At a bachelor party two years ago in South Lake Tahoe, California, a tech worker who we'll call Owen glanced down at his Fitbit in between snorting lines of cocaine. He noticed his heart rake had spiked to 150, an abnormally high level considering he'd been sitting for hours.
"My heart rate only gets to 150 if I'm running, like really intense physical activity," said Owen, who agreed to share his story on condition that we not use his real name. "If I'm in a really stressful work meeting, I might get close to 100 or 120."
Owen had been indulging every 15 minutes or so, taking turns with his friends, as is customary with his group. Concerned about his elevated heart rate, he passed his Fitbit to someone who had just entered the room to see what would happen after his first line of cocaine. Sure enough, his friend's heart rate went from around 80 beforehand to 150 about 20 minutes later.
"I think we all knew it would have an impact on our heart rate, but we'd never seen it happen before," Owen said. "It became interesting to keep an eye on."
Cocaine can cause a user's heart rate to jump by unleashing dopamine into the body and producing a rush of adrenaline. An extreme increase in heart rate is far from the only risk posed by cocaine, which causes more than 5,000 people deaths a year from overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Overdose deaths can be tied to heart attacks, strokes and angina, along with other complications, none of which can be prevented with an activity tracker. Cocaine is also highly addictive, and medical experts generally agree that even occasional use can be harmful to a person's health.
Owen says he does what he can to keep himself safe. As a 20-something techie in San Francisco, he's submerged in a work-hard play-hard environment, where recreational drug use is an accepted norm by people who are simultaneously obsessed with data, devices and their health. Since that weekend in Tahoe, Owen said he brings his Fitbit along whenever and wherever he parties, whether it's at a night club, a dance party or Burning Man, the annual drug-fueled shindig in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.