Pathway Healthcare Blog

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What Makes Cocaine and Methamphetamine so Dangerous?

Cocaine and methamphetamine will cause an individual to seem extremely alert and have increased energy along with increased heart rate and blood pressure.

I remember the first person I encountered as a doctor in the Med ER who was on cocaine. It was the mid-1990s in Memphis, and people came to the ER every night with chest pain, very high blood pressure, sometimes even heart attacks or strokes. 

The woman I saw was screaming. She had smoked crack. Crying, she told me she had sold her baby for crack. She held her chest. Her blood pressure was over 200 systolic and over 100 diastolic. Her heart rate was somewhere near 150 beats per minute. I thought she was going to grab my coat, she was so intensely agitated. We admitted her to the hospital to the cardiac ICU. She was alert, energetic, and had a racing heart as well as a dangerously high blood pressure.

Methamphetamine causes similar changes. My patients frequently use meth to give them the energy to go to work. Energy. This is a huge need. It needs to not be underestimated.

We need alertness and energy. 

Cocaine and Methamphetamine are both stimulants, even though they have different mechanisms of action. Some of the brain chemicals they stimulate are:

  • Norepinephrine/epinephrine
  • Glutamate
  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Acetylcholine
  • And there are more

These chemicals are all healthy, normal, and needed chemicals in our brains. We rely on these chemicals to get up in the morning, feel motivated to go to work, take care of kids, and to take care of our own lives. We need these chemicals to continue our normal everyday functions.

Cocaine and methamphetamine raise the levels of stimulating neurochemicals that raise our heart rate and blood pressure. 

Norepinephrine and epinephrine are part of our sympathetic nervous system They are stimulated when our body knows we need our blood pressure higher or our heart rate faster.

Unfortunately, cocaine or methamphetamine may stimulate these chemicals more than our bodies need, resulting in heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, or a racing heart.

Cocaine and methamphetamine raise the neurochemicals that cause alertness and energy.

Glutamate helps us learn and feel invigorated. If it’s too high, a person can have seizures. But we need glutamate to do our work and go to school.

Serotonin gives an energetic, happy feeling. Well-being. Cocaine especially stimulates serotonin.

Dopamine gives a rewarded, motivated feeling. We need this to do anything. To meet our goals. To go to the grocery. To work. We need this for movement. The way cocaine and methamphetamine stimulate this neurotransmitter makes these chemicals addictive.

It’s hard to quit cocaine and methamphetamine.

In fact, it is probably too hard for you to do alone. We know that.

Before you do something you cannot change, come and let us help you. We know you have needs below the addiction. It’s not because you are bad. Come in and let us sort it out with you.

Make an appointment today with one of our addiction specialists. We help people without judgment. Call 1-844-728-4929