There are few drugs as instantly recognizable as cocaine. Thereâ€™s just something about the powder-nosed business executive, or the crack-smoking street thug that just sort of sticks in the collective consciousness.
Thereâ€™s a reason for that: Since it first began being experimented with by isolated individuals in the medical community during the mid-nineteenth century, cocaine has become one of the most widely used illegal substances in the world. It can be smoked, snorted, ingested, or injected. As of 2008, the cocaine industry was valued at approximately 38 billion U.S. dollars. In fact, if you lined up all the worldâ€™s cocaineâ€¦ well, someone would probably try to snort it, so never mind.
But just what exactly does cocaine do? It gets people high, obviously. Itâ€™s also addictive, and very dangerous. These are all things that your average school kid could rattle off in exchange for a DARE T-shirt. Today weâ€™re going to focus on a few of the specific, lesser known side effects of â€œchasing the dragon,â€ and in keeping with the theme of the drug culture, weâ€™re going to do so through vague euphemisms.
1. Got Your Nose
For many cocaine users, snorting is the only way to go. After all, crack pipes are too bulky to carry around, and needles are scary. So, when you think of someone using cocaine, chances are you imagine them taking it up the nose. However, nasal inhalation can lead to some unintended consequences. For one thing, it can cause runny noses and nose bleeds. For another thing, it can do something so much worse. You see, when you snort it, your body absorbs the cocaine portion of cocaine hydrochloride. This leaves the unabsorbed hydrochloride to just kind of hang out in your nasal passages.
The chemists among you might have already realized the problem hereâ€”that hydrogen and chloride mix with water (the stuff that makes up 75% of the human body) to create hydrochloric acid. The good news is that the solution is diluted and takes a while before it will start to dissolve your nasal tissue. The bad news is that cocaine is so addictive that the chances of you using it only once, or twice, or even a hundred times is pretty slim. So if you plan on snorting, youâ€™d better buy some really flamboyant hats to distract people from the hole in your face.
2. The Daily Grind
One of the myths surrounding cocaine is the belief that smoking crack can weaken tooth enamel. It canâ€™t. Thereâ€™s nothing in cocaine that can rot your teeth. However, cocaine users have been known to constantly and involuntarily grind their teeth. Regular tooth grinding can lead to such minor annoyances as head and jaw aches. It can also cause fractures in the teeth, which in turn leads to decay and tooth loss. So, to backpedal a little bit, cocaine does cause gingivitis, just in a more painful, roundabout sort of way. As the teeth wear down (and fall out), users may also suffer gum recession, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), migraines, depression, insomnia and breath that can wilt spring flowers. But hey, at least itâ€™ll get your mind off of your missing nose.
3. Donâ€™t Trust Antibody
So now that youâ€™ve lost your teeth, your nose, and any chance of ever getting a date again, what more do you have to fear from a little cocaine? The answer, of course, is a lot. Aside from the fact that people have been known to overdose (and die horribly) from miniscule amounts of the drug, cocaine users are also at much higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as Goodpastureâ€™s disease and lupus.
Without getting too much into the specifics, these diseases are the kind where the antibodies in your blood that are supposed to be fighting viruses just sort of lose it and say, â€œI think the kidneys are up to something. Maybe the lungs too. We better deal with them before they bring the whole system down!â€ So, the antibodies start attacking otherwise healthy, important tissue and organs. And before you ask, no, you canâ€™t live without lungs.
So, unless youâ€™ve been looking for a lifestyle uncluttered with noses, teeth, or functional internal organs, itâ€™s probably better to pass on the coke.