Party Like A Rockstar: A Primer On Drugs And Cardiovascular Health


By Terry Gotham

Since we’re not getting any younger, cardiovascular issues will continue affect the Burner population in increasing numbers. Considering Burners also party like rockstars, in one of the harshest climates on earth, I wanted to take this time to go over some of the research associated with drugs & your heart. As a disclaimer, once again, many popular recreational drugs are specifically contra-indicated for people with anywhere from mild to major heart issues, but if you listened to your doctor, you probably wouldn’t be going to Burning Man with your minor CV distresses. As 30% of this country has High Blood pressure, and quadruple & quintuple bypass are now commonplace, these issues aren’t esoteric, so let’s meet them head on.

While the standard “drugs increase heart rate & blood pressure” trope is trotted out every summer, that’s not entirely the case, depending on the drugs that you choose to do. This journal article from the American Journal of Medicine documents a number of ways that drugs can drive hypertension or blood pressure. Some recreational drugs can even interfere with anti-hypertensive prescriptions. This finding emphasizes the need to not only understand the effects of the recreational drugs that you’re planning on taking on playa, but to also do your research to confirm that any prescription medications you’re taking don’t interact with your fun drugs. Sites like will usually inform you of the combinations to avoid, if they are worthy, so just be careful and do the specific research needed. The connection between alcohol & heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart disease & hypertension is extensive and a discussion of that is beyond the scope of this article, so please check the American Heart Association & Medscape resources on the matter.

The effects of MDMA on the heart & heart tissue haven’t been studied super extensively, but this article from the NMR Biomed journal documented a couple of anxiety inducing physical effects on the rat heart. Obviously, it’s difficult to extrapolate out what the effects are on humans from an animal model. However, a study from 2003 in Molecular Pharmacology did show that MDMA can have effects on the heart similar to FenPhen (remember FenPhen?!). This can include valvular disease and pulmonary hypertension. Again, this wasn’t a finding for most patients, but a small group of them, but it’s important to present all the evidence to let you decide.

Cocaine is much more dangerous to your heart than MDMA, and that’s not something the jury is still out on. In doing research for this piece, I happened to connect with a friend who is a heart surgeon, who had just dealt with a cocaine related emergency surgery a week or so ago. The patient had done so much cocaine they gave themselves an Aortic Dissection. For everyone who didn’t go to medical school and doesn’t know what that means, the dude did so much blow he managed to tear a rip in his aorta. For more, albeit totally gross details of this life-threatening cardiac event, here’s a quick round up from the Mayo Clinic.

If you’re lucky enough to not be so coked out your cardiovascular system starts a fight with itself, cocaine can still do damage to your heart over time. Dr. Varun Kumar confirms that cocaine forces an abnormal level of blood flow through the heart’s smallest blood vessels, as they’ve been dilated by the drug. This explains why, even if you don’t have any outward signs of cardiovascular trauma, if your vessels stiffen because of the cocaine, or clot because of cocaine itself (theory not confirmed by evidence yet), that can contribute to heart damage. This was corroborated by a study carried out in the Australian hospital system. While the sample size was small (only 20 people) the imaging done on even casual cocaine users showed poorer ventricular function and greater systolic BP. If you’ve had a heart attack, your doctor’s probably informed you those are risk factors for cardiovascular events. If you haven’t and you put things up your nose, start taking notes.

To be clear, while there are lots of drugs that cause cardiovascular events, cocaine is a huge part of that conversation. Cocaine is responsible for 31% of emergency room visits, as documented by this massive review published in the journal Circulation, by the American Heart Association. With 1.6 million in this country meeting the criteria for cocaine dependence, it’s much more likely you’re going to run into someone pushing a rolled up dollar past a salt & pepper goatee than an older gentleman asking for NBOMe on playa.

This doesn’t mean psychedelics & other drugs are totally safe. Here’s a report of someone from Poland on mushrooms who had a myocardial infarction & arrythmia after presenting at the ER with Psilocybe intoxication.We’ve all seen people who pushed the psychedelic envelope a little too far and had a pounding heart, tension & severe anxiety. In these cases, one of the simplest ways to ease stress on the heart is to ease the mind. The Zendo Project  & Green Dot rangers on playa is the best resource to connect individuals having spiritual emergencies with. They can not only handle the psychedelic issues, but in the worst cases connect with physical health emergency workers who can take it from there, so you need to take care of your health by using lumitea colon and other products.

