Cocaine gained infamy as the drug most commonly used by investors and corporate executives due to its potent bursts of energy. This powerful stimulant can quickly become addictive, and there is an overdose potential that has significant health implications. We will cover common cocaine overdose symptoms to be careful of, as well as how to react to an overdose. You will also learn about common treatment methods for dealing with cocaine addiction so that you can recover from this illness.
Use and Overdose Potential
Many people use cocaine because of the strong feelings it brings. You will feel euphoric after using it. Cocaine also increases alertness and makes you hypersensitive to surrounding stimuli. There are many negative side effects both physically and psychologically, but the most immediate problem is the high chance of overdosing.
Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, say that a cocaine overdose occurs when the user takes enough for the cocaine to reach toxic levels in the body. At this point, the cocaine effectively poisons you and causes a range of side effects and symptoms. Unlike with many other substances, when an overdose is dictated by how much you use, it seems that cocaine can cause an overdose based on varying quantities.
Some people will overdose with several hundred milligrams whereas other users can take several grams before overdosing. It seems that the overdose potential relies on each specific user’s susceptibility to these toxins.
This variance could also stem from potency. Cocaine purity changes dramatically from batch to batch and seller to seller. Many sellers will mix cocaine with other substances that are cheaper. This allows them to make more money on a smaller amount of cocaine. Sometimes cocaine is cut with stronger but cheaper substances, and other times it is mixed with ingredients that do nothing to your system. The drug’s qualities completely depend on how the seller is preparing the cocaine. This not only changes the cocaine’s effect overall, but it dramatically alters the overdose potential.
When it first reached popularity in the 1980s, relatively few people believed that cocaine was a problem. Even now, the overdose potential is often overshadowed by heroin. Keep in mind that cocaine overdose is real and that it can happen with varying dosages depending on your constitution and on the substances used to cut the cocaine.
Cocaine Overdose Symptoms
One of the first things you notice when taking cocaine is your elevated heart rate. You will feel a pounding in your chest along with the euphoric high that cocaine is famous for. At the same time, this is also why many of the physical cocaine overdose symptoms involve your heart and blood pressure. Some of these symptoms will go away after you receive medical attention, but there is a chance that long-term cocaine use and multiple overdoses can lead to lasting heart conditions.
Physical cocaine overdose symptoms include:
- Increased body temperature
- Chest pains
- Significantly elevated heart rate
- Headaches and dizziness
Cocaine overdoses also tend to affect your thinking, and there are several psychological symptoms that can occur. The most common psychological cocaine overdose symptoms include:
- Feelings of panic
- Delirium or intense confusion
Cocaine Overdose Dangers
You might be wondering how dangerous a cocaine overdose is and what health problems it can cause. Since it is a powerful stimulant that significantly increases your heart rate, it should come as no surprise that many cocaine overdose deaths occur from strokes and heart attacks. Other people develop or pass away from seizures. Being able to recognize the warning signs and to act fast can help save your life or reduce your overall health problems stemming from an overdose.
NIDA has collected information about cocaine-related deaths, and the numbers have changed significantly throughout the years. There were about 7,000 deaths in 2006 from cocaine, but it then declined to around 4,000 people annually around 2010. The fatalities then increased significantly in 2015 and have continued increasing since then. In 2019 there were nearly 16,000 cocaine-related deaths. One fact that has remained true is that cocaine creates severe health implications.
It is also important to note that many of these deaths are said to be from “polydrug cocaine.” As we mentioned above, cocaine is often cut with other substances, like opioids. This contributes greatly to the overall death toll from cocaine overdoses. Not only that, but polydrug cocaine has increased in general, making it more likely that you will receive cocaine laced with opioids or some other substance. It can be nearly impossible to tell until you take the substance.
Recognizing symptoms can help you determine when an overdose is occurring. Since there are large differences in potency and purity, an overdose can occur at any time and from nearly any dose. Not only that but if you notice feeling different than you normally do from using cocaine, such as having trouble breathing or feeling both excited and tired, then it could be a good idea to stop as the cocaine might be laced with another more dangerous substance.
All users are at risk for overdose, but the risk level increases for frequent users or for those who use large amounts of cocaine. It is also common for serious users to take cocaine in binges, which involves ingesting large quantities in short periods of time. This significantly increases the odds of overdose as the heart rate becomes disturbed, and it can lead to a heart attack. Neurological symptoms ranging from headache to coma are also possible when using cocaine in this manner.
