Cocaine is a drug that most adults can say that they have heard of at one point or another. Many people can also say that they have either done cocaine themselves or know of at least one person that has. However, cocaine is also one of the more misunderstood drugs available today.
Cocaine is a recreational drug. Most people associate it with clubs, parties and high-stakes atmospheres. Indeed, it causes a euphoria that keeps people coming back for more. It is often referred to as “the caviar of street drugs” because of its status among elite levels of society such as Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street types.
Cocaine itself is an extract of the coca leaf. It grows primarily in South America and thrives in the Andes mountains. After it has been processed, it primarily reaches the market in two forms: powdered cocaine or crack cocaine.
There are many things that you might have heard about cocaine. Here are 10 weird facts about cocaine addiction:
10. Sharing Straws Can Spread Blood-Borne Diseases
People who share straws when the snort cocaine share more than just germs. It is a way to spread blood-borne viruses and diseases like Hepatitis C. However, the straw does not need to have blood on it for the disease to be passed. The user’s nose does not even need to be sore or raw.
This happens because cocaine irritates the lining of your nose. This irritation can make the tissue on the inside of the nose raw. This can result in microscopic drops of blood being left on the straw. Even these unnoticeable amounts of blood can easily spread disease.
The virus known as Hepatitis C can live on hard surfaces for several days. This means that a straw that is used and carries the virus can continue carrying the virus for days afterward.
The dangerous thing about Hepatitis C is that you may not even know that you have it. A lot of people who contract the virus will not even realize it because sometimes the symptoms of Hepatitis C do not even show up for years. This means that anyone who is addicted to cocaine and shares their straw can pass the disease on to almost anyone they share straws with for years and not even realize that they were sick.
9. Cocaine Can Put a Hole in Your Nose
Some people dismiss the idea that cocaine can cause a person to have a hole in their nose as a rumor or an urban legend, but the damage that comes with cocaine addiction can cause perforations in your nose. This is technically called a septal perforation, and it is one of the biggest conditions that accompanies long-term cocaine use.
This happens because the blood supply to the nose is fragile and cocaine use can turn it off by constricting the blood vessels that feed blood and oxygen to the nose. When the nose does not get enough oxygen, the lining of your septum begins to die. Once the lining is dead, the cartilage begins to decay and die. This dead cartilage is what is known as a septal perforation. Once the damage reaches this point, the whole nose can collapse.
Cocaine addicts will begin to see signs that this is happening to them. However, these signs may look more like congestion, allergies or a sinus infection. Eventually, this just becomes a full septal perforation. The problem is that once the lining and the cartilage are dead, the injury never heals on its own.
8. Long Term Use Can Affect Users’ Sense of Smell
Understandably, a collapsed nose can impact a person’s life. One of the biggest consequences of this is the loss of your ability to smell. A lot of people take their ability to smell for granted because for most people; it is something that you are born with. Unless the problem becomes real to them, most people do not think about what it means not to be able to smell anything.
The loss of the sense of smell is known as anosmia. The effects of not being able to smell impact a lot of things. It is not just about your ability to stop and smell the roses. Not being able to smell can also affect how you taste food as well.
Losing your sense of smell is also dangerous. Without thinking about it, you rely on it for your safety. You know that when you smell smoke, there is fire. You rely on it to catch a gas leak before it becomes a dangerous situation. You also use it to smell food that has gone off.
Some types of anosmia can be treated. If it comes from having a cold or serious allergies, you do not usually need treatment. If anything, you might use a decongestant or antibiotics.
However, if you lose your sense of smell because of cocaine abuse or addiction, it may become permanent. Like having a septal perforation, if the anosmia goes too far, there is often no way for it to come back naturally.
7. Cocaine Users Are 24 Times More Likely to Have a Heart Attack an Hour After Use
Cocaine has serious effects on the health of your heart, including add serious risk of a heart attack immediately after its use.
Cocaine is hard on your entire cardiovascular system. Even recreational use often results in stiff arteries and thick heart muscle walls. When combined with the high blood pressure, cocaine wreaks havoc on your heart. A recent study by the American Heart Association found that even adults who were otherwise healthy had great risks of both heart attacks and stroke because they used cocaine.
The study was performed by Australian researchers who used MRIs to look at the effects that cocaine has on healthy adults who were addicted to cocaine. The researchers reported that they were sad to see how even young, fit people were having massive heart attacks that were directly related to their cocaine abuse. She even called it the “perfect heart attack drug.”
These spontaneous heart attacks happen because cocaine causes more blood clotting and puts real stress on the heart. It also causes the blood vessels to become constricted. This creates a perfect cardiovascular storm that results in major heart attacks or events in people who have no other major health issues.
