Can You Overdose On Cocaine?

can you overdose on cocaine

Can You Overdose On Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that immediately acts on a person’s brain. There are several different ways to take cocaine including snorting it through the nose or inject it into a vein, while other users may rub it on their gums or smoke it by itself or in conjunction with tobacco or marijuana. All forms of cocaine consumption are risky and can cause harmful health consequences, destroy families, and lead to cocaine substance abuse and addiction. In fact, someone can become addicted to cocaine after using it just once.

Not only can someone become addicted to cocaine after one use, it is also not uncommon for people to overdose on the drug. The risk of an overdose is present every time someone uses cocaine. The potency and quality of cocaine can be difficult to judge before consumption. As a result, due to past experience with the drug, a person might think that they can take a larger dose of cocaine. However, they could easily overdose on the substance, if they receive more potent cocaine than they have used in the past.

When someone overdoses on cocaine, they need to receive immediate medical attention in order to prevent serious and permanent damage to vital organs like the heart, kidney, and liver. If left untreated, a cocaine overdose can ultimately result in a heart attack, stroke, or even death. Learning more about the signs of a cocaine overdose and what to do if someone experiences one can save a life.

Cocaine Overdose

Aside from alcohol and tobacco-related illnesses, the most common cause of drug-related emergency room visits is cocaine. In fact, cocaine accounted for over 505,000 emergency room visits in the United States in 2011, which is the equivalent of approximately 162 visits per 100,000 people.

With most drugs, when a person overdoses it is because they consumed too much of a substance too fast. Sometimes, it is accidental, while it may be intentional in other cases. Since cocaine is such a potent and powerful drug, it is easy to overdose on a relatively small amount. It can be difficult to judge the potency of cocaine and users sometimes take a stronger dose of the drug without realizing it.

There is also another common way that people overdose on cocaine. The first time a person uses cocaine, their brain is flooded with dopamine, while the drug blocks the reuptake process. As a result, large amounts of dopamine remain in the synapse and cause heightened neural stimulation, which feels like a high to the cocaine user. People quickly develop a tolerance to cocaine, so the first high from the drug tends to be the strongest. Over time, the brain stops responding with the same intensity to cocaine and even other dopamine-producing stimuli like food and sex. Someone may try to recreate their first high from cocaine or try to feel any sort of pleasure at all by taking a larger dose of the drug, which increases their risk of a fatal overdose.

Many people wonder how much cocaine is too much, but there is no definite answer to this question. Since it is hard to determine the potency of cocaine before taking it, a person can just as easily overdose on a small amount of the drug as they can on a very large amount. A person’s tolerance to cocaine also plays a role in how likely they are to overdose. Some people may require a significantly larger dose of cocaine to overdose.

In addition to taking a higher or more potent dose of cocaine, mixing drugs or alcohol with cocaine is another factor that can influence whether cocaine will cause an overdose. When someone takes cocaine in conjunction with a depressant like alcohol or heroin, in a concoction called a “speedball,” they are more likely to overdose.

Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose

Regardless of the cause of a cocaine overdose, many people experience the same symptoms when they overdose on the drug. It may be difficult to notice some of the symptoms of an overdose in another person; however, others may be quite apparent. The most common symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety or Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Delusions and Hallucinations
  • Extremely High Blood Pressure
  • Extremely High Body Temperature
  • Headache
  • Intense Thirst
  • Irregular Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Tremors

Once a person starts experiencing these symptoms, they can also have a heart attack, stroke, or seizure. Without the appropriate treatment, people experiencing a cocaine overdose can also have other serious health problems, including wheezing, lung collapse, blood clots in the lungs, perforated ulcers in the intestines, metabolic imbalances, and vision loss. Additionally, if a pregnant woman is taking cocaine and experiences an overdose, it can cause serious harm or even death to her baby.

Since these serious health consequences can lead to lifelong impairment or even death, it’s important for a person to receive prompt medical treatment if they experience any symptoms of a cocaine overdose, even if they have only taken a small amount of the drug. It’s important to never downplay the significance of cocaine overdose symptoms, no matter how minimal they may seem at first. In a short period of time, minor symptoms can progress into something much more dangerous and deadly.

Cocaine Overdose Treatment

A cocaine overdose can be life-threatening, so it is important that a person receives immediate medical intervention when they first start showing symptoms of an overdose. The best thing that a bystander can do is call 911 immediately and let the operator know that the person is experiencing the symptoms of a cocaine overdose. They can also place a cold compress on the individual to help lower their rising body temperature while protecting the person from potentially dangerous objects if they have a seizure.