Don’t forget, just because you’re not taking illegal drugs, doesn’t mean the stuff you’re consuming is 100% safe. Even pre/post-workout supplements have resulted in ER visits. For anyone who still thinks that’s an urban legend, here’s a case of a 25 year old with no prior health issues or cardiovascular diagnoses that was brought to the ER with palpitations & atrial fibrillation (common form of irregular heartbeat). All you guys looking to get swole before you hit the playa this august? Be careful and don’t just go nuts with the workout powder without doing your research.

Lastly, inhalants & cannabis. Cannabis doesn’t seem like something that would interact with your cardiovascular system badly, but that’s not 100% correct. This report to cardiologists from 2000 in Heart, notes that if you have ischemic heart disease, pot can increase the frequency of angina-like symptoms when engaged in low-level exercise. This goes without saying, but definitely clear exercise & drug use with your doctor if you have a heart condition, if you suffer of any plantar fasiitis I recommend talking to your doctor as well because you might need to get slippers for plantar fasciitis to lower the pain. If you do inhalants, firstly, I’m sorry your life is that awful. But more importantly, over the long term, inhalant usage can lead to cardiomyopathy, so you may want to eventually get some help for that sniffing habit you keep from everyone else.

Obviously, on playa, all of these risks are amplified, and complicated with the need for water & the rigor of trekking around in the 95 degree weather and arid landscape. Unless you’re one of those lunatics that run the Burning Man 5K on 1 hour of sleep because you regularly book 6-10 miles around Brooklyn or the Bay, make sure you confirm how your heart will handle both drug use & drug use on the playa. It’s a lot more than just pissing clear for some of us.

Stay safe & out of the ER. Doctors can kill the vibe.

27 comments on “Party Like A Rockstar: A Primer On Drugs And Cardiovascular Health

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  4. Thanks for the info! Did you mean “This doesn’t mean psychedelics & other drugs *are* totally safe.”, rather than “aren’t totally safe”? The double negative seems at odds with the following sentence.

  5. I am an ER nurse. Your numbers are *totally* inaccurate from daily reality.
    This is just one study. Admittedly from 2009; but….
    The great majority of chemically related ED (emergency department) visits are related to Alcohol; injected drugs, and hallucinogens. I love that there is a conversation about unsafe behaviors; but please get a clue about accuracy!

    • The Drug Abuse study is from 2009, while the Circulation study is from 2010, and from a non-governmental source. can be unreliable due to its bias. I’d be happy to update the ER visit stat if you have something more recent and academically rigorous.

  6. I have seen too many people experience heart related issues due to their continued drug use, twice on the playa, but I think there is probably just as much longer term damage happening to many other organs as well, such as the liver, kidneys and bladder as the body attempts to metabolize and remove the toxins from itself.

    I also think there are many heavy drug users in the community that didn’t get into them until later in life, like in their 30s or 40s, and naively think that the negative effects will not happen to them because they started so much later in life and didn’t experience the burn out like many do in their teens and 20s. It will catch up in one way or another.

  7. Yes, I have never followed any of this and was wrong about you posting it in your own blog. However, that makes it all the worse that illegal topics with virtually no discussion comments are uniquely posted on Seems a weird decision for Burnersxxx to host these when you don’t host them yourself. And having FB and other discussions that link back here as the home content makes this, the home, all the worse.

    • I still don’t understand your concern. If it’s “ethics” or legality, there are plenty of other sites, VICE comes to mind, that post about topics surrounding illegal activity, and aren’t harmed by that. If you’re referring to search authority & credibility via Google, you’re veritably wrong in your suggestion of producing article snippets & linking off site. All of those post-lets will be deemed low quality content by Google & other search engines and be essentially impossible to find. You keep saying things will be “worse” but haven’t illustrated why, and what punishments would be levied. What, Trump will talk shit about and how it’s subverting the youth? Or would you prefer the information not make it out to the kids running around regional burns and the playa, and we just have a couple of them die, such that the authorities actually clamp down.

      • Terry, your posts generally seem informed and helpful on your subject, unlike the comments you have made here. You are reading a lot of paranoia or old baggage that I certainly did not write or even believe. Your information should be on the web for people to readily find. I question the wisdom of putting it in, and having web searches for drug information leading people here.

        A lot of us have invested quite some time in these burn-related discussions led by Burnersxxx, JV and ABP come to mind. Unrelated posts about illegal drugs, only tangential to the blog subject, with essentially no discussion, puts at risk. Since the Borg has been effective in squelching objective discussion of the NV burn in many other venues, the discussions here are a valuable burner refuge – as many have commented. The Borg have a motivation to kill discussions here, too.