6. Tolerance to Cocaine Develops Quickly
Unlike other drugs, a user’s tolerance to cocaine develops quickly. When combined with how addictive it is, this is one of the reasons that cocaine is so hard on a user’s body. Cocaine tolerance may even begin after using it only one time.
Being tolerant of a drug means that a user needs more and more of that drug to experience the effects that they desire. The more the cocaine is used, the more cocaine that a person needs to experience the high that they want from the drug.
Not everyone builds the same level of tolerance. Some people might have longer or shorter timelines depending on the individual’s use. Also, some people might build up what is considered to be a classic tolerance to cocaine while other people might become acutely sensitive to its effects when they use more of it.
Tolerance to cocaine is different from other drugs because some people feel the need to take more cocaine but, in reality, they do not necessarily need it to get high. They just want to recreate the euphoria of the first high. This is what is called “reverse tolerance.” They do not just experience a greater high with lower amounts. Taking huge amounts of unnecessary cocaine, which they feel that they need, results in cardiac arrest and overdoses. It can also cause respiratory failure.
Tolerance with cocaine is not as straightforward as it is with other drugs. This is mostly because cocaine has a tendency to be mixed with other drugs including heroin and alcohol. This has a profound effect on the user’s experience.
5. The First High Is a One Time Experience
That first high is critical when it comes to cocaine addiction and tolerance. The first time a person uses cocaine, they often experience the most euphoric high that can be experienced using cocaine.
A lot of people say that they have never been able to recreate the pleasure of the first time that they used cocaine. Trying to recreate this high is part of being addicted to cocaine because it causes you to form a habit psychologically. This addiction grows the more that you use cocaine.
The euphoria that a person experiences when they take cocaine for the first time is what compels many people to become addicted to it. It changes not just the way you think and feel but it also causes physical changes in your body that compound this experience. The effect that cocaine has on your brain and your nervous system makes the experience more concrete because the physical effects can match the psychological ones.
This high is also compounded by personal feelings of danger or excitement that often accompany first-time cocaine use.
People who take cocaine for the first time experience euphoria, as previously mentioned. However, cocaine also works as a social buffer, which is why it is often done in small groups. Many people who are high on cocaine experience a greater level of self-confidence as well as sociability. Those who are trying to hide insecurities find that these things disappear, and they can participate in social situations that they would not have the ability to do when they are sober.
4. Cocaine Withdrawal Is Not Serious but It Isn’t Pleasant Either
When a cocaine addict decides to cut down or quit cocaine, the withdrawal symptoms won’t kill them. Unlike other drugs, such as heroin, there is not an inherent danger in quitting cocaine. However, there are a lot of withdrawal symptoms that often deter people from stopping.
You do not need to cut cocaine out completely to feel the withdrawal pinch. You just need to cut down substantially. This is because of the way that cocaine tolerance builds in people.
When someone stops cocaine, whether permanently or temporarily, the crash that follows can feel crippling. This is where the psychological addiction comes in because the addict just wants to get high again, whatever the cost.
There are not physical symptoms that are usually associated with cocaine use. Most of them are psychological. Most people feel tired, lethargic, anxious or unhappy. Some people are especially irritable, agitated or paranoid.
However, some people do experience physical symptoms. These symptoms do not usually come from cocaine itself. Because so many people combined cocaine use with alcohol or heroin, or because their cocaine is cut with other substances, physical symptoms can arise.
Chances are if someone tells you that they experienced vomiting, shaking or serious physical illness during a come down, they were not coming down from cocaine alone.
The symptoms that people experience when they are going through cocaine withdrawal will usually disappear over time without any need for intervention. When these symptoms do not disappear, it is often because those people are supplementing their former cocaine habit with alcohol, painkillers, anxiety medications or sedatives. This may seem like the addict is quitting cocaine, but it is more akin to transferring their addiction to another drug.
3. People Spend a Lot of Money to Stop Doing Cocaine
Rehab does not always come cheap. While there is an abundance of cheap and free programs for drug users to go to, these things still cost money.
People with cocaine addictions can seek private rehabilitation centers if they have the cash. These centers are luxurious and to the outside eye, look more like a resort that happens to often therapy. Some of the ultra-luxury centers offer massage therapists, personal trainers, nannies, private nurses and gourmet chefs. These centers can even offer personal assistants and secretarial services for the more affluent addict. These facilities can cost between $20,000 and $80,000 a month.
This cost reflects the luxury rather than the actual cost of drug treatment. Standard treatment facilities offer addicts treatment for $10,000 to $20,000 per month. These might be inpatient or outpatient centers and can help people over both the short and long term. Some of these facilities will accept private insurance plans.
