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The main health risk with cocaine is overdose. Most cocaine deaths have been caused by accidental overdose, especially with cocaine dissolved in drinks. There is no such thing as a "safe" dose of coke, and a person can overdose even if they have only ingested a relatively small amount of the drug. Cocaine overdose is not nice: victims suffer convulsions, heart failure, or the depression of vital brain centers controlling respiration, usually with fatal results.
Heart Problems and Stroke
When someone uses cocaine, the rush they experience also causes a corresponding spike in his or her blood pressure and pulse rate. The user also experiences an increase in his or her respiration rate. Using the drug can trigger a stroke in some cases. This medical consequence of using coke can occur when the user's blood vessels constrict while his or her blood pressure increases rapidly. The constriction can be severe enough to restrict or cut off blood flow to the brain entirely.
Men under the age of 40 are most at risk for having a stroke as a result of using cocaine. In some cases, the cause of the stroke can be attributed to a malformation in the arteries or veins supplying the brain. In cases where a person has a stroke after using cocaine, they are more likely to experience the type caused by bleeding in the brain than one triggered by a reduction of blood flow to this important organ.
Damage to the Nose
The other main physical danger you face is damaging or perforating the septum, the thin membrane that separates the nostrils at the top of the nose. Regular coke snorters often suffer instant nosebleeds when snorting the drug. Occasional users may detect next-day bloodied mucus and congestion. Heavy users have their septums dissolved by the corrosive effects of cocaine.
A person using cocaine may find that his or her sense of smell is impaired as a result of using the drug. Trouble swallowing is another one of the dangers of cocaine. One of the signs that may indicate a problem with cocaine addiction is seeing a person with a constantly running nose.
Other Dangers of Cocaine Use
An individual who swallows cocaine may be creating the physical conditions required for them to experience bowel gangrene from lack of blood flow to this part of the body. Doing so to avoid being arrested for cocaine possession or because the individual is acting as a "mule" to transport the drug is a very risky thing to do.
If injecting cocaine is your delivery method of choice, you need to be aware that sharing needles puts you at a higher risk for developing HIV/AIDS. Allergic reactions are also not uncommon when the drug is administered in this way.
A cocaine user who binges on the drug can become irritable or restless. The individual may also feel anxious or become paranoid as a result of his or her drug use. In extreme cases, the person experiences auditory hallucinations as part of an episode of cocaine psychosis. This problem is more likely to affect long-term, regular users of the drug than a person who only uses it occasionally.
Combining Cocaine with Alcohol
Using cocaine and alcohol together is quite common among users. This can be a dangerous combination, however, since using the two substances together tends to compound the effects of each one. Research into the issue of using cocaine and alcohol together has found that the human liver produces a substance called cocaethylene when a person uses both substances at the same time. The cocaethylene intensifies the euphoric effect produced by ingesting the cocaine, resulting in a more intense "high" for the user. This combination can also be attractive to cocaine users because it helps to prolong the good feelings they experience.
It makes sense that cocaine and alcohol use would be related, since a number of social cocaine users tend to ingest the drug while attending parties or at a bar. Consuming alcohol is part of their social activity, and they may not think about the fact that they are ingesting two potentially dangerous substances at the same time. People who drink alcohol and use cocaine at the same time may find that they can continue drinking longer than when they are consuming alcohol alone.
As the coke user continues this practice of combining the drug with alcohol, the cocaethylene builds up in his or her liver. This substance may be linked to the increasing number of relatively young people (in their 30s and 40s) who are experiencing heart health issues. An underlying heart condition that is triggered by cocaethylene may be to blame, and further research will need to be conducted to shed more light on what part this third drug plays on the health of people who ingest cocaine while consuming alcohol.
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