The other day I got another e-mail from a member asking me about training on cocaine. After I told him I thought it was a bad idea, I pondered the frequency of this question and began to think that maybe some of you young'uns might be thinking that cocaine is a good stimulant to drive your training. It's a horrible idea. I remembered writing about it back around the turn of the century, so I dug up the article in my archive and thought you all might enjoy it.
WE ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
It has been said that people may not all have the exact same reaction to a drug. I would hope the reactions would be pretty close considering the gazillions of drugs out there and the number of people taking them, especially for performance or physique enhancement. Some of the uses of certain drugs have got to make you wonder. For instance, I've got to say that out of all the times I've whiffed a couple of lines of blow off the back of a CD case in the car before I went into a club, not one of those times (and there were a few since the ripe age of 16) was that club of the health variety. I don't know about you, but after a few lines I can't imagine being able to lift more than my dick - if I could find it. But, some guys can really train hard on it. Knowing the way cocaine effects me, I just knew there would be no way I could ever hit the iron while on the stuff. However, owning up to my particular brand of esprit de corps, I wasn't immune to being talked into it; nor impervious enough to have it nearly be the end of me.
When I was living in LA, during a time well beyond the statute of limitation, I'd sometimes drive down to San Diego to train with a couple of hard macks I had met in prison. On one such morning, I pulled up in the gym parking lot alongside them while they sat in their crisp white Beemer with the blackest windows I've ever seen; probably puffing away like Cheech and Chong inside with the AC on and the sunroof cracked open, as would be part of the normal pre-training ritual for these guys. Other than the smoke pouring out of the cracked open sunroof, and the license plate buzzing from all that phat bass, the only way I could be sure they were in there was if the window went down and they peeked out at me all Chinese-eyed. But not this morning. Today, peering out through the open window, I could tell these two clowns were obviously wide awake.
I looked at them over the top of my shades and said, "you keepin' it real?"
The driver said, "yo, get in."
And, like an idiot, I complied. The music was so loud in there you could have herd it in the Titanic's engine room, and when I shut the door it felt like it got even louder. As soon as the door shut, Jay-D switched to the Prodigy CD and hit Smack my Bitch up, especially for me, and thus blasted it through the requisite amplifiers, subwoofers and a an array of speakers, of the kind befitting any foreign luxury sports sedan with lowered suspension, performance exhaust, and 20 inch chrome hoops, driven by an African-American man with gigantic arms and about 10 gold chains around his wrist. While the bass was pelting my guts, the both of them drummed along on the dashboard, perhaps a little too formidably. And, when the piece ended, they just seemed a little too enthusiastic about training shoulders. "Aright, what are you two jugglos doing?" I asked. This was way too high for Xanadrine.
Jay-D lowered the volume and said, "Ay, yo, check it out. Malingo, found a gram folded up in his little brother's room when he tossed it this morning."
"And you fuckin' chalked it, right?"
"Right here, brother." Malingo reached around the back of his seat and held up the little dark brown vial between his thumb and index finger and waved it back and forth. There was less than a third of it left, but, there was a little white ring around each of his big black nostrils.
"What the fuck are you doing tossing your little brother's room? You looking for whacking material? And, what are you doing still living at home?, you still on parole?"
"Hold up, Dawg, Malingo wasn't like tossing his room just to, you know, toss it," said Jay-D. " He heard Little M was playin' the D-boy in school."
"Well, the nuts don't fall too far from the tree." I said. "Like Malingo didn't used to walk around between classes slinging loose joints out of his lunch bag?"
"That was way different, dawg," Malingo said very seriously. "Little M is slingin' coke."
"Rock or powder?"
"Get real, your little brother is too fucking stupid to be slinging powder. Him and a couple of his homies went in on an 8 ball and the little G who deals the bunk dope they used to buy dropped a dime on him. Use your head, cuz, your brother ain't no big-dealer-big-wheeler- coke dealer. He's a fucking cherry-head." I opened the door and started to get out. I was pissed. I hate talking to people who are high on coke when I'm not. It's like watching Jody Foster accept an Academy Award. It's so fuckin' annoying, and in my mind, no way to show up for a workout. So, yeah, I was pissed. "And now you're going to train all gacked up?" I asked. "What the fuck is wrong with you two?"