As soon as emergency medical professionals arrive on the scene or the patient arrives at the hospital, cocaine overdose treatment can begin. Treatment for a cocaine overdose starts by monitoring the patient’s blood sugar, body temperature, heart rate, and psychological state. If a doctor notices dangerous changes in the patient’s vital signs, they can administer medications and treatments to correct them.

There is no magic pill or antidote for a cocaine overdose. Instead, doctors and healthcare professionals treat the individual symptoms of a cocaine overdose as they appear. Treatment focuses on the most serious symptoms first, including high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and increased body temperature.

A common type of cocaine overdose treatment in a hospital setting involves administering a benzodiazepine drug like Valium. Not only do these drugs help to calm agitated patients, but they can also lower blood pressure and heart rate. Lowering the patient’s heart rate greatly reduces the stress that is placed on their heart during an overdose, which can reduce the patient’s risk of experiencing a serious cardiac event, stroke, or permanent heart damage.

Since many people who overdose on cocaine get a dangerously high fever, medical professionals will work hard to cool the person using ice, cooling fans, and acetaminophen. Keeping patients cool is very important not just because it keeps patients comfortable but because overheating caused by a cocaine overdose can damage muscle cells and potentially lead to renal failure.

Prompt medical treatment can prevent permanent damage to the body’s vital organs and it can also mean the difference between life and death. Approximately 5,500 people died as a result of a cocaine overdose in 2014. This is an especially tragic statistic, because immediate and appropriate medical treatment could have prevented many of these deaths.

Cocaine Overdose Recovery

The time after a cocaine overdose is the perfect opportunity for a person to reevaluate their drug use and consider getting sober. Although they survived their first cocaine overdose, there is no guarantee that they would survive a second one, especially after their heart and other vital organs have already been placed under such strain.

After taking time to rest and recover from the overdose, users of cocaine should consider attending a drug treatment program. There are multiple options available, including inpatient and outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment can be effective with the right support system; however, inpatient drug rehab treatment is often best for patients who have struggled to recover from a cocaine addiction in the past. When selecting a treatment program, it’s important for each person to be honest with themselves and pick the program that is the best fit for their needs and goals.

Once the person has selected a cocaine treatment program, the work of recovering from addiction can begin. The first step on the road to recovery is undergoing medically-supervised detoxification, or detox. Under careful medical supervision, a person will wean off of the drug, gradually taking a smaller and smaller dose of cocaine. This tapered approach tends to result in less intense withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms occur because a person’s body has come to rely on the drug to feel normal. Within 24 hours of the last dose of cocaine, a person may begin to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as the cocaine leaves the body. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine include:

  • Agitation
  • Chills
  • Cravings for Cocaine
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased Appetite
  • Lack of Pleasure
  • Muscle Aches
  • Nightmares
  • Restlessness
  • Sluggishness
  • Tremors

Since these symptoms can be so unpleasant, many people return to cocaine use in order to avoid them. However, the cycle of withdrawal and relapse can be dangerous. In fact, many people accidentally overdose after returning to cocaine use, since they don’t realize that their tolerance is lower. Medical detox can help people avoid a relapse and get through the worst symptoms of withdrawal, which typically last two weeks or less. Doctors can often prescribe medications to help make the withdrawal process more bearable.

After completing detox, the patient can move on to the next stage in the treatment process, which involves psychological counseling. Counseling is designed to help patients discover what caused their addiction and then develop new coping and stress management tools to replace cocaine use in their lives. Patients can choose to participate in one or more of the following types of counseling: individual, family, or group. Each type of counseling has its own unique advantages, and it can be beneficial for a person to participate in all of them.

Another critical component of the recovery process is ongoing support, which can come from family, friends, medical professionals, and support groups. The road to recovery isn’t always easy, but having a strong support network and attending a support group can help a patient stay on track when they hit bumps in the road.

While living through a cocaine overdose can be a terrifying experience, it can also be viewed as a wakeup call. Surviving an overdose is sometimes the catalyst that is necessary for someone to get the help they need to break free from a cocaine addiction and all of the negative physical, psychological, social, professional, and legal problems that it causes.

The best course of action for cocaine overdose prevention is to avoid using cocaine. However, some people are already suffering from an addiction to this powerful drug. If you or someone you love is ready to get help recovering from a cocaine addiction, the drug treatment experts at HARP can help.

HARP, a drug rehab center, specializes in treating alcohol and drug addiction including cocaine. Our compassionate team of addiction treatment specialists and medical professionals provide counseling and support services and medically-supervised detox to ensure each client has a productive stay at our treatment center. In addition, we over long-term recovery resources so that our clients can leave treatment and live a life that is free from drug abuse and addiction. Call us today to learn more about our drug treatment programs.

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