Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose is always a risk, even with casual cocaine use. Find out what you can do to prevent an overdose from cocaine.

Understanding Cocaine Overdose

An overdose is a potential side effect of cocaine use, despite any bodily tolerance to the drug. Cocaine overdose statistics show that over twenty million people worldwide use cocaine on a regular basis, and there are many more that have experimented with the drug.1

As cocaine is considered a party drug, it’s often taken with other substances, like alcohol and marijuana. Another one of the many cocaine overdose symptoms is relapse. A person with a former tolerance to cocaine may ingest much more cocaine than their body can handle due to the assumption that their tolerance hasn’t changed.

Also known as crack, cocaine affects several internal bodily systems, such as the central nervous system, the cardiorespiratory system, and the cardiovascular system, to name a few. For example, cocaine can disrupt the rhythm of the heart or cause the heart to beat faster than normal.2

This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or other heart-related health concerns. When these conditions occur either during or following frequent cocaine use, it can lead to an overdose.


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How Much Cocaine Can Cause an Overdose?

A lot of people ask the question, “Can you overdose on cocaine?” If you’re wondering how much cocaine does it take to overdose, the answer is that there’s not one set amount that always results in an overdose.

Instead, the answer to the question, “Can you overdose on cocaine?” is that the exact amount of cocaine that causes an overdose will vary on an individual level. People with underlying health conditions, who take other substances, or consume cocaine in a stressful environment are also prone to cocaine overdose symptoms. It’s important to recognize that there’s never a safe amount of cocaine to ingest.

Cocaine Facts to Know

Signs and Symptoms of an Overdose

Understanding how to spot overdose symptoms is crucial. With a base level of understanding about what’s happening in the body, people can create environments where the worst-case scenario can be avoided. The following symptoms can occur in combination with each other or on their own, but it’s important to know that experiencing fewer symptoms doesn’t mean the severity or propensity of an overdose is lessened.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms include rapid heart rates or palpitations, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, pain in the chest, seizures, or convulsions.
Rapid Heart Rates or Palpitations
As a stimulant, cocaine can increase your heart rate and speed up your breathing, leaving you short of breath. The drug disrupts the complex systems that are required to keep hearts beating at sustainable rates.

Unlike moderate physical activity, an increased heart rate that is being sped up by cocaine will last for far too long. This can cause an increasing amount of strain on the body, particularly the heart.

Once the heart is out of rhythm, medical oversight is often needed to correct the heart’s behavior. This can lead to long-term symptoms, including chronic fatigue.
Hyperthermia is a condition that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. While hyperthermia is most often associated with extremely cold environments, in the context of cocaine, it is caused by a disruption in the body’s ability to regulate temperature because of the drug.
Nausea and Vomiting
Despite cocaine’s brief history as a nausea pill, it can wreak havoc on the digestive system. The outcome of this often manifests as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other forms of internal discomfort. However, the intensity of the nausea or vomiting will depend on the method of ingestion, but nausea is considered a somewhat common side effect through and through.
Pain in the Chest
Severe breathing and heart-related issues can appear as chest pain and overall discomfort. Typically, a sharp pain or ache will arise in the chest area, which only worsens with each inhalation.
Seizures or Convulsions
Complications with breathing, brain chemistry, and heart issues can cause seizures. Contrary to what many myths suggest, a person cannot and will not swallow their own tongue when convulsing or having a seizure caused by cocaine use. However, the seizures or convulsions are still damaging, especially when they are severe.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms include anger, confusion, anxiety, delirium, paranoia, and irritability.
Anger or Confusion
While the initial effects of cocaine often produce a distinct sense of euphoria, this feeling is not always replicated or sustained every single time you take cocaine. With long-term use, withdrawals or just the general comedown from a single cocaine use can induce feelings of anger and confusion.

