There are many people who do not think twice to doubt what is regarded as “socially normal.” One of these normalizations I’d like to discuss is the glamorization of cocaine.
There are many who will claim that they are only casual users of the drug, therefore it is not dangerous. Let’s clarify one thing – there is no such thing as a safe amount/frequency of doing coke. There is a myth that you need to snort a copious amount of the stuff for it to be dangerous – this is not true.
Research shows that even a small amount of cocaine can be fatal. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, most fatalities associated with cocaine use are caused by cardiovascular (heart attack) or cerebrovascular accidents (stroke).
“Cocaine causes your heart to speed up, and in some cases go so fast that it actually stops,” according to Toronto-based addiction specialist Dr. Steven M. Melemis. “What is especially deadly about cocaine is that there is no correlation between how many times you’ve used cocaine or how much you used, and when you will suffer a cardiac arrest. Some people die after their first use.”
In experiments carried out at McLean Hospital in Belmont, researches observed that blood vessels narrowed as volunteers took different amounts of the drug. Doctor Marc Kaufman notes that only a small amount of cocaine constricted blood vessels in the brains of young, healthy men who are occasional users of the drug.
Most people who try coke or “casually” use, do not intend or think they will form an addictive habit. Every drug user starts out as an occasional user, seeking voluntarily to just “try it”. But what they don’t realize is, doing the drug just a few times can physically change your brain, creating new circuits.
These circuits can be easily triggered by particular cues (a stressful day, a certain environment, etc). The cue triggers an automated routine (seeking and snorting cocaine) to kick in. It can come to a point where it is no longer about will power or discipline your brain has changed.
In their book The Chemistry Between Us, authors Dr. Larry Young and Brian Alexander note our brains are wired to ensure that we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered, and teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it.
Because drugs stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way. Consider George Carlin’s subtly intuitive summation. When asked by a reporter “What does cocaine make you feel like?” he responded simply “It makes you feel like more cocaine.”
Whether it’s cocaine or another drug, there is a fundamental root issue when people feel the need to take a dangerous substance to chase a high.
Recovering from drug addiction is a challenging path and this article is not to pass a moral judgment on those who use. It is, however, to give perspective to the usage of a drug that is way too often glamourized in society, which minimizes the real, life-damaging effects it can have.
Photo credit: Mikko Nieminen