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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Cocaine made me ill

02/14/2007

Question:

Hi there! I`ve been using cocaine for several years now; I am not an addict, I use it maybe twice a month, when I take it, I have it with lots of alcohol and take approximately 1 gram. Last saturday, I went out partying and had a whole bottle of Malibu, 12-15 cans of Coca Cola (to mix with the Malibu) and about 1 gram of cocaine. About 2 hours after I stopped drink & drugs, I became really ill. I got extremely painful chest pains, my heart was racing soo fast, I later on lost my sight for a few minutes, my arms and legs became useless (they were as cold as ice, numb, I couldn`t move or use them), so much so, only yesterday (wednesday, its thursday today) could I manage to walk from the bedroom to the toilet. Throughout sunday, monday and tuesday I could not walk as my legs felt like they were dead, I could not even lift a glass to have a drink, I couldn`t talk as my heart would start racing so fast if I tried and was so painful. It thursday today, I am still bedbound, but I`m slowly getting better. What has happened to me? This has been the scariest experience ever. I still have chest pains but not as bad. I really thought I was dying, what was happening to me? I never want to touch the stuff again, but please can you tell me what was happening to me? I couldnt see a doctor as I was too weak to speak or get out of bed. My heart was racing for days, it was soo scary! Please help!

Answer:

Thank you for your note and I apologize for the delay in my response.  I am very concerned about a few things:

1) It is very unlikely that your alcohol and cocaine binge behavior is not evidence of quite severe substance abuse and even perhaps addiction.  Please read the materials we have posted on NetWellness about substance use / abuse / addiction.  Frequency is not the key issue re: substance abuse and addiction but rather risk and adverse consequences.  Your use pattern is CLEARY VERY RISKY, and likely is associated with evidence of past dysfunction.  Cocaine (and surprisingly alcohol) addiction tends to present in a "binge-crash" pattern in the majority of cases - very similar to your history as outlined above. 

2) This chest pain episode sounds very concerning to me as well.  Cocaine cranks up the heart rate and blood pressure WAY ABOVE LEVELS SEEN IN A CARDIAC STRESS TEST!  It is certainly possible that you produced a heart attack or other serious lung or heart injury during your binge.  Cocaine binges are also pretty commonly associated with "mini" or even mid-sized strokes ... so when you report loss of vision I worry a lot for your safety and health.  You MUST see a doctor and get a thorough evaluation.  PLEASE be open about the cocaine binging.  Ask for a medical evaluation (to be sure no permanent damage has taken place) and referral for substance abuse treatment. 

You clearly deserve better than to be binging on cocaine and alcohol to the point of possible long-term health damage (or even death).  Please be sure to get checked out AND get started on a recovery program!

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Response by:

Ted   Parran, MD Ted Parran, MD
Associate Professor of General Medical Sciences
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University