects of gum disease are gingivitis, periodontitis, gum pain, and oral infections.
  • Cavities: Cocaine users face an elevated risk of cavities due to the effects the drug has on the mouth, which include dry mouth, plaque deterioration, and dental erosion.

Coke Jaw vs. Coke Mouth

When cocaine is used through methods like snorting, smoking, or rubbing on the mouth and gums, it can cause significant damage to oral tissues. While coke jaw has its own side effects, it is one symptom of a larger condition called coke mouth. Coke mouth is a term used to describe the overarching oral conditions that are associated with cocaine abuse. While this results in many of the same effects of coke jaw, one significant condition associated with coke mouth is the perforation of the oral palate.

Perforation of the Oral Palate

Perforation of the oral palate is a severe complication that can occur due to prolonged and excessive cocaine use. It refers to the formation of a hole or opening in the roof of the mouth, specifically the soft tissue known as the palate. This condition is also known as cocaine-induced palatal perforation or cocaine-induced palatal necrosis. Some symptoms of this perforation can include:

  • Difficulties with eating or swallowing
  • Nasal regurgitation, which is when fluid or food enters the nasal cavity
  • Chronic nasal and sinus infections

Treatment for Coke Jaw

cocaine addiction treatment

The treatment for coke jaw involves addressing both the underlying cocaine addiction and managing the specific complications related to jaw movement. The first step in treating coke jaw is treating the cocaine addiction. Some of the treatment options for cocaine addiction include:

  • Medical Detox: Medical detox is commonly the first step in treating substance abuse. Under the supervision of a medical professional, individuals will be able to remove the toxins from their bodies in a safe and sterile environment. This can be done in a medical facility or at home.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Therapy can help individuals identify the cause of their addiction and develop coping skills, establish healthy habits, and provide guidance toward recovery. Many different forms of therapy are used in addiction treatment, with the most popular being cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Aftercare Services: Aftercare services are provided after an individual has completed an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. These services include prescribing medication, attending support groups, and continuing therapy sessions when needed.

Once the cocaine addiction has been addressed, you can begin treatment focused on managing the symptoms of coke jaw. These treatments can include:

  • Pain Management: As jaw pain is a significant symptom of coke jaw, medications may be prescribed to help alleviate that pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Dental Restoration: If tooth damage or decay has occurred due to coke jaw, dental restorations such as fillings, crowns, or root canal treatments may be necessary to restore teeth.
  • Oral Appliances: Oral appliances, such as bite splints, may be used to prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding, as they can stabilize the jaw. This helps to alleviate the stress on the temporomandibular joint.

Read more about the best treatment options for treating cocaine addiction here.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment at Asheville Recovery Center

Coke jaw results from prolonged and chronic cocaine use and can cause significant social and health problems throughout your life. Your health should be a top priority, and when you engage in drug use, you have an increased risk of many physical, mental, and emotional health problems. Cocaine addiction can take over your life, so it’s essential to get help before this happens.

At Asheville Recovery Center, we provide addiction treatment services to those suffering from substance use. Our center works to address every aspect of addiction and focuses on providing individualized treatment plans to our clients. This ensures every client receives the best care, resources, and support possible during their recovery journey.

Drug addiction is not an easy disorder to overcome on your own. If you or a loved one are struggling with drug abuse, contact us today to learn more about treatment programs.

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