        Seems including the Terry Gotham posts is an unnecessary risk, since they could be used to get WP to kill this blog, either explicitly or by back-channel. And I am most concerned that these are posts are not found in the Terry Gotham blog.

        If these are so important to discuss, yet cannot be in the Terry Gotham blog, I simply do not understand why Burnersxxx would not create a separate blog as home for them.

        • If you can find me an example of a WordPress blog actually being taken down for drug-related content, I’ll be more sympathetic to your words. Otherwise, I can’t hang on the “They’re coming to get us” ish. They aren’t on my own personal blog by design, as Google severely penalizes duplicated content.

        • I’m in favor of harm reduction, and have asked Terry to write about these topics for us. It’s not medical advice, and we’re certainly not encouraging people to break the law.

          Nobody’s fooling anyone in 2016: people are partying at Burning Man. Grover Norquist is talking about it to the media, Conan O’Brien is, Marge Simpson is. Somebody needs to be putting out harm reduction information to this community, I can see why that might be awkward for BMOrg.

          There’s some interesting content here about MAPS’ frustrations in working with BMOrg, and a factional split with the Rangers.

          • Perhaps “drugginess” could become one of the 0-9 spectrum rankings for Burnerburns?

            It’s all in the game. EvolveFest recently said that they don’t want same sex couples holding hands in public – invoking predictable outrage from the festival-loving community. In Dubai, heterosexual couples can’t hold hands in public if they’re not married, or share a hotel room. This is “you go to jail” stuff, not “you must leave the doof”.

            My point is there is a broad spectrum of behaviors and activities that occur at Burns and other experimental mass gatherings. To each their own, some people want Night Market, some want Silent Disco, some (moi) want All Night Dancing with as many Funktion1’s and lasers as possible.

            To me, the great thing about Burning Man (1.0) was always the diversity, there was something for everyone and people from all walks of life. We didn’t all have to see everything eye to eye, we just had to be hospitable citizens to one another. Through participation, shared experience, and gifting, we found common ground.

            Terry was out of line to call you a troll Nomad, and personally I don’t think that at all. You’ve gone out of your way to make your positions and intentions clear. I am very grateful to all of the contributions you have made to this blog over the years. Of course if you want a week or more vacation from it all, you’re most welcome!

            We’re all on the same side: the side of wanting the artistic, creative Burner culture to flourish; the other side is those who want their social capital hierarchy and Decommodification LLC-owned brands to flourish.

            You guys are both in the NY area, maybe you can kiss and make up? Or duke it out in fisticuffs?

          • I didn’t refer to him in that way, someone else did. I specifically don’t resort to name calling. I asked for specific examples of his concerns. He referred to himself as a troll and was called a troll by someone else.

          • “Nobody’s fooling anyone in 2016: people are partying at Burning Man.”

            True that, but the drug of choice seems to be alcohol.

            How about a post discussing the rampant abuse of alcohol?

  8. Burnersxxx, I hope you realize that posts like this presume prima-facia illegal activities, and they damage your blog’s credibility. If there were extended discussions by your readers that would be one thing, but these posts usually have little to no discussion. I think you will also find that comments on other posts taper off after one of these, since many of us think twice about making a comment on a blog that has explicit how-to drug advice, even if that is not the post we want to comment on.

    Since Terry posts these in his own blog on WP, I suggest that you add a “Drugs on the Playa” to your FAQ, and have a link to his blog.

    If you feel you have to do a post in your blog, I suggest that you only post a link with maybe the first paragraph of his blog post, with a disclaimer paragraph by you.

    As this blog becomes more important to the burner community, so does your credibility. You don’t want any fair characterization as “that burner blog with all the drug advice.”

    • BTW, the first paragraph of this post would be perfect introduction, since it does not mention any specific and illegal substances. Posting it with a link is a good way to get people to go to Terry’s full post without mentioning the illegal drugs in your blog.

      • I challenge you to find an article that’s been posted here that was reposted & not just reshared on my personal wordpress. When you can’t find one, I’ll accept your apology.

    • Considering the volume of discussion on Facebook, and the page views that topics like this drive, I think just because you only post here on the comments, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily correct about the lack of discussion.

      Additionally, I don’t repost or post about this topic on my own blog, and haven’t posted on that topic for 8 months on my own blog, as the topic was moved over here. You can apologize for that oversight if you’d like. Additionally, Google Panda punishes low quality pages that comprise of a link and a paragraph quite severely, so the idea you present is not only bad for page views, but also for site authority and search. If you think I’m not right about that, feel free to check in with your friends at Google.

      I wasn’t aware you cared about credibility to the burner community, considering how much you enjoy trolling the comments depending on the topic.

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