Can Cocaine Kill You?
The majority of the psychoactive substances that are consumed by people lacking self-awareness can kill you, due to the complications they cause to your system. These drugs do not only cause some euphoric effects alone, but instead conduct some other ill actions upon your body.
While doing so, they deposit harmful substances into your body that affect the functioning of your organs. The majority of these poisonous substances come from the chemicals making them or mixed with the drugs. In the long run, you might be heading to the grave earlier than expected.
The emergency doctors dread the moment they see a cocaine user coming in for medical help, complaining of chest pains as well as other symptoms that suggest the presence of a cardiovascular disease.
The sad part of all this is that most of the drug users showing up like this are very young and mostly healthy persons, except for the drug effects part. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong life styles and so they end up suffering from a medical condition that is drug-induced, which further causes disability or threatens their lives.
Another worse situation accompanies all these, when the doctors face difficulties in making the right diagnosis. Eventually when the correct diagnosis comes through, treatment becomes another problem since cocaine causes a widespread of effects on the body physiology.
Despite that the correct diagnosis can be made quickly and the institution of treatment made immediately, the young patient’s outcome in the long-term still remains poor. Is it really worth going through all these for a few hours of feeling high now and then?
Various drug abuse concerned sources have verified that cocaine is among the commonest illicit drug that people use and it is also the most frequent death related cause. It has a high association with both chronic and acute complications involving any system, most especially the cardiovascular system.
Cocaine misuse has affected the young generation most, thus resulting to undue morbidity and loss or productivity, with cocaine related cerebrovascular and cardiac effects. It is sad that the majority of the cocaine users have little knowledge of the risks that they expose themselves to.
Therefore, this article will prove that cocaine can kill you and further educate you on how this happens through its dangers and risks.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is the purified Erythroxylum coca shrub leaves extract, which is a plant found in South America, inside the Andes region. This plant is known to produce two forms of cocaine, which further come in various other forms, causing users to ingest the drug in different ways such as injecting into the bloodstream, snorting and smoking.
The two forms are;
• Crack cocaine, which is freebase cocaine. The majority of its users smoke it. It also goes by the name rock or crack
• Powdered cocaine, which is water soluble. Its users can either snort it or make it injectable. It also goes by the name blow, snow or coke.
Cocaine, like most of the other psychoactive drugs, is very addictive considering that it is also a stimulant that mainly affects the central nervous system. As a result, people use it as a recreational drug. It appears as a crystal-like powder that is white in color.
The snorting of cocaine involves ingesting it through your nose. As a result it goes directly into your blood stream. Consequently, you will get high immediately and last for about fifteen to thirty minutes. This period is longer than the rest of the administration routes.
Since the high period of cocaine is a bit short lived, you may be tempted to take it in binges, which are large amounts over a certain period of time, so that you can maintain a consistent high feeling.
Cocaine is an illegal substance, but it is still trafficked into the United States through powerful drug cartels that have dealers to distribute product in the streets. When these dealers receive pure cocaine, they tend to lace it with several other substances so that they can have more products to sell and get more money.
Lacing of cocaine with other substances increases its toxicity, thus making it more dangerous for consumption. Such substances include;
• Boric acid
• Cotton fibers
• Microcrystalline cellulose
• Antihistamines or aspirin, which are over the counter drugs
• Antibiotics, local anesthetic and lidocaine, which as prescription drugs
Lately, the drug dealers have opted to use levamisole, which is an anti-parasitic drug used in veterinary applications. The use of this substance as a cocaine adulterant chemical continually increases since its first detection. In 2001, levamisole concentration was at 1%. In 2009, it increased to 10%. Later on it reached 69%.
The combination of cocaine and levamisole causes;
• Agranulocytosis, which is a serious blood disorder that further causes resultant infections and severe immune system suppression.
• Vasculitis, which is a condition involving the widespread of blood vessel inflammation, fever and joint and muscle pain.
• Bullae development, which is painful fluid-filled sacs that appear on the face, chest, legs, back and stomach.
In other occasions, the cocaine may be cut using fentanyl, which is a very powerful opioid that causes so many death, especially when overdosed. What’s more, is it more potent than heroin by about fifty times. Taking this mixture is taking a recipe for fatal overdose.
Fentanyl alone causes respiratory depression, whereby you fail to breathe adequately and thus can die.
Cocaine Use and Death Statistics
Various studies have been conducted to understand the widespread of cocaine use in the United States, as well as the related death tolls. The following are facts about cocaine abuse and addiction.
• Fourteen percent of the Americans have tried consuming cocaine at least once in their lifetime.
• In 2014, about nine hundred thousand people actually met all criteria for the abuse and dependence of cocaine.
• Within the past year, one in about forty US citizens consumed the drug.
• Generally, the younger age group that is between eighteen and twenty-five years is the most affected by cocaine use influence.
• When compared to women, men are more prone to using the drug. In the past twelve months, eighteen percent of the gents between eighteen and twenty five years consumed cocaine.
• After the last consumed dose, users of cocaine usually expose themselves greater towards having a heart attack, by twenty four times.
