Coke’s No Joke
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Coke’s No Joke


As a coming-of-age teenager in the 1980s, I was aware of the fact that drugs were bad. My generation was inundated with War On Drugs campaigns ranging from “This is your brain on drugs” to after school specials featuring good kids getting hooked on pot. I’ll never forget the day they announced Len Bias, a recent draft pick for the Boston Celtics, had died of a cocaine overdose. My mother told me it was the first time he had ever tried coke. That scared me—not enough not to try coke myself but enough for me to feel like a total bad ass when I did.

Cocaine the Killer

Still, with the growing popularity of opiate-based drugs, it’s been a while since the general public has heard about cocaine-related deaths—for me, Ted Demme was the last. But this week a couple of news stories about people dying from cocaine overdoses came along, both occurring at least several days after they ingested the drug. Michael Williams, 29, died in jail (where he had been for a month) and Addison Cresswell, 53, a British comedy agent, died in bed three days after he partied. This paints a slightly different picture than what we might think a coke overdose looks like: some wide-eyed and sweaty guy, snorting line after line as the morning sun breaks through the cracks of his Venetian blinds, when suddenly his eyes rolls back in his head and he passes out, am I right? When it comes to an OD, I know I expect a scene from Pulp Fiction, not a family man cuddled up in Egyptian cotton sheets.

Whatever the heath risks associated with snorting cocaine might be, they have of course taken a major back seat to the death roulette of drugs like heroin. So it’s weird to see not one but two stories pop up about coke ODs, which might be leaving people wondering if something is rotten in Denmark. But knowing what we know about all the crazy shit they put in coke, I suppose we could be dealing with contamination, allergic reactions, or just coke—which lest we forget—is pretty dangerous on its own.

Deadly However You Ingest It

While most coke OD’s happen when coke is injected or smoked, snorters clearly can die as well. Alas, there’s no exact amount that causes an overdose since this mostly has to do with physical condition, possible diseases and a number of other factors. Clearly heart problems are going to exacerbate the risk, as in Demme’s case. Now for the facts: signs of a coke OD include a rise in body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure as well as vomiting, tremors, irregular breathing, chest pains and seizures. And a person ODing on coke needs to be rushed to the ER; since most state laws contain some degree of immunity from either criminal or civil penalties under the Good Samaritan law, if you ever find yourself in this situation, please do that!

Always a Risk

Looking back on my drug days, I realize that all of my decisions about what drugs to use and how much, was 98% based upon what my friends were doing. If 20 people I knew were snorting blow and lived to tell about it, then I didn’t need some academic administering a D.A.R.E class to tell me how to live my life. The proof was in the pudding; my friends were doing drugs and they were just fine. Of course, many of them are dead now—or, arguably worse, living dead-end lives. Still, I’m glad I’m finally mature enough to understand that just because the people I know didn’t die from coke OD’s, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.