ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

This is what your casual cocaine habit is really doing to you

This is what your casual cocaine habit is really doing to you

This is what your casual cocaine habit is really doing to you
03 June 2016

Full fat? Diet? Zero?

Unlike its carbonated namesake, you never know what you’re getting with a gram of coke - which, more often than not is far from the real thing.

But as well as questioning what materials go into this white stuff, users should be equally as worried about what is does to a person's physical and mental health.

Hoping to find out just how harmful even a once-or-twice a week coke intake can be, the good folk at Refinery29 pinned down Nicky Walton-Flynn, founder of Addiction Therapy London, who spoke about the blowbacks of too much blow.

Here’s what you need to know.

You might not want to know what’s in street cocaine

“Cocaine has historically been cut with glucose and laxatives. Increasingly the cutting agents of choice are benzocaine, a dental anaesthetic that imitates the numbing effect of cocaine and levamisole, a cow and horse de-worming product."

It can ruin sex forever

“Because cocaine affects the reward pathways in the brain, increased use over time results in an inability to gain pleasure and reward from what would be considered ‘normal’ pleasures. An example is sex. If cocaine is used repeatedly in sex, the ability to enjoy and experience sexual pleasure without cocaine becomes diminished.”

It can put you in a vicious cycle of stress

“Cocaine also affects the brain pathways that respond to stress. In my experience, I often see a presentation of cocaine addiction co-occurring alongside a stress disorder. Cocaine use elevates stress hormones, but people then seek out more cocaine to alleviate their stress, creating the addictive cycle.”

Addiction doesn’t happen to everyone

“There is no certainty that if you use cocaine, you will develop an addiction, but probability is high due to its interference with reward pathways in the brain. The propensity to addiction is linked to a range of contributory factors; for example family history of addictions, childhood experiences, recent or historical trauma. These will influence motivation for taking cocaine and one’s propensity to become addicted.”

Short-term effects of cocaine use include…

“Loss of appetite, malnourishment, increased heart rate and blood pressure, constricting blood vessels, increased rate of breathing, dilated pupils, headaches, disturbed sleep patterns, nausea and abdominal pain and hyper-stimulation. As well as bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behaviour and risky sexual behaviour. Hallucinations, hyper-excitability, irritability, anger. In most cases, people will experience an intense euphoria followed by intense flatness of mood and depression. In extreme cases: tactile hallucination that creates the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin, itching and scratching, as well as high levels of anxiety and irritability paranoia; depression matched with an intense craving for the drug, panic and psychosis, convulsions, seizures and in rare cases, sudden death from high doses."

Long term effects include…

“Permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain, to high blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death, to liver, kidney and lung damage, to destruction of tissues in the nose if sniffed. Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected. Respiratory failure when cocaine is smoked. Malnutrition and weight loss as a result of appetite suppression. Tooth decay. Sexual health issues including reproductive damage and infertility. Disorientation, apathy, confusion and exhaustion. Irritability and high mood disturbances. Auditory hallucinations, increased frequency of dangerous and high risk taking behaviour – especially sexual behaviour and unpredictable and increased irrational behaviour leading to psychosis and/or delirium and clinical depression.”

It makes your brain feel like a really good brain

“Cocaine is one of the most psychologically addictive drugs because of how it stimulates and increases levels of the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. It interferes with the pleasure and reward pathways in the brain.”

Scarface hasn’t helped things

“Media glamorisation combined with low prices makes it more affordable to a wider demographic. It is no longer exclusive to celebrities and high salaried professionals. Cocaine has been glamorised over recent decades in films, songs, media; it’s seen as cool."

Denial is a regular trait of an addict

"This is dependency/addiction. It is at this stage that we observe denial of the dependency: 'I do have a choice, I just want to have a good time, I’m not hurting anyone else, I’m only young once, I’ll stop when I settle down, when I get married, when I have children, when I’m 25, 28, 35….'. This is denial of one’s addiction and is the most common narrative I hear in my rooms. If someone recognises this, I would invite them to seek help. 

"More obvious signs are that it takes longer to get over a night partying using cocaine, hangovers are more severe, there is a need to ingest more of the drug to achieve the same effect, the high doesn’t last as long as it did; feelings of flatness and depression arise sooner after taking a hit. Eventually the euphoria will cease altogether and the user will instead just experience anxiety and paranoia."

There are give-aways to a person’s addiction

"A key indicator of whether a person’s use of cocaine has progressed from being a social habit they are in control of, to dependency, is when they are unable to keep to their decision not to buy cocaine despite having made a decision to have a cocaine free night. This decision will typically happen once alcohol has been consumed. This is a clear indicator that there is a shift in power, i.e. the drug has control over you; you are no longer in charge of your own using patterns and the choice has been taken away."