May 17, 2020

From High to Crash: How Cocaine Destroys the Human Body

Patient Care
Substance Abuse
Patient Care
3 min
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America.
Cocaine has a mysterious appeal. Regarded as “the caviar of street drugs,” cocaine is seen as the high status drug of celebrities, fashion m...

Cocaine has a mysterious appeal. Regarded as “the caviar of street drugs,” cocaine is seen as the high status drug of celebrities, fashion models and Wall Street bankers.

Cocaine can be snorted, injected and even smoked, but in all cases it produces the same result: an intense high due to the stimulation of the brain’s processing of dopamine.

Producing a euphoric effect and hyperstimulation, cocaine has been an elicit way for those in the banking and media business to keep up with clients, parties and long hours.

But the drug has its negative effects on the body, damaging everything from the heart to the brain to emotions.

Here’s what cocaine does to your body:

Cocaine sparks euphoria and heightens your senses.

Deep in the brain, cocaine interferes with the neurotransmitters that nerves use to communicate with each other. By blocking these from being reabsorbed, the resulting chemical buildup causes the “high.”

It triggers the part of your brain responsible for addictive behavior.

Repeated cocaine use has been found to result in a hyper-responsive dopamine system, making the drug hard for the brain to ignore. Cocaine users report that they are never able to achieve the “high” they felt the first time that they used the drug.

Cocaine increases your heart rate and blood pressure while constricting blood supply.

A restriction of blood flow to the heart causes tissue disease and can result in chest pain and heart attacks. Cocaine can also trigger a deadly abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia.  

It alters your metabolism, leading to weight loss.

The widespread assumption that cocaine stifles users’ appetites has been proven wrong thanks to new research from the University of Cambridge. The study found that taking cocaine prevents the body from story fat leading to the slimming effects.

Cocaine causes seizures and can lead to bizarre or violent behavior.

The drug constricts blood vessels in the brain, which can cause strokes. The lack of blood flow can result in wild mood swings.

It depletes the protein that triggers pleasure and leads to depression.

Chronic cocaine users run a higher risk of depression as the dependency of the drug leads to faster withdrawal symptoms (depression, anxiety and fatigue). A 2009 study by the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and the University of Michigan found that the drug, over time, shrinks the levels of VMAT2, the protein responsible for making dopamine in the brain.  

It enhances sex and then destroys your drive.

Although cocaine is known for being an aphrodisiac, it actually may make you less able to perform. Chronic cocaine use can impair sexual function in both men and women.

Cocaine destroys the inside of your nose and causes respiratory problems.

Cocaine is toxic to the nasal tissue it passes through, and regular use can cause nasal perforation. When snorted, cocaine can cause redness and a runny nose. Smoking crack cocaine irritates the lungs and, in some cases, can lead to permanent lung damage.

It makes you experience “bugs” crawling under your skin.

Some cocaine users experience unpleasant crawling feelings under their skin as they are withdrawing from cocaine. Referred to as “cocaine bugs” or “snow bugs”, they are described to bite, creep, burn or itch, and users may scratch their skin until it bleeds.

It overheats your body.

Regular cocaine users might experience sudden bouts of profuse sweating as their body temperature rises dramatically. This can lead to agitation, paranoia and even hallucinations.

Cocaine produces a powerful high that can last anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. But as it travels through the blood, it affects the whole body. According to WebMD, cocaine is responsible for more U.S. emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. 

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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