Tag Archives: Cocaine

Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine is a stimulant that people often abuse as a recreational “party” drug. While most people incorrectly think it is safer than its close relative, crack cocaine, pure cocaine is just as dangerous and addictive and can cause a fatal overdose.

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which has been used as a stimulant by South American natives for thousands of years. Processed “pure” cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, is much more powerful and addictive. Sold illicitly under the names Coke, C, Snow, Powder, or Blow, pure cocaine is usually a white powder. 

Cocaine Overdose

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorizes various drugs on a scale based on how addictive and dangerous they are. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, meaning that while it has highly addictive qualities and a high potential for abuse, it does have potential medicinal uses. Doctors can administer it a local anesthetic in some situations. Other Schedule II drugs include Adderall, Fentanyl and OxyContin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine was most popular during the 1990’s. However, it is still quite common today and many users see it as a risk-free, fun party drug. In 2014, there were an estimated 1.5 million active cocaine users over the age of 12 in the United States.

Cocaine Overdose

What are Cocaine’s Effects?

Cocaine’s stimulant properties cause a heightened sense of energy and awareness, among other symptoms. While some may find the experience to be pleasurable, it is highly addictive and the side effects can be painful. Other cocaine effects include:

  • Increased energy
  • Euphoric feelings (euphoric high)
  • Elevated mood
  • Elevated self-esteem 

Some of Cocaine’s negative side effects include:

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Panic
  • Paranoia 
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 
  • Tremors 
  • Vertigo
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatal overdose

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like?

In order to understand how cocaine can kill, it’s helpful to understand what an overdose is. Overdose occurs when someone consumes a  substance in a dose high enough to keep vital organs from functioning.  In some cases, depending on the severity, it leads to death or long-term internal damage.  An overdose is possible with almost any drug but is most prevalent with opioids, such as fentanyl. Given that cocaine is a stimulant, it does not cause an overdose the same way an opioid would. While opioids slow down organ function, cocaine can cause cardiac arrest, stroke, respiratory arrest, and sudden death if the drug’s toxicity is too high. In 2015, more than 5,500 people died from cocaine overdose.

Many people wrongly think that powder cocaine is safe because it is not crack cocaine and therefore “purer”. However, this isn’t necessarily true. It is hard to determine purity levels outside of a lab, and pure cocaine still kills in high doses. Further, many dealers lace cocaine products with other drugs. Some dealers mix fentanyl or other dangerous substances into cocaine. This increases the chances of addiction, which is good for a drug dealer’s business. Fentanyl is deadly in small doses, and users often don’t know when it is in the cocaine they buy. In Flint, Michigan, 2 individuals were found dead in 2020 by overdose from fentanyl laced cocaine with another in critical condition. Sadly, this kind of scenario is not uncommon.

Cocaine Overdose

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

It’s difficult to hard to predict how exactly how long cocaine’s effects will last. This changes from person to person, and usually depends on how someone ingests the drug. If snorted, cocaine can take longer to kick in, but its effects will persist for longer. Smoking cocaine creates a nearly instantaneous high that may last only a few minutes. Regardless of how long the effects last, cocaine can still be detected in the system for several days to weeks after ingestion.

Side Effects

Cocaine’s half-life is about an hour. This is the time it takes for the ingested cocaine to enter the bloodstream. In other words, an hour after someone ingests 10mg of cocaine, the amount left over is about 5mg. Even so, cocaine can be detected via saliva from 12-48 hours after last use and in hair for years after ingestion. Further, urine tests can detect cocaine 2-4 days after last use. 

Cocaine Overdose and Addiction: Getting Help

It’s difficult – but very possible –  to recover from cocaine dependence. The drug is highly addictive and its withdrawal symptoms are often painful. This can encourage people to keep abusing the drug – just to avoid the pain. Getting professional help is the best bet for lifetime sobriety. Without it, going “cold-turkey” – stopping suddenly – is dangerous, since the relapse risk is much higher.  Co-occurring mental health concerns can make quitting even harder. When you seek professional help, you increase your likelihood of staying clean. Trained physicians and counselors are  equipped to help you deal with addiction’s the root causes instead of just managing its symptoms.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today to start the journey to health and sobriety together.