"Ay, ay, ay, hold up, yo. What's wrong, big Dawg?! Mr. Triple- espresso- Xanadrine -clen - T-3 - Nubain cocktail -on his way to the gym -and then burnin' the cheeba with us - Romano. Gettin' up is gettin' up, brother, what's the fuckin' difference on how you get there?" He adjusted the vanity mirror so he could glare back at me over the rims of his shades with those eyeballs that looked like somebody was squeezing his neck.
Actually, it matters quite a bit. If you were to compare cocaine to Amphetamines and their associates, i.e., ephedrine, caffeine, etc., you will find they share many of the same mechanisms, and toxicity, however, amphetamines appear, based on the number of case reports appearing in the medical literature, to have a much lower incidence of heart attack and other coronary problems than with cocaine. According to Dr. Steven Karch's Pathology of Drug Abuse, this may be because amphetamines induce the production of heat shock protein, making heart muscle more resistant to ischemic damage (tissue damage resulting from too little oxygen reaching it). Amphetamines are not only safer than coke, but are also much cheaper and easier to get, and the dosing is by far more accurate. Pharmaceutical amphetamines are usually not stepped on. Amphetamines are a far better choice than cocaine if you wan to increase your training intensity - but, it's still the lesser of two evils. I'm NOT telling you to take them.
Studies also show that cocaine has an affinity to do cardiac damage, which accounts for some rather alarming statistics. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Annual Medical Examiner Data from 1999, cocaine related deaths accounted for 48.1% of all drug related deaths, making it the most frequent cause of drug related death. To further exemplify my homies plight, according to the medical examiner component of the DAWN report for 1999, cocaine was the most common cause of drug-related deaths among African-Americans, killing them 64% of the time. Since the DAWN report was comprised of medical examiners who performed just 60% of all autopsies done in the US, the total of all cocaine related deaths, in general, and among African-Americans, is surely much higher. This could be purely a socio-economic coincidence and not necessarily have anything to do with African-Americans being, as a race, genetically more susceptible to cocaine related deaths. However, today, it fit nicely into my argument.
According to Dr. Karch, Cocaine intoxication (not necessarily related to the drug level) may develop a state of cocaine psychosis with "excited delirium" in which the user is markedly agitated and combative. Notwithstanding the effect brought on by what I was imagining to be a rather heavy load of blow they had on board, Malingo was starting to evince these characteristics as the evidence I was quoting mounted, and, and finally he broke in. "Romano, you sounding like the G-whiz! Mother-fucker, you been hanging with Steve Blechman too long. You sounding all digital and shit."
"Ay, ease off, black," JD turned sideways in the driver's seat and looked up Malingo pretty hard. Then he gestured to me. "You too, Romano. Get your punk ass back in here." He waited for me to get back in, then he said," and, mother fucker, don't be bullshittin' us."
"Fuck that," I said, slamming the door. "I'm not bullshitting you. Use your fuckin' heads!" How could you two lit-holes possibly think that doing blow before one of our workouts would be a good idea?"
They both howled hysterically at my blatant display of hypocrisy -as they saw it - and started busting on me. "Fuckin' Romano, what are you on, like, 10 different drugs right now?" "Yo, Dawg, what about all them fucking tracks? How many times you hitting the Bain? Like five, six, times a day?"
"Fuck you!, no one is exploding from it. And what about you two fiends? Hu? What about all the G-shit you're on? Fina, A-bombs, Suss, Holocaust, and about how many other things that raise your blood pressure?" As far as I was concerned, these two were asking for it.
According to the medical literature, the most serious complication of anabolic or androgenic steroid use is an increased risk for heart disease and sudden death. Steroids have been shown to decrease HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the size of the heart. Fibrosis of the heart tissue, much like that resulting from excessive cocaine use can also occur. Hypertension (high blood pressure), another notable side effect of many androgens, can further increase heart size. I know having a big heart sounds like a good thing, and euphemistically it is, however, physiologically, it's not. Steroids have also been shown to enhance the coronary artery response to catecholamines released during periods of stress, i.e., intense weight training.
Circulating catecholamines levels are further elevated from cocaine use. These increased catecholamines - adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, among others, can produce increased heart rate and vasoconstriction. This can cause acute hemorrhages which can cause tissue damage in the brain from lack of oxygen, i.e., mild stroke. The very same thing has been shown to occur in the heart from small artery narrowing. Enough oxygen deprived heart tissue can cause a heart attack or possibly sudden death. So, here you've got the possibility of combining decreased good cholesterol, increased heart size, high blood pressure, fibrous lesions in the heart muscle, increased catecholamines levels with an enhanced response to them, and narrowing of the coronary arteries. Add to that - clen, T-3, Ephedrine/caffeine, then go grind out Dorian sets till you drop. And, on top of all that, the genetic predisposition to hypertension. If that's not a recipe for disaster, i.e., massive fuckin' heart attack, nothing is.
