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What’s the impact of taking hard drugs just once?

June 15, 2021 • read

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What’s the impact of taking hard drugs just once?

As cannabis use becomes more socially acceptable in Canada, it’s not uncommon for people to be curious about hard drugs too. We all know that drugs are bad for you, but what’s the real impact of taking hard drugs one time? Is it really that dangerous, or is it okay to experiment with them just once?

Illegal drugs means unregulated products

There’s no official definition of “hard drugs” in Canada, but when most people hear this term, it often refers to illegal street drugs that are addictive, like cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth.

Hard drugs are illegal, which means that they’re not subject to regulation or oversight. In order to increase their profit without affecting potency, drug dealers sometimes lace their stash with powerful narcotics like fentanyl, and carfentanil — highly dangerous, synthetic opioids that can cause overdose and death in tiny amounts. Reports from some parts of the country suggest that fentanyl might be present in up to 80% of illegal drugs, indicating just how widespread the problem is. Since fentanyl and carfentanil are both odourless and tasteless, it’s impossible to know if your drugs are contaminated until it’s too late. Because of this, overdose and death are a risk for both first-time and regular users.

Injection drug use

Whether your drug supply is contaminated or not, overdose remains a major concern with injection drug use. It can be difficult to calibrate the amount a user can tolerate — especially a novice user — and once you’ve injected the drug, there’s no turning back. This applies not only to heroin, but also to injecting cocaine and crystal methamphetamine as well.

Bloodborne infections are also a major risk of injection drug use, as users sometimes resort to needle sharing. Even if you only do it once, needle sharing dramatically increases your risk of contracting both HIV and hepatitis, no matter which drug you inject.


Overdose is always a concern when taking heroin — even if it’s your first time. In fact, heroin addicts have a mortality rate 63 times greater than their peers. Not overdosing, however, doesn’t mean using heroin is free of negative effects. Dizziness, confusion, nausea, and vomiting are all possible consequences of using heroin. This means even a successful episode of heroin use can be highly unpleasant.

Heroin is a nervous system depressant that slows the heart and breathing, and gives users a sense of euphoria and calm. But, because heroin is an opioid, users may experience feelings of withdrawal, even after a single use. Withdrawal symptoms depend on the amount and frequency of drug use, and can last anywhere from a few hours to days. Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, racing heartbeat, insomnia, muscle spasms, and intense cravings for more heroin are all possible symptoms.


Like heroin, cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected. Cocaine is a stimulant, and it elicits the release of dopamine in the brain, which plays a role in how we feel pleasure. Because of this, many users report feeling powerful, alert, and even euphoric after taking the drug. The flip side of this, however, is that some users find they have intense cravings for the drug after a pleasurable experience.

Not all episodes of cocaine drug use are enjoyable though. Using the drug can produce delusions and hallucinations, paranoia, and panic, as well as anxiety and irritability. Since cocaine also causes irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, physical consequences can include heart attack, seizures, or stroke.

Crystal methamphetamine

Crystal methamphetamine, usually known as crystal meth, or meth, is a stimulant made from pseudoephedrine — the active ingredient in many cold medications. Users often smoke meth, but it can also be snorted, injected, or swallowed.

We know that the long-term effects of crystal meth are dangerous. The potential consequences of taking the drug just once, however, are also harmful. Crystal meth is highly addictive, and many users report drug cravings after their first use. Meth is often produced in home labs, making its effects unpredictable — the “high” from the drug can last anywhere from eight to 24 hours. Using crystal meth increases blood pressure and body heat, and causes irregular heartbeat, meaning seizures and psychosis are a possible consequence of a single episode of drug use.

Most episodes of hard drug use don’t end in tragedy. It’s possible that you’ll wake up the next day with nothing more than a slight hangover. But, a pleasurable drug experience and slight hangover can lull you into a false sense of security, making you more open to additional episodes of drug use. People don’t generally become addicted from their first hard drug experience. Instead, recreational use becomes more frequent, gradually morphing into addiction. Since you can’t predict each individual’s response, it’s impossible to fully calculate the impact of taking hard drugs just once — given how drastic the downside is though, it’s not worth the risk.

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