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 for others. The bad news is even casual cocaine use has effects that can be downright gruesome.
Cocaine can slowly destroy your body, from boring holes into your septum until your entire nose collapses to increasing the risk of heart attack. And even though coke might make you feel like a god, the actual chemical reactions happening in your brain while on the drug can lead to depression and even psychosis. Those rails you're snorting might have more in them than just cocaine, too; blow is often cut with other substances, like levamisole - a drug used to deworm livestock - which weakens the human immune system. The effects of cocaine can be fun in the moment, but they can also be deadly.
Cocaine gives its users such a euphoric high because it causes dopamine to flood the brain's mesolimbic pathway, or reward pathway. Cocaine binds to the dopamine transporter so dopamine can't be removed from the synapse. In lay terms, this means dopamine, a happy neurotransmitter, builds in your brain. During the comedown, users can experience anxiety, paranoia, and restlessness. Chronic users can develop depression and have suicidal thoughts.
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.
Some people may not think twice when a friend hands them a rolled-up 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 users opt to snort cocaine, some choose to consume the drug via injection. Cocaine shooters who share needles run the risk of contracting a variety of life-altering ailments, including HIV infection.
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. 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.
Cocaine can take a serious toll on your mental health. While the drug renders many users alert and energized, some have reported paranoia, anxiety, and even psychosis - symptoms that can appear even when the user isn't actually high on cocaine.
Not only can cocaine use affect your perception, it can also change your behavior. Chemist Dr. Henry Fisher put it bluntly: "One of the major effects of cocaine is to make people act like d*ckheads."
Cocaine addiction has been associated with aggressive and impulsive behavior. It may start as a social habit, but it can destroy your life - addiction can force you to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of more drugs.