"Malingo, you're already the reddest black man I've ever seen since you've been dropping those A-bombs. And, as a black man, you're already at a higher risk for hyper tension. Now, you're in the cold before you train? Are you fuckin' nuts?" I turned to Jay-D, "you ever see the vein in his head when he deadlifts? It looks like a fucking aneurysm. This mother-fucker looks more ready to explode than Dave Palumbo."
Jay-D busted up in agreement, "Yeah, yeah, what is your blood pressure? Nigga you better get that shit checked,. That vein is mad whack."
"Right? I don't want to be near him when that fucking thing explodes," I said. "It'll be like whacking a big fat mosquito with a sledge hammer." I went on to describe how his expanding heart is being wedged in his ribcage exerting pressure on it, then being forced to pound away from being high on blow and the demand from his training and how sky high his blood pressure is going, exacerbated by his androgen load. It was not so much as how that big vein on the side of his head might explode, but how a little teeny one inside his brain might, and then what happens next. It wasn't pretty.
"Oh, man, don't be sayin' that shit!," Malingo cringed, bunching up his monstrous traps up on the middle of his back. "That ain't right."
"It's for real brother."
"Aww, what's wrong, cuz? Don't you know how many dudes train on blow?"
"You gonna tell me like just as many as do Nubain, or smoke weed, or whatever, right?"
"Say word. Probably, as many," he said.
"imagine stacking all that shit?" JD put in.
"That's whack!" Malingo freaked.
"Yeah, but I bet you some guys have," said, Jay-D.
Malingo ran his palm over his shiny dome. "I know for a fact one top pro brother diets down on the shit,"
"A lot of them probably might," I said. "I know guys who do all kinds of shit to diet down - but that's dieting. The last thing you want going into a Dorian set is your heart mad beating."
"It ain't like that," Jay-D said. "We're no fiends! Come on big Dawg, do a bump with us and then lets go throw down."
"I can't throw down on blow, I'll be weak as shit, and I hate the way that crap tastes in the back of my throat - it gets it all numb and you can't drink enough water........." In spite of my disdain, Malingo tapped out the last of the blow out onto the back of a CD case and cut out three humongous lines with a credit card and offered it to me with a rolled up dollar bill. I waved it away and said, "No, man, You go ahead."
"Aww, go on, brother," Said Jay-D. "You never got high with us to train before. It's all about your attitude before you hit it. Coke just intensifies it. We're going to train like mad dogs - straight up cold kickin' live, mother-fucker. Dorian sets all day"
What a line of horse shit. "I can't imagine how that could be possible," I said. "We're going to be in there all bugged -out and......"
"Give it up, Dawg!" Jay-D shouted. "What the fuck?, we're not doing a whole eight. Just a couple of bumps before we train."
"On top of everything else?" I asked. "You're alright with that?"
"Fuck, yeah," he said. "We're not in the cold everyday, Dawg, but, you know, some time by the way?, fuck yeah. And, then we go in and raise the mother-fuckin' roof. And, yo, we ain't never cancelled Christmas."
Hmmmmmmm, that's true, they are still alive, and all the studies were done on addicts and on animals with huge prolonged does of coke. Could just one big bump before a workout really be all that bad? The danger scenario I had laid out actually really applied as much to me as it did to them, perhaps more so. Nevertheless, I pondered the dusty CD case that Malingo was still holding up, and the Guru's voice in my mind was saying, "if you do drugs, then you do drugs." And then it occurred to me, that of all the other retarded antics I've accomplished thus far, how come I still haven't trained high on cocaine? So, what the fuck? I completely disregarded the other stimulants I'd already ingested, and took the CD case and the bill, and whiffed half of one of those pencil-thick lines up each side of my nose.
They both looked at me like I had done a bad thing just for spite, which I probably in part had, but, now it was too late. I sniffed hard and that shit hit the back of my throat. Fuck. By the time they did their bump and we got out of the car, my nose had started to run and on the way across the parking lot I sniffed back two honking blasts of coke infested snot, and by the time we got to the entrance, I was gacked. By the time we got passed the front desk and into the big room where the clacking of the weights competing with the blasting hip-hop really bothered me, I realized I had done too much. Way too much.
