Overdose Profile: Cocaine & Ecstasy
The psychology of a substance abuser is a vast labyrinth of warped rationalizations and denial. As such, it’s important for individuals to be educated on the effects and unique risks associated with each substance in order to deter the development of addictions and prepare individuals for situations in which the information would be particularly useful, including instances in which a friend might overdose on a substance. Since knowledge is power and responsibility, individuals who are adequately informed will be less likely to experiment with substances such as cocaine & ecstasy, which have been known to ruin lives and even kill.
AN OVERVIEW OF COCAINE: EFFECTS, RISKS & HOW IT’S TREATED
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that is derived from the coca plant, which is native to South America. Originally valuable for its ability to induce very localized numbness during surgical procedures, cocaine is notable for being one of the most highly addictive street drugs around and requires only a very brief period of regular usage before an individual displays signs of dependency.
In its most common and well-known form, cocaine is a power that is usually white, off-white, or light yellow and often appears somewhat chalky or pearlescent. The drug’s full name is cocaine hydrochloride, which indicates that it’s a salt. Cocaine is also weakly alkaloid, referring to its ability to combine with acidic compounds to form other derivative salts. One of its most common derivative forms is colloquially known as “crack,” which is a freebase form of cocaine that is smoked rather than snorted in order to provide more rapid and stronger though shorter-lasting effects.
When consumed, cocaine acts as a local anesthetic and powerful stimulant, increasing the user’s heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Users enjoy the drug for the distinct euphoria and sense of happiness it temporarily offers, but the drug only lasts up to about an hour; as the effects begin to wear off, the individual begins to experience intense cravings for more of the drug. This is due to two main, related factors, one of which is the effect that cocaine has on the brain’s reward, or mesolimbic, pathway.
Moreover, consuming the drug inhibits the reuptake of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which results in much higher concentrations of these substances than is normal; as the effects of cocaine begin to wear off, the individual experiences a sudden and dramatic drop in the levels of neurochemicals, leading the individual to experience strong cravings.
The stimulant properties and high addictive potential of cocaine are what make the drug so dangerous. The increase in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate are accompanied by dilated pupils, profuse sweating, and when the individual has consumed extremely high doses, there’s a risk of hallucinations, delirium, arrhythmia, stroke, cardiac arrest, and death. As a stimulant, cocaine and its derivative forms speed up the body and its internal processes to a potentially dangerous level.
When an individual who has become dependent on cocaine detoxes, he or she experiences a very distinct type of withdrawal. Cocaine dependency is more psychological in nature relative to the more physical dependencies of drugs like heroin and other opioids, causing a withdrawal state that consists more of an emotional-motivational deficit that is most effectively treated with counseling and psychotherapy.
AN OVERVIEW OF ECSTASY: EFFECTS, RISKS, & HOW IT’S TREATED
Ecstasy is a form of the drug known as MDMA, which was developed in the early 1900s as a medication to incorporate into psychotherapy due to its ability to lower patients’ inhibitions. However, by the 1970s, MDMA was being used as a street drug. In the following decade, MDMA and ecstasy had become a staple party drug while being finally made illegal according to federal law.
Nowadays, ecstasy refers to the MDMA-based products that produce very specific effects as well as a number of similar “club drugs” that produce similar effects while occasionally having little to no actual MDMA in them. Ecstasy is typically taken in the form of a pill or compressed tablet while MDMA, or “Molly,” is most commonly found in its powdered form and could, therefore, be either insufflated—snorted through the nose—or eaten like ecstasy. The effects last for as little as just a few hours or as long as six or more upon the onset, but it’s common for users to take another dose of the drug when they begin to feel the effects of the previous dose warning.
Similarly to cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA cause a rapid surge in serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Users have reported feeling an increase in sexuality and libido, which is thought to be the result of large amounts of serotonin in the system since the production of high quantities of serotonin is associated with the body’s production of hormones that play key roles in feelings of attraction, arousal, and a number of other social and sexual experiences.
The drug has been reported to enhance sensory perceptions, especially those pertaining to touch, sight, and sound, which is likely the cause of its popularity as a club drug as well as a common part of a multi-drug intoxication experience that can also include cocaine, methamphetamine, GHB, or even Viagra. The brain becomes depleted of serotonin and other neurochemicals as the drug’s effects wear off, causing feelings of depression and anxiety, insomnia, and confusion.
Ecstasy is considered slightly less addictive than other drugs such as opioids due to its unique effects and the tendency for individuals to become psychologically rather than physiologically or physically dependent. Physically, ecstasy causes many of the same effects as stimulant drugs like cocaine, including an increase in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Some of the adverse effects that users who have taken large amounts of ecstasy include blurred vision, clenching or grinding of teeth, muscle tension, feeling faint or dizzy, nausea, and sweating or cold chills.
In severe cases, ecstasy can cause such severe hyperthermia, or a very large increase in body temperature, that it results in the failure of the liver, kidneys, or even the cardiovascular system. Another risk of ecstasy is that its tendency to inspire users to be sexually and socially uninhibited has been found to result in individuals being more likely to have unprotected sex, which makes ecstasy users more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS or HIV. In terms of treatment, individuals who have become dependent on ecstasy can recover in addiction treatment programs and, as is the case with cocaine addiction, receive great benefit from psychotherapy and counseling.
THE PALM BEACH INSTITUTE IS ON YOUR SIDE — CALL US TODAY
In order to justify the many risks of substance abuse, users will often tell themselves that their drug of choice is less risky than others, which fosters denial or alleviates their fear of the possible adverse reactions. However, individuals who have become dependent on cocaine or ecstasy can take solace in the fact that recovery is possible and attainable. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to cocaine, ecstasy, or some other harmful substance and would benefit from treatment, the Palm Beach Institute can help. We have a team of experienced recovery specialists available, each of whom has helped countless individuals in finding the treatments and programs that could deliver them back to sobriety, health, and fulfillment. At the Palm Beach Institute, we’re always on your side; call us today at (866) 804-6507 or contact us online.