Eyes wide open, heart pounding out of your chest, hypersensitivity to light, touch, and sound, and a sudden burst of extreme happiness are all major short term side effects to taking a drug like cocaine. While these symptoms do not seem like they will have much of an affect to the human body, there is much more that happens than this that frequently goes unrealized.
To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.
“Right after I took it, snorted it, I immediately screamed. I just had all of this energy and was hyper-focused,” Ryan described. “And most of us were drunk, too. So just mixing cocaine and alcohol, I already put my life at risk. When you do coke, it’s almost [certain] that you’re going to have a heart attack within that next hour. That night [when first taking cocaine] someone actually suffered from an attack and we all just left the party. He called the ambulance but left the hospital in cuffs… I don’t know much about coke, but I know that it’s definitely really harmful to you. I know people who have had heart attacks, they didn’t die, but they came close,” Ryan said.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of a coco plant that is native to South America. Although it may rarely be used for valid medical purposes, such as anesthesia for some surgeries, cocaine is an illegal drug. Cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder, and is typically taken it in binges, which is taking the drug repeatedly within a short time, at increasingly higher doses—to maintain a high. Taking cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain and causes excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells, which disrupts normal brain communication and causes cocaine’s high.
Cocaine can also lead to a long list of long term effects, including a faster heartbeat, tremors and muscle twitches, and restlessness, which can all lead to irregular heart beat and cause a heart attack or seizure, which can be fatal. Additionally, cocaine can lead to being malnourished, because cocaine decreases appetite, and movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, which may occur after many years of use, and some also experience severe paranoia, in which they lose touch with reality and have auditory hallucinations—hearing noises that aren’t real.
“…someone actually suffered from an attack and we all just left the party. He called the ambulance but left the hospital in cuffs…”
From 2000-2016, over 10,000 people have died from the use of cocaine alone. Cocaine related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure, followed by respiratory arrest. Many people who use cocaine also drink alcohol at the same time, which is particularly risky and can lead to an overdose. Others mix cocaine with heroin, another dangerous—and deadly—combination.
“… just mixing cocaine and alcohol, I already put my life at risk.”
Cocaine is a strongly addictive drug which leads to long-term effects such as tolerance, meaning high doses and/or more frequent use is needed to attain the same level of pleasure during the initial period of use. Because cocaine has a tendency to decrease appetite, many chronic users can also become malnourished. If cocaine is used in a binge fashion, with frequent, repeated use over a short period of time, panic and paranoia may set in as well.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that in 2010 there were 1.5 million cocaine users aged 12 or older, roughly 0.6 percent of the U.S. population. These estimates were similar to the number and rate in 2009 (1.6 million or 0.7 percent), but were lower than the estimates in 2006 (2.4 million or 1.0 percent).
“I don’t know much about [cocaine], but I know that it’s definitely really harmful to you. I know people who have had heart attacks, they didn’t die, but they came close.”
In 2013, cocaine accounted for almost 6-percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment programs. The majority of individuals (68 percent in 2013) who seek treatment for cocaine smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance. Some programs provide an inpatient level of care, meaning that the person with the addiction moves out of the home and into the facility for around-the-clock supervision and assistance while others provide outpatient care, so people with these addictions can continue to live at home while working on their addictions.