By Nichole Danyla
“I am here today to talk to you about choices… Some choices we make have a very long-lasting impact,” New York State Trooper investigator Peter Hogan said Thursday, Mar. 19 at a Voices lecture called “Individual and Community Struggles with Narcotics in New York State,” hosted by the Marvin Library. “Illicit drugs are a cancer upon society, and unlike cancer, which can come like a thief in the night, with no warning, drug addiction…is a choice.”
Trooper Hogan spoke to a group of roughly 20 students about the effects of four drugs: cocaine, heroin, ketamine, and MDMA.
“Make no mistake, [drugs] are poison. It’s the equivalent of taking a full can of Comet and pouring it down your throat. You’re pouring poison into your body,” Hogan said.
Hogan first discussed cocaine. Cocaine is a white powder or rock that you can snort, smoke, or inject, and is very addictive. It gives users a feeling of intense, sometimes indescribable euphoria. Cocaine can cause cardiac arrest, seizures, respiratory failure, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, irritability, restlessness, and mood swings.
“Heroin is even more addictive than cocaine. It started as a pain reliever and its chemical cousin, morphine, is still used in Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycodone. Pure heroin is a white powder, but it can also be tan or brown, depending on its purity and what it is cut with,” said Hogan.
For a while heroin seemed to disappear, Hogan said. However, “heroin made a large comeback and is now probably one of the biggest health hazards in the community today.”
Heroin can be ingested by snorting the powder, injecting it, or by melting it in water and snorting the fumes. Like cocaine, heroin gives the user an intense feeling of euphoria too vast and strong for many addicts to explain.
However, cocaine and heroin users will never experience the intensity of that first high again. This is called the Law of Diminishing Returns. Each time, users experience less and less of the drug’s euphoric effects, but they keep chasing that first high, thinking if they can get enough of the drug, they can feel their first high again.
“As the habit of use becomes increasingly more important [to the addict] the desire to get high increases. For some, it becomes the only thing that matters,” said Hogan.
Indicators of heroin use are slow reflexes, droopy eyes, drowsiness, dry mouth, difficulty paying attention, nausea, avid scratching, vomiting, convulsions, slow and shallow breathing, and death.
In 2013, the CDC reported that 8,200 people died of heroin overdoses. That comes out to about one person dying every hour.
According to Hogan, another scary drug around these days is ketamine, sometimes called Special K. Ketamine began as an animal tranquilizer used in veterinary clinics, but soon people started stealing it and using it as a date rape drug. Ketamine can be smoked, snorted, or ingested. In humans, it causes blank stares, disorientation, incomplete verbal responses, high pain tolerance, muscle stiffness, psychosis, delirium, hallucinations, and in, some people, amnesia.
The last drug Trooper Hogan talked about is one found mostly found on college campuses. Its official name is MDMA, but it is also known to some people as ecstasy or Molly. People often take MDMA at parties because it causes enhances sensory perception. However, it also causes anxiety, blurry vision, sweating, depression, and faintness.
“Here’s another tidbit that your local drug dealer won’t tell you. When he or she goes to buy their product, they’re not going to their local pharmaceutical company. They’re going to their dealer, who might be in Albany, or Troy, or New York City. What he’s buying isn’t tightly screened for purity,” Hogan said.
Dealers cut their product with other powders that look like the drug they’re selling to extend their quantity and profits. One ounce of cocaine or heroin can be cut with other substances and become two or three ounces.
The truth is that even before cutting, these drugs may not be pure. They are made in illegal labs and can contain all sorts of additives that are just as toxic or even more toxic than the drugs they’re helping to make.
Hogan is an alumnus of Hudson Valley and a 19-year veteran of the New York State troopers. He said he participates in seminars like this because he feels they are worth it if they help keep one person from choosing to take drugs.