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Straight, No Chaser: Cocaine Myth Busters – Facts and Fiction

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD November 18, 2018

cocaine whitney-houstonbias

Whitney was right. Crack is whack, and coke’s no joke.

There has to be a better way to chase The Glamorous Life.

Debunking myths about cocaine use

1.    “Cocaine isn’t addictive.”

  • This is just wrong.  Cocaine produces an incredibly powerful psychological dependency, and people will chase the experience of that first high to their deathbeds.  As tolerance to the previous doses develops, it takes increasingly high doses to get similar effects as before, and the risk of overdosing becomes incrementally higher.  Let me be clear.  No set number of cocaine doses accurately determines the development of either a physical or psychological addiction.  That first dose could be the one.

2.    “Cocaine is safe if I only use it once or only use it from time to time.”

  • What you’re discounting is that cocaine use is very much a game of Russian Roulette.  A single dose can cause death in many ways, including heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms and rupture, strokes, sudden kidney failure, and rupture of your nasal passages.  A bad cocaine high could be the last thing you ever do.  Learn the story of Len Bias, pictured above, just to name one example.

3.    “As long as I’m not using crack cocaine, it’s clean and safe.”

  • If you are looking at the relative merits of smoking, inhaling or injecting drugs, you’ve already missed the point.  That said, people tend to confuse ‘clean drug’ with the ‘upscale’ nature of those who snort cocaine, as opposed to the more negative ‘dirty’ stereotypes of the individuals using crack cocaine.  It’s the same drug, folks.  In fact, snorting cocaine leaves you just as sweaty, irritable and prone to hallucinations as crack users.  The subsequent addiction and pursuit of an even higher high will lead to many a rich, ‘clean’ individual eventually resembling the most stereotypically downtrodden crack user.  There’s nothing ‘clean’ about someone walking around with ulcerated, bleeding or perforated nasal passages.

4.    “Cocaine doesn’t produce a hangover or residual effects.”

  • This is frankly ridiculous.  Cocaine acts by producing a massive release of internal substances that rev you up and produce a powerful euphoria.  When you’ve depleted your body of all these hormones, there’s nowhere else to go but down.  Where do you think the term crash came from?  Fatigue, depression and some degree of mental instability, including suicidal tendencies, are not only common but should be expected.  Other residual effects include insomnia, weight loss, paranoia, anxiety, and aggressive behavior.  The downward spiral of a cocaine user is all too predictable.  The lifestyle changes and risky behavior pattern of cocaine users, including enhanced exposure to HIV, hepatitis and other easily transmittable deadly disease must be included as residual effects of cocaine use.

5.    “Cocaine is a great sex drug.”

  • I hold disdain for educational efforts that aren’t truthful, and in this case, too often such efforts make suggestions that any cocaine user knows not to be true.  A large part of the mystique of cocaine is to be found in the fact that users find it an exotic enhancer of sexual activity.  Cocaine opens blood vessels, which in the case of the penis, facilitates the blood flow that produces and sustains an erection.  Recall, however, that I mentioned that cocaine use is playing Russian Roulette.  One big (no pun intended) problem with using cocaine to stimulate erections is you may not be able to finish what you start.  In other words, that “contact your doctor if you have an erection that lasts more than 4 hours” disclaimer should have originated with cocaine, except for the fact that its use is illegal.  And if you ever do get this side effect, when you arrive to see me or my colleagues, we’ll be there with very large needles needing to be inserted into your penis to manually extract the blood.  That’s not a good day for you.

The answer to the naiveté about cocaine is the same.  It is an extremely powerful and dangerous drug with physical and psychological effects that can linger long past the high. If anyone’s reading this that’s a cocaine user, and you’ve never had any of these problems, learn the medical meaning of physiological tolerance.  As you become acclimated to the effects of cocaine, and the propensity to use more drug to get the same effects rise, the more likely these phenomena will happen to you.  Also recall that a single dose, even in the absence of any past such reaction, can produce any of the adverse effects I’ve described.
If you know someone on cocaine, be as aggressive as you can to get them off of it before it’s too late.  Counseling works.

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