Even Casual Cocaine Users Face Serious Consequences

Even Casual Cocaine Users Face Serious Consequences

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is cocaine bad for you

This post was originally published on February 4, 2016.

Cocaine is bad for you. Everybody knows that, right? But other than causing a heart attack (or making you feel like you are having one) I am not sure most people really know what sucks about blow. In fact, I didn’t realize that fatal coke overdoses were even still a thing. But a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that 5,000 people in America alone will die from a cocaine overdose this year. So yeah, it’s still a thing—a big one.

It turns out, even if you consider yourself a “recreational user” of cocaine and therefore impervious to overdoing it (insert sarcastic tone), you face serious consequences. Tech Times points to new research that shows cocaine used in any amount could cause severe damage to your brain.

Moderation Isn’t Immunity

Since we are all kind of desensitized to the concept of killing brain cells (something pot supposedly does), let me be more specific. Beyond the massive pounding headaches, dried out sinuses and 24-hour shame spiral we get after a night of nose candy, doing coke speeds up autophagia. This is a process where brain cells clean themselves out, causing them to destroy vital parts and essentially eat themselves. This is very ironic since the last thing I ever wanted to do when I was high on coke was eat.

Cocaine is a strange drug. It is highly addictive but I have also seen it used recreationally for extended periods of time. Obviously, if you are at the point where you taking bumps like sips coffee, shooting or smoking it, your habit has surpassed social. However, I do know a few people who only snort coke a couple of times a year, on special occasions. There are probably others who partake even more than that—say, once every two or three months—and don’t consider themselves addicts. And I would probably agree. While coke may have previously been considered basically harmless if used in moderation (keyword being moderation), this new information paints a much scarier picture.

The Silver Lining

Before you have a full-blown panic attack about all the coke you did in college, there is good news. A compound called CGP3466B (not the catchiest name, but it’s a start) has shown to counteract cocaine’s affect on the brain by slowing down autophagia in mice. And since the drug already went through clinical trials as experimental treatment for Parkinson’s and ALS, there is no evidence to show that it isn’t safe for humans. So if you have a cocaine-damaged brain, there is hope for you yet. But what exactly are the consequences of accelerated autophagia?

Great question. Other than potentially destroying a cell’s mitochondria, causing it to starve and die, there isn’t much information available for the laymen about how this translates into symptoms. From my very minimal knowledge of how the body works, I would surmise that when brain cells die, it isn’t good. Maybe it puts us at a higher risk of neurological disorders or maybe it just increases the instances of not knowing where your keys are. And if science could help me with that, I would be forever grateful.

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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.