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Cocaine Eyes

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You’ve suspected for a while that your significant other was hiding something from you, but you haven’t been able to determine what. They come home late, trying to sneak into the house without you noticing. Their sleep schedule has started to become non-existent. You’ve noticed they aren’t eating as much, too. They’ve also been on edge, snapping easily and looking over their shoulder at even the slightest sound.

You try talking to them about it, but they clam up or wave you off, reassuring you that nothing is going on and that they’re okay. You don’t know what to think at this point. There are other small things you’ve noticed, too, but aren’t sure if they’re a part of the same concern. Your partner’s eyes have been red and irritated recently, and their pupils seem to be dilated even in bright light. Are these side effects related to their other behavioral changes? What’s going on with your partner?

Many people think they can spot the signs of substance use in a partner easily, but not every side effect of substance use is as obvious as people think. As professionals in the field of substance use and recovery, our team at Pacific Sands utilizes solution-based approaches to substance use disorders. This is why we take the time to publish articles regarding substance use to answer some of the commonly asked questions or discuss the lesser-known aspects of it. Today we’ll be looking specifically at cocaine eyes, what they are, why they happen, and what you can do to address them. 

Cocaine Eyes – A Quick Definition

As you might be able to guess just by the name, cocaine eyes are the side effects that result from cocaine use. What exactly does that mean, though? 

Cocaine eyes aren’t just a singular symptom or side effect, but rather a combination of conditions and side effects that may occur due to long-term cocaine use. To help you be able to better identify cocaine eyes, let’s go over exactly how cocaine impacts the eyes in the first place. 

How Can Cocaine Use Impact Your Eyes?

Cocaine is a stimulant substance that is commonly taken via snorting, rubbing on the gums, or smoking. None of these inherently go near the eyes, so why does cocaine use lead to the development of different eye conditions?

When you have a stimulant in your body, it speeds up the central nervous system, which is the messaging system within the body. This can lead to feelings of high energy, but what it’s actually doing is speeding up the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. It can also cause your muscles to tense up.

This is how cocaine impacts the eyes, not by physically putting something into it, but by affecting the systems that play into how your eyes work. For example, we have many blood vessels that run through our eyes. Heightened blood pressure can impact your blood vessels, including the ones in your eye, leading to potential damage. 

Does the Method of Use Impact Your Eyes Differently?

As we mentioned above, the most common methods of cocaine use are snorting, smoking, and rubbing it on the gums. Each of these methods has its own way of getting cocaine into our system, with smoking being the fastest way for someone to feel the effects.

Overall, no matter which way cocaine is consumed, it impacts the eyes the same. The one difference can come from smoking cocaine as smoke can cause eye irritation. Ultimately this is not the most concerning, eye-related side effect that can come from cocaine use.

identifying signs of cocaine use in eyes

What Are the Most Common Eye Conditions Caused by Cocaine Use?

There are four conditions that are most commonly caused by cocaine use, all of which have a higher chance of developing with long-term use. These each vary in severity and a person may experience multiple conditions at the same time.

  • Exophthalmos – Also referred to as proptosis, this condition is classified by the bulging or protruding of one or both eyeballs. While this condition can go away on its own if treated properly, it can also lead to vision loss if not addressed. It’s not easy to spot at times, but if you’re ever uncertain don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor.
  • Cycloplegia – Cycloplegia is a condition that causes your eyes to stay dilated. Cycloplegic hydrochloride is a substance found in eye drops used by eye doctors that causes your eyes to dilate and stay dilated for check-ups. The condition cycloplegia caused by cocaine use, however, stems from paralysis of the muscles in your eyes making them unable to retract. Dilated eyes are more susceptible to bright light and make the vision fuzzy. 
  • Corneal ulcers – Ulcers on the eyes, known as corneal ulcers, can occur when cocaine particles come into contact with the sensitive tissues on and around our eyes. As an irritant, cocaine can lead to scratches on the cornea and other irritation and redness. 
  • Upper eyelid reduction – While the name is fairly straightforward, it’s not as harmless as it may seem. Long-term cocaine use can lead to the retraction of the upper eyelid. Our eyelids help keep our eyes safe and protect them from drying out. Upper eyelid retraction can cause the eyes to appear wide open, leaving the eyes are risk of damage and increasing dryness in the eye.

How Can You Tell Apart Cocaine Eyes From Other Substance-Related Eye Conditions?

Cocaine isn’t the only substance that can impact our eyes with use. Other stimulants, like meth, can also cause pupil dilation. The THC in marijuana lowers blood pressure, which can cause the blood vessels in the eyes to expand, giving them their signature “bloodshot” appearance.

The main way to tell apart cocaine eyes from other conditions involves the other symptoms and situations around it – aka context clues. If someone is experiencing frequent nose bleeds, a new or worsening cough, fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, changes in appetite, and irregular heartbeat, they are showing the signs indicative of cocaine use.

How Can You Treat Cocaine Eyes at Home?

While not all conditions caused by cocaine use can be treated at home, there are ways to manage the symptoms in order to reduce the chances of long-term damage.

If you’re experiencing corneal ulcers, it’s important to not scratch or rub the eye as it can worsen the condition. Depending on the severity, wearing an eye patch or protective glasses can help protect the eyes as they heal. Avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses while your eyes are still irritated. If the irritation persists, seek medical help.

If you’re experiencing dry eyes from cocaine use, eye drops can help keep your eyes moistened and reduce the risk of damage. With upper eyelid reduction, wearing safety glasses and being cautious of situations like high winds where your eyes are at greater risk of drying out or getting something in them is a must.

The only way to truly help prevent and stop many of the conditions caused by cocaine use, however, is to look into treatment options for the cocaine use itself.

the impact of cocaine on eyes appearance

Treatment Options for Cocaine Eyes and Cocaine Use in California

When it comes to seeking recovery options from a cocaine use disorder, it may seem overwhelming not knowing where to start. What makes a good facility for recovery? What options should you be aware of? Are there certain programs that are better than others?

Cocaine recovery programs can offer everything from cocaine detox to inpatient and outpatient services. A detox program is a medically guided cocaine withdrawal monitoring service to ensure your comfort and safety as you begin the recovery process. From there you move to either inpatient or outpatient services, depending on your specific needs.

Inpatient programs keep you on-site so you can focus solely on your recovery journey, receiving hands-on treatment whenever you need it. Outpatient services offer the same treatment programs but you go home at night during your program. Many people utilize outpatient programs as a transition after inpatient programming.

No matter what services you need, you deserve to have a program that will work with you. That’s what our team here at Pacific Sands does. With an intimate setting at our high-end facility, our staff gives you the one-on-one attention you deserve to help you along your healing journey. Whenever you’re ready to start just give us a call at 949-426-7962.

Pacific Sands – The first step towards a new life.


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