Speedballing

Speedballing is combining heroin and cocaine. For many users, it brings about a longer-lasting, more intense high. However, it comes with a serious risk of experiencing a fatal overdose. 

What is Speedballing?

Speedballing involves mixing heroin, which is an opioid, and cocaine, a stimulant. With strong pain-killing potential, heroin is derived from morphine. Even though some opioids, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, can have medical uses,  heroin is considered to be too addictive and has too high of a potential for abuse to have any medical use. Most drugs which lack medical use and are considered generally dangerous to an individual’s health are listed as  Schedule I drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

Speedballing

A common misconception is that the stimulating effects of cocaine and the depressive effects of heroin cancel each other out, causing a risk-free high. However, mixing the two drugs can cause long term health effects and increase the likelihood of experiencing a fatal overdose. 

How does Heroin affect the body?

In order to better understand how mixing the two drugs can increase the overall risk, it can be helpful to better understand how the drugs work independently. Heroin is an opioid. Opioids are powerful painkillers which bind to the opiate receptors in the brain and spinal cord. To put it simply, these opiate receptors help receive nerve impulses that indicate the body is in pain. By binding to these receptors, the body can better suppress physical pain. In addition to its ability to rid feelings of pain, opioids can create a euphoric high in individuals. This is the main driver behind its illicit use.

This euphoric high promotes the body to release dopamine, the “feel good chemical,” in large amounts. Dopamine is the chemical our body releases when it receives a pleasurable input. This dopamine release is what motivated early humans to hunt and reproduce. In modern days, humans get dopamine from various inputs, such as eating, drinking, playing video games, and even being on our phones. This pursuit of pleasure is commonly what drives addiction, especially when coupled with mental health disorders (commonly referred to as  co-occuring disorders or dual diagnoses).

Further, opioids slow down brain and nerve function. This is partly the cause of the euphoric high people experience while taking these drugs. The drug can slow critical organ function such as breathing and heart rate to dangerously low levels. At a certain point, the drug can cause the complete cessation of these functions, causing an overdose. 

Speedballing

How does Cocaine affect the body?

Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant, and like opioids, it causes the release of dopamine into the body – making it a highly addictive drug. Cocaine highs usually come with very intense feelings of energy and alertness. This drug essentially functions as the opposite of opioids. Cocaine overdoses are more rare than opioid overdoses; however, it is still very possible to do so if the levels become too toxic for the body to handle. As with opioids, the body will develop a tolerance to cocaine, making it harder and harder to achieve the same euphoric high feeling after consecutive uses. This leads users to take more of the drug each time, in hopes that it will recreate the same high they first felt. These increasing doses can eventually overwhelm the body and cause an overdose. 

Speedballing Side Effects

The mixture of cocaine and heroin can be ingested either by mixing the two drugs together and injecting or snorting it, or “piggybacked,” where the user injects one drug immediately after the other. Speedballing can cause serious long term effects on the brain, liver, and heart. It can also cause a fatal overdose. Other side effects of speedballing include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysm
  • Respiratory failure
  • Confusion 
  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Uncontrollable movements
  • Paranoia 
  • Insomnia 

Also, given the depressive and stimulant effects of the drugs, the body will experience a push and pull effect. This means that the effects of one drug will overcome the other momentarily. The heart rate may rapidly increase and decrease, leading to arrhythmias and heart failure. 

In general, mixing two or more drugs (polysubstance abuse) will cause the drugs to enhance each other. This may sound like a more enjoyable experience, but it also enhances the side effects drastically. 

In 2015 alone, there were 4,271 cocaine related deaths which involved any opioid; 3,481 of those directly involved heroin. This consisted of 65.4% of all cocaine-related deaths that year. Therefore, mixing heroin and cocaine can be directly related to an increase in the chance of death.

