This Is What Cocaine Does To Your Body

cocaine body

Photo: Shuttershock/Daniel Loretto

You’re leaving the office at 11:30 p.m., and you need to summon the energy to go out and impress your supervisors. Red Bull is too fleeting, newer designer drugs like MDMA are too intense. So where do you turn?

Cocaine has long been the drug most synonymous with Wall Street, and the place where the line between casual consumption and chronic use of the substance is most blurred.

The drug’s addictiveness has spawned many Wall Street flameouts, but what does it actually do to your body?

Cocaine sparks euphoria and heightens your senses.

For most casual cocaine users, stimulation belies the drug's consumption. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine sparks euphoria and mental alertness, especially to sight, touch, and sound. The faster the drug is absorbed by the blood stream, the more intense the effect and the shorter it lasts.

It triggers the part of your brain responsible for addictive behaviour.

University of Michigan neuropsychologists found repeated cocaine use results in a hyper-responsive dopamine system, making the drug hard for the brain to ignore. Dopamine, the chemical in the brain responsible for just about any addictive behaviour, is triggered when one is engaged in any deeply pleasurable activity.

It's so addictive you can crave it by watching others do it.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA and the one of country's preeminent expert on addiction, found that dopamine levels jump even if cocaine addicts are simply watching videos of people using the drug.

It is potentially lethal because it restricts blood to the heart.

In their seminal study on the effect of cocaine on the heart, researchers at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles found the drug increases heart rate and blood pressure while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart.

A restriction in the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart causes tissue disease and can result in chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes.

Its users are more susceptible to heart attacks.

In 1999, Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical centre in Boston discovered that during the first hour after cocaine use, the user's risk of heart attack increases nearly 24 times.

During a follow-up study in 2008, they found that 10 per cent of heart attacks in 18 or 45 years old were linked to more than 10 lifetime uses of cocaine.

It reduces grey matter in the brain.

A study released by University of Cambridge researchers revealed the drug may age key parts of the brain at an accelerated rate. Co-author Karen Ersche noted users lose grey matter--which help control memory, decision-making and attention--at almost double the rate of non-users.

It depletes the protein that triggers pleasure and leads to depression.

Chronic cocaine users also run a higher risk of depression and the drug will have diminishing returns over time.

According to a 2009 study conducted by the Ann Arbor VA Medical centre and the University of Michigan, the drug, over time, shrinks levels of VMAT2, the protein responsible for making dopamine in the brain.

It enhances sex and then destroys your drive.

In the short-term, cocaine can spike sexual arousal and prolong stamina, but like most addictive substances, long-term addiction to the drug can result in impotence.

It stifles your appetite, leading to weight loss.

There's data behind the claim that cocaine can make you skinny. Using lab rats as research subjects, researchers at the University of Birmingham found use of the drug delayed feeding as well as the number of meals consumed overall.

It destroys the inside of your nose and causes respiratory problems.

Cocaine is toxic to the nasal tissue it passes through before it's absorbed into the bloodstream. The drug itself numbs the pain, but can cause redness, a running nose, and eventually septum damage.

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