Cocaine: Millions of users can’t be wrong, can they?

Let’s break it down:

  • For most users, it’s the way cocaine triggers a euphoria and mental alertness—especially to sight, touch, and sound, the faster the drug is absorbed into the blood stream, the more intense the effect (hence the attraction of smoking crack)that attracts them to the experience. On the down side (and there are many—see below), the greater the intensity of the drug’s effect, the shorter its duration. This in turn encourages more use.
  • In the short term, cocaine makes the user feel confident. It can make them feel better about themselves than they usually do, even to the point of feeling superior to others. This is called grandiosity. (Who wouldn’t want to feel that?)
  • Recent studies have shown that repeated cocaine use triggers the part of your brain responsible for addictive behavior. It turns out that repeated cocaine use makes for a hyper-responsive dopamine system. This makes the drug harder for the brain to ignore.
  • So, cocaine is addictive. How addictive is it? It’s so addictive that you can crave it simply by watching others do it. This is because dopamine levels will rise even if the cocaine addict is only watching a video of others doing it.
  • While cocaine is stimulating the heart and blood pressure, at the same time it’s constricting the arteries that supply the blood to the heart. A recent study found that this restriction on the flow of oxygenated blood can cause tissue disease which can result in chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes.
  • Another study found that cocaine users are more susceptible to heart attacks. In fact, after the first hour of use, the user’s risk of heart attack increases nearly 24 times.
  • And if that weren’t bad enough it also shrinks the brain. According to a study cocaine may age key parts of the brain at an accelerated rate. The part of the brain that helps control memory, decision-making and attention, the so called grey matter, is lost at almost double the rate of non-users.
  • As another of the drug’s many ironies, for all of the euphoria that users are looking for from cocaine, chronic users run a higher risk of depression, a situation that only gets worse over time. Also over time cocaine makes it harder for the brain to make dopamine, the very thing that gets people turned on to using cocaine in the first place.
  • Another irony: In the short-term cocaine can spike sexual arousal and prolong stamina. In the longer-term, addiction to the drug can lead to impotence.
  • Cocaine stifles the appetite and can make you lose weight. There’s data behind this: experiments with lab rats found that use of the drug not only delayed feeding but limited the number of meals consumed overall.
  • This should surprise no one: Cocaine destroys the inside of your nose. Essentially, cocaine shuts off the nose’s blood supply. This in turn delivers less oxygen to the nose, with low oxygen the septum lining begins to die. Once it dies it no longer supports the cartilage underneath and so the cartilage dies. Eventually, the nose collapses. But before that happens there are nosebleeds, nasal congestion, increases in sinus discharge, sinus infection, and common allergy symptoms. Once the septum is perforated, it doesn’t heal up again.

Even more of what cocaine does to the body in Part III.

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Foundation for a Drug-Free World

Cocaine Pt. 2: What Happens When You Use It?