For those with a cocaine habit and no cash, they can seek out organizations like nonprofits, charities and even churches. These groups may offer a sober living house that is often cost-free.
However, the state is often willing to eat the cost of drug rehab. This is because even though rehab is expensive, the cost of incarcerating a drug addict costs $24,000 per year. Also, conservative estimates suggest that for every dollar that the government invests in drug rehab, it makes back between $4 and $7 because of reductions in costs of crime, criminal justice and thefts. The way the government sees it, everything just works better when there are fewer people addicted to drugs.
2. Scientists Are Developing a Vaccine to Prevent Cocaine Addiction
Scientists are creating a cocaine vaccine. These vaccines are not yet available to the public but research on monkeys and mice injected with the vaccine has been positive so far.
Researchers do not just have one vaccine- they have two. Both vaccines were developed by teams under the direction of a researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College named Ronald Crystal.
One vaccine works by using antibodies – a part of the human immune system- to attack dangerous molecules like cocaine. The antibodies would then get rid of the drug molecules once they enter the body because the vaccinated immune system would see these molecules as a threat to the health of the person.
The vaccine includes cocaine-like molecules, not cocaine itself. These molecules are included to train the immune system to know what to look for when attacking these molecules and prevent them from attack the wrong molecules.
This vaccine was tested on monkeys. The team injected the monkeys with a molecule that aids imaging so that they could see the areas of the brain that cocaine binds to. The idea was the if the vaccine stopped the cocaine from reaching these parts of the brain, they would see a strong signal coming back from the imaging receptors. In the actual study, the monkey’s brain lit up almost completely which meant that almost no cocaine made it into their brains. The monkeys that had not been given the vaccine saw much weaker results as the receptors were much dimmer.
This vaccine lasted for four months in the monkeys during this study.
The second vaccine includes the use of gene therapy, an up-and-coming part of biotechnology. The vaccine would use a virus to spread genetic materials into the body’s liver cells. These cells would then create proteins that include the genetic material. This genetic material contains a blueprint that the body can use to build antibodies that will attack cocaine.
The second vaccine was tested on mice. The researchers found that the vaccinated mice would act very calmly when injected with cocaine. Unvaccinated mice would run manically around the cage. This vaccine lasted around 17 weeks.
Crystal says that he is developing these vaccines because he sees cocaine addiction as a social problem that can and should be eliminated. He says that cocaine use is illegal, expensive, can cause serious changes in behavior patterns and is addictive.
1. Cocaine Is Not the Most Addictive Drug Out There
Cocaine is highly addictive; there is no doubt about that. However, there are both legal and illegal drugs that are more highly addictive than even cocaine can be. In fact, cocaine is only the third most addictive drug available on the market.
The most addictive drug that you can buy today is nicotine, which is why people have such a difficult time when they try to quit smoking. Nicotine has long-lasting withdrawals and a high amount of dependence. That it is so accessible to anyone with an ID only reinforces addiction. When you consider that nicotine is more addictive than drugs such as heroin and cocaine, you can see what a dangerous drug it truly is.
Nicotine does not feel dangerous. There are advertisements for cigarettes on billboards, the internet and in magazines. It does not offer the rush that you would get from cocaine or heroin. But what it does do is change the brain so that it requires more nicotine to function properly.
Surprisingly, heroin is only the second most addictive drug but this is not for lack of seriousness. The effects of heroin are documented not only by doctors, research groups and law enforcement officials. Heroin dominated the underbelly of American poetry and literature for a good portion of the 20th century.
Heroin essentially trains the brain to make it crave it more which makes it very difficult to quit. It also offers some of the worst withdrawal symptoms and is second only to alcohol in this regard. Heroin withdrawal does not just feel like it can kill you; it can actually kill you.
Of course, an honorable mention should also include methadone and methamphetamine, both of which are highly addictive. However, they are not considered to be in the same class as heroin and nicotine because they do not have the same number of users.
If you ask law enforcement or doctors, they will probably tell you that cocaine addiction is an expensive menace both regarding public health and the justice system. However, cocaine addiction, like all addiction, is not a black and white problem. The reasons that people try and get addicted to cocaine vary between individuals and some people find great addiction than others. Most people can agree on one thing. Cocaine is an expensive way to wreck an otherwise healthy body in ways that simply cannot be reversed. From collapsed arteries to collapsed noses, chasing a new high wreaks havoc on both the mind and the body.
Fortunately, there are a lot of new ways that people can seek help for cocaine addiction. Some of these methods are more expensive than the cocaine itself, but things like vaccines can help addicts kick their habit without relying on another crutch.
Cocaine begins its life as a simple leaf growing high up in the Andes mountains. These 10 weird facts show how something so natural and simple can do so much damage.