Does Cocaine Abuse Cause Seizures?

Cocaine-related seizures are relatively uncommon, but they present a dangerous health risk, especially to people who abuse cocaine. Treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction can help protect against this health condition.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Seizures are an uncommon side effect of using cocaine. The risk of experiencing a seizure increases with the dosage and duration of cocaine use.

How Cocaine Use May Cause Seizures

As with most recreational drugs, cocaine alters your brain chemistry. Cocaine abuse is associated with decreased cerebral blood flow and permanent damage to the limbic system of the brain.

Mixed drug use, repetitive doses, excessive doses, and long-term drug abuse all increase the likelihood that you will have a cocaine-related seizure.

Repeat Doses Of Cocaine (Kindling)

Kindling occurs when the brain is exposed to moderate, repetitive doses of cocaine. No single dose is enough to prompt the seizure. Rather, each dose slowly lowers your seizure threshold.

Eventually, you will get to the point where even a small dose is enough to send you over. People who use cocaine should refrain from taking repeat doses of cocaine in order to avoid this effect.

Cocaine Toxicity

The most dangerous cocaine-related seizures are usually associated with cocaine toxicity. This is a dangerous condition caused by the consumption of high doses of cocaine.

Repetitive seizures are highly dangerous, but they aren’t the only risk with cocaine toxicity. If you use too much cocaine, you are also at risk for psychosis, stroke, and heart attack.

Long-Term Cocaine Abuse

Using cocaine for a prolonged period of time increases your risk of experiencing all adverse side effects, including seizures.

The brain damage associated with long-term cocaine abuse has a long list of side effects. You’re more likely to struggle with self-regulation and decision making. You’re also more likely to have a low seizure threshold.

After-Effect Of Cocaine Overdose

cocaine overdose is always an emergency. Timely healthcare could be the difference between life and death.
Most symptoms should appear and resolve within a day of the initial overdose, but it is possible to see delayed seizures.

Coming down from the initial overdose causes your brain to go through yet another set of major changes. With an already worn limbic system, you may experience seizures in the days following.

Signs And Symptoms Of A Cocaine-Induced Seizure

A seizure is a firestorm of uncontrolled electrical activity in your central nervous system. Cocaine is most often associated with self-limited, generalized seizures.

These seizures may cause you to:

  • lose consciousness
  • lose bowel and bladder control
  • compulsively jerk your arms and/or legs
  • struggle with breathing

In most cases, cocaine-related seizures do not result in status epilepticus, but that does not mean they aren’t dangerous. Even if the seizure resolves, you should seek emergency medical attention.

Factors That May Influence Cocaine-Induced Seizures

Seizures are very hard on the brain and the body. Certain risk factors may make them much more dangerous for specific people.

People With High Risk Of Stroke

Seizures rarely cause strokes. The correlation is more likely to work the opposite way with stroke dramatically increasing seizure risk.

The exception would be people who use cocaine and already have a high risk of stroke. If you have any existing cardiovascular conditions, using cocaine is much more dangerous for you.

People With Low Levels Of Oxygen In The Blood

It can be very difficult to breathe while you’re having a seizure. Oxygen deprivation is a real risk, especially with prolonged or repetitive seizures.

People who already have lower oxygen levels in their blood are more likely to experience lasting brain damage after a seizure.

Chronic Cocaine Abuse

Chronic cocaine abuse makes you far more likely to have a seizure. If you have a history of cocaine-related seizures, then you are also more likely to suffer lasting harm.

People With Epilepsy

If you have a history of childhood epilepsy or current epilepsy, then you should never use cocaine. Cocaine is a very high risk drug for epileptics, as it can cause extremely persistent seizures.

Treatment For Seizures Caused By Cocaine

If someone you know is displaying the symptoms of a seizure, then you need to get them to the emergency department as fast as you physically can. Time is of the essence.

At the ER, provide whatever information you can. Good things to mention are any known health issues and what substances the person was using that day.

The medical staff will stabilize them as quickly as possible. They may use benzodiazepines as an anticonvulsant if the person is still seizing.

Other possibilities include medications like lorazepam and phenobarbital if the initial treatment isn’t effective.

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is dangerous. Between the unregulated supply and the addictive qualities of the drug, cocaine can cause lasting damage and even death.

There are programs that are specifically designed to help people just like you. They can help you work through cocaine detox and rebuild your mental health with behavioral therapy that works.

Find Treatment For Cocaine Abuse

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we recognize that addiction is a lifelong disease requiring long-term management. We have made it our mission to help you get better.

There’s no reason to struggle with substance abuse alone. Give us a call today to learn about our intensive treatment plans for cocaine addiction.

  1. Cedars Sinai
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine,of%20cocaine%20lead%20to%20seizure.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine,seizures%20%5B18%2C%2019%5D.
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine,Benzodiazepines,therapy%20in%20drug%E2%80%90induced%20seizures.

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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