Single Dose of Danger
Using cocaine just once changes your emotional outlook
We may not live in Bret Easton Ellis’ cocaine-fueled 1980s, but interest in the drug is on the rise.
“Narcos,” the new Netflix original series centered around the rise of Pablo Escobar and the cocaine trade in the United States, is one of the year’s most popular shows. “Sicario,” a film about the failures of the drug war that stars Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Josh Brolin, is in theaters.
The highly addictive drug has captured our national imagination, clearly, and a new study hints at reasons for it.
Research by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology has found that “a single dose of cocaine can interfere with the ability to recognize negative emotions.”
Students ages 19 to 27, who were “light to moderate cocaine users,” participated in the study. After giving these recreational users one 300 milligram dose of cocaine each, researchers found that the “single dose of cocaine caused an increased heart rate, as well as increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol." The users were less able to recognize negative emotions than the placebo group.
1.5 million Americans over the age of 12 are cocaine users. Of them, 855, 000 are reportedly dependent on the drug.
We’ve long known how cocaine works on the brain, of course.
“Cocaine blocks the re-uptake of dopamine into the presynaptic nerve by blocking the dopamine transporter," Spencer Burjaski, a fifth-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student at the addiction lab at the University of California Los Angeles told LifeZette. "Basically, this means that the dopamine in the synapses is not being removed properly.”
Remember, dopamine is the brain’s “reward” chemical. A former user and recovering alcoholic who wished to remain anonymous put it simply: “It makes you feel more positive about things.”
Unlike opiates and heroin, cocaine use is on the decline. The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2013 that usage had dropped by half since 2006, but it still pervades the American psyche and culture.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that 1.5 million Americans over the age of 12 are cocaine users. Of them, 855,000 are dependent on the drug.
The lowered perception of negative emotions is one of the effects of the drug. Emotions serve us in social situations and physical safety. Consider pain and the fear it generates. We require it, so we know not to put our hand on a hot stove. It’s self preservation.
And that can lead to problems.
“It (cocaine) takes away the pain, but there’s no medium temperature," the recovering addict said. "There’s on and off and on, and on is all they want.”
Cocaine destroys the body’s ability to create dopamine over time. The drug becomes necessary, and users will take greater risks to use it.
The recovering addict recalled a story of a friend who died after swallowing a bag of cocaine he’d brought on a trip after becoming paranoid in the customs line.
For whatever seductive benefits the drug might promise, she said, “There’s no control at all.”