Getting help for Speedballing

Cocaine and heroin are two very addictive drugs which are extremely hard to quit. Given the complexities of these drugs, always seek professional help when attempting to recover. This is especially important since powerful withdrawal symptoms can occur when quitting either substance. Find a professional who understands your circumstances and can help you cure your addiction rather than just manage symptoms. Recovery is absolutely possible, but you do not need to do it alone. If you have any questions, or you or a loved one needs help beginning the road to recovery, please contact us today.

How Illicit Drug Use Contributes to Heart Disease

Many illegal drugs have negative cardiovascular effects, ranging from simple abnormal heart rates to full-on heart attacks. Using such substances leads to other related problems as well, particularly when injecting. Collapsed veins and infections in blood vessels and the heart are unfortunately common. In fact, they may put users on a fast track to heart disease.

A heart disease diagnosis is actually rather broad and covers blood vessel problems as well. Numerous issues develop as a result of atherosclerosis – a condition caused by plaque on the artery walls. The more plaque, the narrower the arteries and more effort required to push blood through. Blood clots form frequently in heart disease patients and can cause other conditions, such as stroke.

Cocaine: The Perfect ‘Heart Attack Drug’

Different drugs present different levels of risk, but cocaine is infamous for its effects on the heart. The substance is available in powdered and “crack” forms. The appearance and texture of this substance changes depending on how it’s created.

Users favor the different types of cocaine for specific consumption methods: Powdered cocaine is generally snorted or dissolved in water and injected, while crack can be smoked.

How Cocaine Affects the Body

Cocaine has earned its reputation as a heart attack drug because it targets the arteries and heart. The substance acts as a stimulant, meaning that it floods the user with adrenaline. The reaction is similar to that of a frightening situation, but without the natural stimuli. Instead, the adrenaline forces an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

A common and direct effect of the adrenaline is chest pain. It’s a sign that the organ is overexerting itself and pumping blood too hard. The stress raises the pressure in the heart and arteries to dangerous levels. It also causes hardening and of the blood vessels and thicker heart muscle – both of which can directly cause a heart attack, in addition to further complications.

Studies have shown that cocaine causes significant physical changes to the heart instead of just mild alterations. Researchers studied various users and found that a 30 to 35 percent increase in aortic stiffness was simply average. They also found that cocaine users had blood pressure that was 8 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) higher than non-users and that the left ventricle wall of the heart was usually 18 percent thicker.

The Prevalence of Cocaine

Despite its danger, cocaine is one of the most popular drugs in America. It reaches people of all ages and backgrounds and has been the cause of countless medical emergencies. In fact, around 40 percent of all illicit drug-related ER visits trace back to cocaine. This equates to more than 500,000 cases of emergency cocaine treatment each year – more than double the number of cases associated with heroin.

The Other Risks of Illicit Drug Use

Using illegal drugs provides a host of threats to the body and mind in addition to heart problems. The issues compound in many cases and result in terrible reactions, hospitalization and even death. This is because most drugs directly affect the central nervous system and modify the user’s consciousness.

Drug use subjugates the entire body to negative side effects, such as:

  • Body temperature changes
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Impaired judgement
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Poisoning from drug additives
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Overdose

In addition to the short-term side effects, drug users suffer from various long-term changes. The exact effects depend on the drug, but brain damage and various cancers are most commonly experienced.

The delivery method of a drug also impacts the body’s reaction. Injecting oneself with dirty needles, for example, can leave the individual with HIV.

Other Drugs Dangerous to the Heart

Despite the fact that cocaine is the most common, it’s not the only illicit drug that causes heart issues. Amphetamines and MDMA (ecstasy) both boost a user’s heart rate and blood pressure, as well. The long- and short-term effects vary, but both have proven highly dangerous.

Seeking Help Against the Temptation

Drug addiction is dangerous. It’s a frightening condition that can erode users’ physical health while also affecting every relationship in their lives. Quitting is difficult, bordering on impossible for many people.

Those who search for professional assistance, instead of at-home remedies, have the best chance at kicking the habit, thanks to proven resources and specialized support groups. Seek professional treatment today if you find yourself in this situation.

Reflections Recovery’s Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center