Malingo noticed. He came up along side me and put his arm over my shoulder and said, "wussup, big Dawg? You aright?"
"I'm fucking gacked, you idiot. What is that shit?"
Then JD hooked is arm around my other shoulder, looked at my eyes and said, "Damn, Romano, looks like somebody's squeezing your neck."
The weight of the both of them on my shoulders was crushing and I was starting to feel nauseous. "Get the fuck off a me!" And I angrily pushed myself free.
"Easy brother," Said Malingo. "We're just playin'."
Now, I was fucked up and I was pissed off. "Don 't worry about my shit, just train, mother-fucker."
Even though they were talking too much, Jay-D and Malingo were throwing down. Dorian sets all day was right. Malingo did a triple drop set of seated Smith presses starting with three wheels on each side that had half the gym standing in awe. Jay-D did a triple drop of side cable laterals and on the third drop ground out about 45 reps all the time talking to himself in the mirror about what a pussy he was for not sticking the pin in a couple of plates lower because his shit was too light. By the end I thought he was going to lurch at his reflection and kill it with his bare hands.
As predicted, I just could not hang. I felt like total shit - I couldn't even rep. By the third rep of almost every set it felt like my arms were filling with cement. I was tweaking hard and by the time we started triceps, I couldn't catch my breath. That bump I did, although gargantuan, should have been gone by now. But, it was still there and I was drenched in sweat and wheezing like an old Ford with a leaky head gasket, wishing I never let them talk me into doing this. The back of my head felt like it was going to implode on itself, I was getting the chills, and every time I stood up or finished a set I'd get so dizzy I'd have to squat down and put my head between my knees to get it to stop. Then my chest felt like it was tightening up. Holly shit, was I having a heart attack? Oh, man, could you imagine the field day the other magazines would have? Romano dies of a cocaine induced heart attack? They'd be all over it like a cheap suit, saying it served me right. And, that would be the truth too. "Yo, Malingo, are my lips turning blue?"
"No, but you whiter than normal." He pushed me down onto a bench and tried to force my head between my knees. "You look like you're going to drop."
At least I wasn't cyanotic and my chest wasn't getting any worse. There was no crushing pain over my sternum, into my jaw nor down my left arm. That probably meant what I was feeling was just anxiety brought on by the all the stimulants underlying the blow I did, and not a heart attack - but, my crew was getting concerned.
"Ay, yo, check it out," Jay-D said very seriously looking at my worthless carcass. "We should take you to the hospital and get you looked at."
"Are you out of your fucking mind?, I said. "That'll take all day."
"No it won't," Malingo said urgently. "Once you say 'heart attack,' they take you right in, and hook you up to an EKG!"
"Who said anything about a heart attack?!, I have deadlines! I don't have time to sit around a hospital all day taking an EKG. I've got work to do. If I die, I deserve it for listening to you two crack head freaks."
I was definitly not having a heart attack - at lest not a big one - but I was too fucked up to finish training. So, I laid back on the bench and waited for them to finish, all the while marveling at the force they were able to generate with their thumb on the button. They finished and collapsed next to me on the floor. I said, "you are two hard mack mother-fuckers. How the hell can you throw down like that gacked up?"
"We couldn't if we didn't, brother."
"That's bullshit," I said. "you guys always throw down hard, and I've never seen you do it in the cold before."
"Yeah, but today was special." Jay-D motioned like he was hunching his shoulders and said, "My delts are fuckin' numb."
Malingo rolled his head from side to side over his absurdly pumped traps and said. "oh, yeah, I'm fuckin' deep fried. Ohhh shit!, don't you just love that? Remind me to thank Little M."
Jay-D nodded and he and Malingo tapped fists, then looked at me and he said, "what about you cuz? You gonna live, or you gonna cancel Christmas?"
"I'm fine." I lied. I felt like shit. I should never have done coke on top of the other stimulants I did before I got there. But then again, I just don't believe, based on the available literature, and my own experience, that doing cocaine before a work out is a good idea regardless if it's done by itself or like I did it. The fact that my two homies get away with it is not transcendental science. You could end up worse than I did. "I fuckin' clowned myself. But what's up with you two straight mackin' me to do it?"
"Romano, where did you learn to holla like a pimp?"
"From being locked up with you two. It still didn't do any good, you almost killed me."
"You almost killed yourself, mother-fucker," Said Jay-D.
"The rest of you try to remember that.