• Speed ball is a form of deadly cocaine, since it is a mixture of cocaine and heroin.
• Cocaine has gained popularity due to increased access. As a result, researchers estimate that about two thousand and five hundred Americans will definitely try using cocaine for the very first time ever.
• In the US, there are about one hundred thousand reported cases of cocaine addicted newborns, since their mothers could not stay away from the drug when pregnant.
According to a study conducted from 1999 to 2017, several drugs have caused thousands of deaths, including cocaine. The rest on this list include; synthetic opioids like fentanyl, heroin, natural and semi-synthetic opioids, methadone and meth. What’s worse about these results is that the death toll keeps rising as the years go by.
The exact cause of deaths from these drugs is overdosing and various effects on the most vital organs. In 2014 alone, cocaine erased about five thousand and five hundred people from planet earth, in the United States specifically. The males seem to be the most affected when compared to females.
Another group of doctors conducted another study on the causes of sudden deaths. Due to the rampant use of cocaine, the results indicated that quite a high percentage of the deaths were related to cocaine use. What’s more, these doctors indicated it could be because cocaine kills even if you consume small amounts.
To acquire the right results to verify that cocaine was involved in these deaths, the researchers conducted their study as follows focusing on the sudden deaths that took place between 2003 and 2006:
• They tested blood and urine for any traces of toxic substances
• They studied the organs, focusing on the cardiovascular system and toxicology
• They gathered any history of substance abuse
• They looked at the death circumstances and also further investigated the death scene.
Their discoveries were as follows:
• Out of the six hundred and sixty eight sudden deaths reported during that period, twenty one were due to the misuse of cocaine.
• The most affected were males aged twenty-one to forty-five.
• The cocaine related deaths occurred due to stemming from the heart as well as other related systems.
The doctors of this study conclude that:
• The sudden death occurred because cocaine caused some adverse changes to the arteries and heart
• Any amount of cocaine that you consume is capable of causing toxicity
• The lethal amounts are dependent on persons. Unfortunately, they remain unknown until when it is too late and maybe a life is lost.
• About eighty-one percent of people that died from cocaine use, also smoked
• About seventy-six percent of this same group of people also consumed alcohol.
• Alcohol and smoking are also related to heart disease. The mixture of either or both brings forth a lethal cocktail that causes the development of premature heart disease.
• Sudden death risk becomes exacerbated because cocaine users are also likely to use other legal or illicit drugs.
Action on the Brain
The brain is known to control a lot of things in your body. Therefore, upon the consumption of cocaine, changes take place immediately. The drug increases the dopamine levels in your brain circuits that relate to the control of reward and movement. Dopamine refers to the natural chemical messenger in your brain.
During the normal functioning of the brain without interruption, dopamine goes back to the cell that gives it away, so that it can shut down the signal between your nerve cells. In the event of cocaine interruption, the recycling back of dopamine stops.
As a result, large amounts of dopamine build up in the space separating two nerve cells and thus stop their usual communication. This flood in your brain’s reward circuit reinforces drug-taking behaviors strongly.
This takes place because your reward circuit eventually gets used to excess dopamine levels due to cocaine, thus becoming more insensitive to it. Consequently, you tend to take more frequent and stronger doses to acquire the same euphoric effects as well as obtain relief upon the onset of withdrawal.
Consuming a highly addictive substance that is also a stimulant must bring forth some effects. They begin with pleasurable effects that last a while. However, upon wearing off of the drug, the negative effects begin. They can be serious or extend and cause health issues.
The following are the cocaine effects:
• Talkativeness and extreme happiness
• Mental Alertness
• Hypersensitivity to touch. Sound and sight
• Short-live euphoria
• Increased blood pressure
• Decreased sexual function
• Increased heart rate
• Dilated pupils
• High body temperature
• Loss of appetite
• Bowel infarction
• Acute myocardial infarction
• Dissecting aneurysm
• Unusual behavior
• Irritability aggression
• Muscle twitching
• Tremors, paranoia
• intracerebral hemorrhage
• brain damage
• stomach pain
• Angina(cardiac chest pain)
• Changes in the heart rhythm
• Cardiac arrest (heart attack)
• Coronary artery vasospasm
Additional Health Effects
• stuffy and runny nose
• diminished sense of smell
• nasal crusting
• difficulty swallowing
• chronic sinus infections
• frequent nose bleeds
• nasal septum perforation
• contracting infectious viruses like hepatitis C, HIV and blood borne disease
• soft and skin tissue infections
• scarring and collapsing of the veins.
• Chronic fatigue
• Abdominal pain
• Significant weight loss
• death ischemic heart conditions
• sudden cardiac arrest
• cardiac arrhythmias
How Cocaine Kills You
The consumption of cocaine causes the inhibition of the norepinephrine reuptake in the neurons in your entire body. Norepinephrine is neurotransmitter that is very powerful within the sympathetic nervous system. As soon as the inhibition of the reuptake takes place, the sympathetic nervous activity becomes greatly prolonged and exaggerated.
