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Cocaine Overdose

Even in small doses, cocaine can kill you the very first time you use it. Cocaine intoxication is known for causing sudden death. Reacting badly to cocaine can lead to a seizure, a heart attack, or severe hypotension where there's a loss of blood flow to the brain and other organs.

What is a Cocaine Overdose?

Cocaine overdoses can happen to anyone, but they are more likely to occur among older adults and those with heart conditions. Although any method or route of cocaine use can result in overdose, injecting cocaine runs the highest risk of overdose and death.

What Causes Someone to Overdose on Cocaine?

Using large amounts of cocaine in a short timespan is one way of causing a cocaine overdose. If you’re a new cocaine user and you take the same dose as someone who has built up a tolerance, you’re at immediate risk of an overdose. The same is true for using after abstaining for a while.

Smaller amounts of cocaine combined with alcohol, opioids, other stimulants or drugs can also lead to disaster. Drugs can have additive effects and interact in harmful ways. ‘Speedballs’ involving heroin and cocaine create a high risk for overdose and have led to a number of celebrity deaths.

And using alcohol and cocaine together increases risky behaviors, including over-consumption. Cocaine can increase your alcohol intake because the drug’s stimulant properties offset alcohol’s depressant properties.

Drinking also affects the way cocaine is metabolized. The two substances produce cocaethylene. This substance heightens the euphoric effects of cocaine, but it is about 30% more toxic than cocaine. Cocaethylene takes a while to leave the body, and it can negatively affect your organs. There are a host of possible side effects, including strokes and liver damage.

How Much Cocaine Does it Take to Overdose?

Some fatal cocaine overdoses have involved a few hundred milligrams of cocaine.  And there are cases where people use multiple grams of cocaine without lethal consequences.

Aside from dosage, the following factors all affect how your system deals with a toxic substance and whether you will have a cocaine overdose:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body size
  • Tolerance
  • General health
  • Poly-drug use
  • Purity of cocaine

Cocaine is also increasingly being laced with fentanyl, which is a potent synthetic opioid. A small amount of cocaine cut with fentanyl can lead to an overdose. This is why many drug users have started to use fentanyl test strips to check drugs before consumption.

Taking cocaine in summer or in hot environments can also cause complications. Because cocaine speeds your system up, it generates heat and causes dehydration. Warm weather can make dehydration worse.

Stimulant use also results in a lack of sleep and lower food and water intake. These factors can take a massive toll on your body and make you feel very ill even when you’ve taken a low dose.

Cocaine Overdose Statistics

Between 2013 and 2018, the national rate of cocaine-related overdose fatalities tripled. This is, in part, because cocaine costs have dropped and cocaine purity has increased. In 2018 alone, 859 young people under 24 died in the U.S. because of a cocaine overdose. And the total nationwide figure across all age groups was 14,666 cases. Almost 60% of these cases involved fentanyl.

Although there have been increases in cocaine overdoses amongst both the youth and older demographics, the highest number of cocaine overdoses occurred in the 35 to 44 age group. People aged 55-64 were another concerning group. The non-Hispanic black population is the most affected by cocaine overdoses. And women account for 30% of cocaine overdose deaths.

Cities and towns in the Northeast of the country had the biggest cocaine problem, followed by urban counties in the Midwest. The Northeast has struggled with the opioid epidemic, and in recent years, there’s been a growing trend of poly-substance overdose deaths. Cocaine and opioids often show up as contributing reasons for the demise of local residents.

What Happens to Your Body When You Overdose on Cocaine?

You can experience a cocaine overdose within two to thirty minutes of using. Symptoms can appear a few hours after taking the drug too. These symptoms can occur by themselves or together. The signs of a cocaine overdose are similar to the effects of using, except more intense.

For example, the following are all signs of cocaine use that may also signify a cocaine overdose:

  • Vertigo
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Paleness
  • Headaches
  • Teeth grinding
  • Hypertension
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Crawling sensation on the skin (psychosomatic coke bugs)

One of the possible symptoms of a cocaine overdose is hyperthermia. Here, your body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Other major red flags include:

  • Chest pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Incontinence
  • Difficulties with breathing
  • Frothing at the mouth
  • Blue-tinged skin
  • Dilated and/or fixed pupils that don’t respond to light

Cocaine overdoses can also lead to psychosis or feeling and appearing very agitated.

With cocaine overdoses, there can be lethal bleeding within your skull. And up to 30% of cases present with shock, muscle cell destruction, and kidney failure.

If alcohol poisoning is at play, instead of hyperthermia, hypothermia may be a problem, and your body temperature will drop to hazardous levels. Alcohol poisoning can cause life-long brain damage. Cocaine overdoses can also bring about mental and physical changes that are irreversible. From scarring on your heart to movement disorders and cognitive challenges, your quality of life can dramatically change if you survive a cocaine overdose.

What Should You Do if You Think Someone May Have Overdosed on Cocaine?

If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning or has overdosed on cocaine, they will need to go to an ER as a matter of urgency. You should call 911 as soon as possible.

Staying with the person who has overdosed until emergency services arrive can save their life. If they are unconscious, turn them on their side to prevent choking in the event that they throw up. If the person is conscious, try and keep them awake. Move them to a quiet place if possible.

When paramedics arrive, it always helps if you can tell them what substances the patient was taking. Whatever you do, don’t give the ill person a downer such as heroin.

If you’re worried about getting in trouble with the law, it’s worth noting that Good Samaritan laws exist in the District of Columbia and 45 states, including Massachusetts. These laws differ from state to state, but they generally protect the witness and person suffering from a cocaine overdose from possession charges.

Is There Cocaine Overdose Treatment?

Treatment differs depending on your symptoms. Doctors will likely try to stabilize and sedate you. They will monitor your vitals and may treat you with benzos or other suitable medicines. If necessary, you may be intubated or your stomach may be pumped.

If hyperthermia is an issue, they will try to cool your body down as quickly as possible. They may also use rapid fluid replacement to increase urine output and reduce the likelihood of kidney damage. IV therapy also delivers much-needed electrolytes.

You may also undergo a medically monitored detox. Your care team will treat the discomfort that arises due to withdrawal symptoms.

How Can You Prevent Cocaine Overdose?

If you are concerned about a cocaine overdose, then there is a real chance you could die the next time you use cocaine. The best form of harm reduction is seeking treatment for drug use.

And if you’re concerned that someone you know runs the risk of a cocaine overdose, don’t lose hope. There are health professionals who can assist people who are struggling with cocaine addiction. You can stage an intervention and get your friend or family member the help they need.

Why Bedrock Recovery Center?

Bedrock Recovery Center is a modern, world-class rehab facility in Canton, MA. We offer customized detoxes, inpatient treatment, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Our excellent staff of physicians and therapists equip patients with the tools necessary to stay sober. Patients address the root causes of addiction and learn how to overcome cravings.

Extra amenities at our treatment center include:

  • Movie Theatre
  • Fitness Center
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Yoga Studio
  • Salon
  • Laundry Services
  • 5 Star Food Service
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