Cocaine has a strange, glamorous connotation. Many stories, from friends and celebrities alike, paint cocaine as an alluring party drug, dangerous to addicts but completely normal and safe to do on the weekends. The bad news is even casual cocaine use has effects that can be downright gruesome.
Cocaine can slowly destroy your body, from boring holes in your septum until your entire nose collapses to creating micro-lacerations on your heart that can lead to heart disease. And even though coke can make you feel like a god, the actual chemical reactions happening in your brain while on the drug can lead to depression and even full-blown psychosis. Those rails you're snorting might have more in them than just cocaine, too; the majority of blow is cut with other substances, like levamisole, a dewormer used on cows that destroys the human immune system. The effects of cocaine can be fun in the moment, but they can also be deadly.
Cocaine Alters Your Dopamine Levels And Is Highly Addictive
Cocaine gives its users such a euphoric high because it stimulates the brain's mesolimbic dopamine system, its reward pathway. Cocaine works by binding to the dopamine transporter, which blocks the removal of dopamine from the synapse. In lay terms, this means dopamine, a happy neurotransmitter, is building up in bulk in your brain during cocaine use. Once the high is over, the dopamine leaves en masse, which causes depression post-use.
With repeated use, you start to develop a tolerance, and you need more cocaine to achieve the desired euphoric effect. Over time, your brain begins to expect high levels of dopamine - which means that unless cocaine is in your system, you can feel agitated and depressed.
Snorting And Shooting Cocaine Can Lead To Diseases Like Hepatitis C And HIV
Snorting cocaine is the most common way users consume the stimulant. Many people may not think twice when a friend hands them a rolled up a dollar bill to do a line, but consider where that dollar bill has been. It's been in public restrooms, dropped on the ground, and handled by hundreds of people. Every interaction this dollar bill has had brings specks of dirt, germs, and even disease straight into the mucus membrane of your nose. Hepatitis C is a resilient virus that can live up to three weeks at room temperature on any surface, including that bill you just shoved up your nose. The virus attacks your liver and can become a lifelong ailment.
While most people opt to snort cocaine, there are some who choose to consume the drug via injection. Cocaine shooters who share needles run the risk of contracting a variety of life-altering diseases, including HIV.
Cocaine Can Trigger Parkinson's Disease, Brain Hemorrhages, And Other Serious Neurological Issues
Neurological problems are another major risk cocaine users undertake. The drug can increase your risk for seizures and strokes, and it can also cause brain hemorrhages and bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. What's more, it can even trigger movement disorders like Parkinson's disease. Even if these life-threatening complications don't occur, cocaine can still damage your memory, short-circuit your attention span, and destroy your impulse control.
It Can Lead To Mental Health Problems
Cocaine can take a serious toll on your mental health. While some users report feeling alert and energized, others report paranoia, anxiety, or even psychosis - symptoms which can appear even when the user isn't actually high on cocaine. It isn't clear whether cocaine causes these symptoms or whether it exacerbates pre-existing conditions.
Not only can cocaine use affect your perception, it can also change your behavior. Chemist Dr. Henry Fisher puts it bluntly: "One of the major effects of cocaine is to make people act like d*ckheads."
Cocaine addiction not only causes aggressive and impulsive behavior while you're actually high, addiction can force you to sacrifice nearly everything else in your life in pursuit of more drugs, including careers, relationships, and meaningful hobbies. Cocaine may start as a social habit, but it will slowly destroy your life.