Derived from the coca plant that grows in abundance in South America, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug used recreationally across the globe. Cocaine, or the informal ‘coke’ or ‘blow,’ is characterized by its talc-like white powder, which is snorted or injected by users. Once put into the body, the drug acts on the brain’s pleasure centers to flood normal brain function with dopamine. Chasing and maintaining this euphoria puts cocaine users in peril of overdosing.
Cocaine has always been considered a rich man’s drug due to its exorbitant street price. Its use is widespread, though, second only to alcohol when it comes to emergency hospital visits, exceeding 500,000 a year.
Despite this, cocaine use and overdoses have mostly been on the decline in recent years. Many drug users cannot justify the return on investment of cost-per-high. Especially when other drugs such as opioids are so cheap and prevalent. Still, ever since opioid addiction and use in the United States has reached epidemic proportions, cocaine overdoses have begun to rise steadily once again. Users are more likely to mix the two, sometimes without even realizing it. In 2015 alone, some 7,000 overdose fatalities were attributed to cocaine, and the figures are expected to rise in correlation with opioid overdoses.
Unlike some drugs, users can overdose on cocaine the first time they take it. With the threat of cocaine overdose always a possibility, here are the signs and symptoms to look out for when you or a loved one partakes in this deadly toxin.
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Unfortunately, many of these symptoms go unacknowledged because the euphoria creates a façade of safety. And, if the likelihood of overdoses weren’t reason enough to worry, symptoms can lead to the onset of more permanent damage. Heart attacks are always a concern, as are strokes, seizures and comas.
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Confusion to the point of apparent psychosis
- Agitated movements and restlessness
- Teeth grinding and chattering
- Unremitting energy
Cocaine overdoses have a devastating effect on the human heart and cardiovascular system. If any or all of the above signs are present, it is imperative that the individual seek emergency medical care as soon as possible.
Just how much cocaine does it take to overdose? Well, the answer is up for some debate. Method of ingestion — orally, nasally or intravenously — plays a factor, as does the purity of the cocaine and the tolerance of the individual themselves. What we do know is that injecting the drug requires the least amount to produce a fatal reaction, with as little as 20 mg. For perspective, most individual doses range between 10 and 150 mg each.
Mixing cocaine with other substances, particularly heroin or alcohol, only exacerbates the prospect of a fatal overdose. This is a common practice that should be avoided at all costs.
Enough cannot be said about keeping the individual calm, too. The heart goes into overdrive during an overdose, so any mitigating efforts to lower heart rate are essential. Also, respiratory failure may occur due to the over-activeness of the cardiovascular system. Having the person overdosing focus on steady breathing is another must.
Following recovery, it is imperative that one avoids overdosing again in the long term. The immense stress an overdose puts on vital organs leaves them susceptible to future trauma and damage. Given cocaine’s highly addictive quality, often times this is easier said than done. Still, sometimes the best defense is preventative care. Seeking out the proper treatment efforts can put you or your family members on a path free of the fear of overdoses altogether.
If you or a loved one is ready to break free from cocaine addiction and put overdose behind you, The Recovery Village is here to help. Our nationwide facilities provide high-quality, evidence-based care to those who need it most. Reach out today to take the first step toward healing. Intake coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.