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Casual Cocaine Use - How Dangerous Is It?

cocaineCocaine is one of the most common recreational drugs in the United States. In fact, in 2022, an estimated 478,000 people tried cocaine for the first time. For many of those people, cocaine will remain an intermittent and “casual” thing. For others, it goes on to become an important part of their lives. In fact, in 2022, an estimated 0.5% of the population, or 1.4 million Americans over the age of 12 had a cocaine use disorder.

Cocaine is often seen as a relatively light and even casual drug. It’s touted for wearing off quickly, having a low addiction profile, and for being “safe” to use compared to heroin or even pain pills. Unfortunately, while cocaine can be safer than opioids in some respects, cocaine is not a safe drug to use, even recreationally or casually. There’s a lot of data that goes into that, but even a single cocaine usage can send you to the hospital. And, with 1.4 million Americans experiencing addiction to cocaine, it’s also addictive.

Cocaine is Addictive

Cocaine is an addictive drug and the more you use it, the more likely you are to develop a reliance and addiction. Most “casual” users feel that they are safe from addiction because they don’t use often. However, for many people, addiction is also about exposure and vulnerability to exposure. Using the first time is what prompts you to use more – and each time you do, you’re more likely to increase usage. This means that any usage will result in a higher risk of addiction. It’s also true that many people experience tolerance and you need increasingly more of the drug to get the same results – which again, increases risks of addiction.

Cardio and Heart Problems

Cocaine is a stimulant that elevates the heart rate and puts stress on the heart. That can cause immediate problems for individuals with high blood pressure or a weak heart. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, have had heart surgery, or have other heart problems, you are at high risk of experiencing heart problems from cocaine.

In addition, cocaine puts stress on the heart which can result in long-term problems, weakening the heart, and increasing risks of heart attack with each successive use. Long-term spikes in blood pressure are also uncommon in exercise and normal activity. This means that the 60+ minutes of average cocaine use can result in significant spikes to blood pressure which can mean you have a stroke resulting in paralysis or even death.

And those can all turn into long-term side-effects with chronic arrythmia, infarctions, or coronary artery disease. These can greatly increase your need for medical care and will decrease your quality of life.

Overdose Risks

Most people don’t think of cocaine as something you can overdose on. But, in 2020, 19,447 people died of cocaine overdose in the U.S. alone. That overdose can happen for a number of reasons. The most common are that someone is unaccustomed to using cocaine and takes too much or that they take too much in quick succession. For example, a common way to use cocaine is to take a line and then pass it around, taking more to extend the high as the evening progresses. If you don’t wait long enough in between doses, the drug builds up in your system, eventually resulting in an overdose. And, that overdose can be extremely difficult to treat in a hospital – especially as many people reach the ER for cardio related issues and heart attack rather than for cocaine overdose.

overdoseSymptoms include:

  • Significant sweating
  • High body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hallucinations or visual distortions
  • Arrythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

In each of these cases, a medical team may not realize that you’re suffering from anything but a heart attack or stroke until it’s too late. That means they may treat only the symptom rather than the overdose which will continue to cause issues.

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cocaine overdoseToxicity and Poisoning

Cocaine toxicity happens when cocaine permeates the membrane tissue around the cardiovascular system. The result is often sudden death. Unfortunately, with no way to predict when it will happen and no dose associated with toxicity, this is a risk you take on every time you use cocaine.

That’s also true when toxicity is caused by contaminants. For example, cheap cocaine may be cut with substances like baby powder and talk. It might also be cut with fentanyl, which increases risks of overdose. Both are extremely bad for your airways and your lungs. However, some substances can actually be toxic and may require medical intervention.

Decreased Nasal Health

Cocaine is extremely bad for your nasal passages. In fact, it erodes the cartilage between your nostrils by cutting off blood supply, constricts blood vessels, and may eventually result in significant changes to the way you’re able to smell and even breathe. Even casual use will result in the death of nasal tissue, which can lead to sores, infections, scarring, and other problems

Increased Mental Health Problems

Cocaine, like many other drugs, is bad for your mental health. That’s also true when taken in moderation. Here, cocaine functions as an upper, creating increases in serotonin and dopamine in the brain. While high, people feel powerful, euphoric, and social – everything is experienced as intense. That feeling comes at the cost of changing your brain chemistry, because your brain will adjust to try to regulate dopamine and serotonin levels. This can mean reduced production of both during everyday life, meaning you feel less, get less reward from social contact, and eventually have to lean more and more on the drug just to feel good. That might also mean that the quality of the rest of your life is decreased. However, it also puts you at increased risk of paranoia, anxiety, and depression – and each of those will encourage you to use more so that you get to feel good.

In each case, cocaine starts out as seemingly harmless but pushes your mental health so that you’re not happy without it. And that can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially if you already have mental health problems.

Of course, cocaine isn’t guaranteed to cause anxiety or depression. In addition, your mental health problems may vanish if you simply stop using for 3-24 months. However, cocaine usage can cause those mental health problems, even if you’re using moderately.

Eventually, cocaine is a high risk drug. Here, its highest risk is for cardiovascular health as it causes a significant amount of stress on your heart. However, it’s also addictive and may cause issues with reliance, emotional blunting, and needing cocaine to cope or to feel good. That will all result in a negative spiral and increase risk of addiction. At the same time, cocaine can be dangerous even if you only use it once. For that reason, it’s always a better idea to choose something safer for recreational use or to look for ways to spend your time that don’t involve intoxication. However, if you must use, it’s important to seek out an overdose prevention center where you can use safely, with medical attention, and with the assurance that help is there if you need it.

If you or your loved-one struggles from cocaine abuse or other substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about our detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs. 10 Acre Ranch also has specialty tracks like our pet friendly drug rehab and couples substance abuse treatment programs. We’re here to help you recover.