While many people can readily recognize the danger of mixing cocaine and opioids, fewer people see the risk of using cocaine and alcohol. This practice mixes both a stimulant and a depressant, which puts your body in disarray.
Reactions to an Overdose
Your body’s exact reactions to an overdose will change dramatically based on what type of cocaine you have and how you are using it. Cocaine most commonly comes as a white powder, and the most common use is through snorting. While this method ensures that you feel the effects quickly, overdosing and long-term use can lead to trouble swallowing, nosebleeds, and loss of smell.
Crack is another common type of cocaine. This substance is sold as a crystal rock and is most commonly smoked. Like with any other type of smoking, crack damages the lungs. Some also inject cocaine intravenously. Along with increasing the odds of contracting diseases from other users, such as HIV and hepatitis C, this also damages the veins. This also tends to have a higher rate of cardiac and gastrointestinal damage.
While we have covered psychological effects, there are also many neurological effects to worry about with an overdose or long-term use. Cerebral bleeding and the expansion of blood vessels in the brain are common. This can lead to effects on basic brain functions like memory and decision making and motor functions, and it can lead to Parkinson’s disease.
Using cocaine in large quantities and for a long time can lead to significant health issues. The most common are cardiac and neurological conditions. Not only that, but many people with a dependence will experience an increase in tolerance. This means that you will need larger quantities to achieve the same effect. Even though it feels like the cocaine is weaker, it is still doing harm to your body.
Many long-term users also suffer from psychological disorders. Extreme cases can lead to severe psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, and breaking from reality. Severe paranoia is also common for those who have used cocaine for many years.
Seeking treatment can help mitigate these effects. We provide numerous treatment options such as intensive outpatient, or IOP, medical detox, residential treatment, and more.
At Granite Recovery Center, we offer many treatment methods depending on your needs. Medical detox is available for those who need help removing cocaine from their systems. Unlike most substances, cocaine tends to have a short half-life and leaves the body fairly quickly. At the same time, polydrug cocaine may have led you to form a dependency on another substance that needs more time, or you might be having trouble with the withdrawal symptoms.
Once you are finished with your detox, we highly recommend attending treatment in order to reduce cravings, to learn coping strategies, and to maintain abstinence. One of the most common treatment methods for cocaine addiction is intensive outpatient, or IOP.
This is a type of group therapy where you will meet with recovery peers. A qualified counselor will lead the group and will help all members with their recovery journeys. IOP groups meet three times a week and for three hours each time. This ensures that you have enough time needed to recover from addiction while also learning from other peers going through similar journeys.
If IOP goes well and you find your cravings are reducing, then many clients will “step down” to outpatient treatment. This usually entails a weekly individual meeting with your counselor that lasts about one hour.
Partial hospitalization programs, or PHP, allow you to live at our facilities during the day. You will then return home at night. This gives you a supportive recovery environment for the bulk of the day, along with adequate medical treatment and counselors as needed. You will also be participating in group therapy and other activities to help with your recovery journey.
Residential treatment is similar, but it’s a step up in terms of care. This allows you to live at our sober facility for an extended period of time as you focus on recovery. If you find that stressors like family or work keep leading you to use, or if you are in an unsupportive environment and need to get away, then residential treatment could be useful.
Residential treatment allows you to focus entirely on yourself and to abstain from cocaine and other substances. You will participate in therapy and activities aimed at improving your coping skills, self-awareness, and stress management. When this stage of your care is finished, we will help with aftercare treatment planning. This typically involves IOP treatment and connecting you with a 12-step program.
As you can see, we offer many treatment levels depending on your exact needs. Contact us today, and we will create a treatment plan aimed specifically at your recovery.
Cocaine overdose has become more common, and this traumatic event can have a lasting impact on your heart, brain, and psychological health. Not only that, but cocaine comes in such varying levels of purity and potency that it can be difficult to know when an overdose is imminent. This puts all users at risk, even if you’re using a relatively small amount.
If you are finding it difficult to control your cocaine use and need help, then we can help guide you through recovery. Reach out to us, and we will create a treatment plan designed with your needs in mind. We offer numerous levels of treatment to ensure you get the care that you need.