This is due to the chemical imbalance that is caused by cocaine use. Cocaine works by stimulating the parts of the brain that are responsible for happiness and calming sensations. However, once the drug starts to wear off, those same parts of the brain become overstimulated and the feeling wears off, causing irritability.
Anxiety is caused by stress hormones that are rapidly agitated towards the end of a cocaine-induced high. The fear of anxiety and impending doom, both of which are symptoms of a cocaine-related overdose, can be a reason why people take more cocaine.3

Essentially, they want to avoid the symptoms by extending the duration of the high. However, this only intensifies the anxiety that inevitably follows.
Chemical imbalances caused by cocaine in the brain can result in delirium, which is a state of mind where a person blurs the line between reality and falsities. Delirium can also lead to self-injury, accidental injury, and long-term cocaine side effects.
Paranoia is the grandiose belief that everyone is either out to get you, concerned with you, or otherwise preoccupied with your existence, which is a common sign of cocaine abuse. Paranoia often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety, anger, and depression as well.
Irritability can make a person more likely to react angrily, coldly, or impulsively, leading them to say things that they don’t actually mean. Similar to paranoia, irritability often coincides with depression, anxiety, and confusion.

What Happens If You Overdose on Cocaine?

Cocaine overdose
Here are the three stages that you can expect in terms of cocaine symptoms and overdose side effects.

Stage One

Headaches are an early warning sign that something is wrong. Cocaine abuse interferes with the central nervous system, or CNS, which causes the restriction of blood to the brain. The result is a cocaine headache.
Nausea from cocaine can occur as the result of vertigo or coordination issues. This nausea can lead to severe self-injury, vomiting, or confusion over time.
Due to the over stimulation that cocaine causes for the nervous system, uncontrollable twitches can arise as a result of cocaine use. These twitches can also lead to seizures.

Stage Two

Loss of Bladder Control
The uncontrollable loss of bodily fluids is a sign of impaired systems and a complete loss of muscle control. Treatment for cocaine overdoses can help curb this symptom.
A tell-tale sign of hyperthermia is cold and pale skin, as well as discoloration around the eyes and signs of confusion.
Irregular Heartbeat
Indicated by chest pain and labored breathing, an irregular heartbeat is a severe sign of an overdose caused by cocaine.

Stage Three

Loss of Vital Functions
During stage three, the body begins to shut down entirely. A person who has reached stage three will be noticeably high or unconscious. There is often a total loss of vital functions as well, primarily in terms of automatic controls, like breathing, cognitive functioning, liver failure, and other health concerns.
Respiratory Failure
Respiratory failure can arise from heart issues or damage caused to the central nervous system. It is characterized by labored and shallow breathing, followed by snoring and total respiratory failure.
Cardiac Arrest
Often caused by heart failure, cardiac arrest is the final side effect of cocaine overdose. It requires immediate medical attention, and in most cases, cardiac arrest will have long-lasting implications for the person’s health.

What To Do If Someone Overdoses on Cocaine

The most important part of stopping a cocaine overdose is timing. Medical treatment for an overdose can only be administered by trained professionals, but you do have options for a cocaine overdose treatment at home.

Call emergency services immediately if someone experiences a crack cocaine overdose. While CPR might sound like the right decision, it can increase the risk of the person becoming high if there is any cocaine residue located on or around their breathing passageways.

Do not try to depress the person’s tongue as it is proven to be ineffective and harmful. Instead, elevate their legs and place a cold rag across their forehead. Attempt to do knuckle rubs as well.

Knuckle rubs consist of rubbing your knuckles forcefully along the middle part of their chest in a vertical manner against the bone. This should invoke a reaction from the person who injected too much cocaine. However, knuckle rubs may not work for people who have become unconscious.

How is Cocaine Overdose Treated?

Cocaine Overdose Treated
Treatment for an overdose caused by cocaine can be extensive. The duration of a treatment program will depend on someone’s specific circumstances, but in most cases, getting treatment requires dedication and consistency over time.

History and Exam

An overdose caused by cocaine and the corresponding cocaine overdose treatment options go hand-in-hand. Medical exams have been created to prevent or counteract these overdoses. Personality exams and therapy can work to uncover the exact trigger that leads someone to use cocaine, even when their cocaine use hurts them in numerous ways.

Diagnostic Investigations

Diagnostics tests are often conducted in order to discover which bodily system requires the most immediate treatment following an overdose on cocaine.

Treatment Process

Crack cocaine overdose treatments work by addressing negative emotions and habits while instilling a brighter outlook on life. A person who overdoses on cocaine has a good chance of survival as long as they are treated by professionals in a medical environment, which is why inpatient and detox options exist.