The exaggeration of the sympathetic nervous activity causes some profound effects upon your cardiovascular system. First, it increases the force by which the heart muscle contracts, substantially. While doing so, second, it causes a raise in the heart rate and blood pressure. These factors are known to, third, cause the heart to overwork and to manage this extra work, fourth, the heart demands more nutrients and oxygen.
As the cocaine causes the cardiovascular system to work beyond its workability strength, the ingredients in the drug have already been deposited in the walls of the arteries and capillaries. This causes the constriction of the blood vessels, thus reducing the amount of blood flowing to the heart muscle.
Due to this reduced blood amount, the heart lacks enough and extra oxygen and nutrients it needs to work harder. What’s more the cocaine promotes the clotting of blood within the blood vessels. Due to these happenings, the cardiovascular system ends up being extremely stressed.
The combination of the above effects due to cocaine consumption leads to cardiovascular conditions that threaten your life. Therefore, in their occurrence fast medical intervention can save you. However, it is not a guarantee because even while under twenty-four hour doctor care, many cocaine users have lost their lives to these cardiovascular conditions.
• Heart attack, medically known as Myocardial infarction. This is one of the commonly acknowledged complications caused by the use of cocaine. It can occur at any moment and with and dose of cocaine. Therefore, even though you are a first timer in cocaine consumption, you are still not safe. The majority of cocaine-induced heart attacks take place within the first hour of consumption.
• Aortic dissection also known as the acute aortic dissection. This is the sudden tearing of the aorta wall. It is known to be very painful as well as life threatening. Despite that there are several causes of aortic dissection; cocaine use among the young people is a prevalent cause.
• Coronary artery aneurysm. These are coronary arteries’ balloon-like dilations that seem to be quite common in cocaine consumers. Actually, they occur in about thirty percent of the drug’s chronic users. Coronary artery aneurysm can as well trigger a heart attack very fast.
• Cardiomyopathy and myocarditis. These are major conditions that arise due to cocaine use. Myocarditis refers to the heart muscle inflammation and is known to further cause heart muscle damage, also known as cardiomyopathy. Consequently, you can easily suffer from heart failure that can quickly cause your death.
From the above, it is obvious that cocaine consumption causes enormous stress on your vascular system and heart. This leads to the development of significant cardiovascular conditions that are likely to cause your sudden death even before getting the chance to see a doctor.
Cocaine Consumption Complicates Heart Problem Treatments
The cocaine-induced cardiovascular problems treatment is not different from the same issues when cocaine use is not in the picture. However, the consumption of cocaine brings forth some complications in therapy through several ways.
They include the following listed below:
• Beta-blockers are not to be used in patients that consume cocaine, despite being significant treatment of heart attacks, coronary artery disease, heart failure and angina. Beta-blockers are known to block the beta-sympathetic effects that arise from norepinephrine. For people that consume cocaine, beta blockers sort of reveal the alpha-sympathetic effects, thus causing even more constriction of blood vessels, especially the small arteries. Additionally, they cause higher blood pressure. When dealing with heart attacks, this fact removes critical treatment from the doctor’s disposal.
• During the treatment of acute attack, doctors are also advised against using clot bursting drugs on patients that consume cocaine, without first conducting cardiac catheterization. Clot bursting drugs are known to produce fibrinolysis. This is because electrocardiogram changes that indicate the occurrence of an acute heart attack could be present in cocaine users that are not having any heart attack.
• In the treatment of coronary artery disease in cocaine consumers, doctors hesitate to use stents due to stent thrombosis, which is the clotting of the stent. They are reluctant because this condition is higher in these drug abusers.
As a result of the magnitude of the human physiology negative effects, treatment options become limited for your cocaine induced cardiovascular disorders. In the delay to administer treatment due to the above challenges, your life can just slip away.
As mentioned above, the sky rocketing blood pressure is due to constriction of the blood vessels, thus leading to stroke or heart attack. Practically, this is like squeezing a garden hose, resulting to rise in water pressure.
According to new research, the alternative can also happen, whereby, the blood vessels expand while trying to reduce this blood pressure. The difference in these occurrences depends on the mode of consumption. When injected directly into the blood stream constriction happens more than expansion. When snorted, the opposite is more likely to take place.
According to these investigators, this is a means for the body to minimize the cocaine damage. Unfortunately, damage and death can still happen. Despite that the blood vessels enlarge and cause lower blood pressure, the rapid heartbeats still keep blood pressure very high.
The situation now becomes worse because it is similar to how water pressure increases upon turning up a faucet in the garden hose. The brain functionality does not change upon the widening of the blood vessels. It continues telling the heart to pump more blood.
This further causes the heart to beat to become too rapid and also the rapid blood pressure that results is unmanageable by your body. This hardly changes the previously explained outcome because you can still die from this high blood pressure.
Luckily, this new finding can help scientists to come up with new drugs that can treat cocaine abusers that show up in the emergency rooms. After all, many of the treatments for heart issues are vital when the patient is a cocaine user.
In conclusion, cocaine consumption can kill you at any moment. So do not think that being a first timer is safe for use. There is no need to cause yourself so much problem, when all you can do is stay sober and have nothing to worry about.