Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant. It is an illicit substance and carries a number of health risks, including overdose. In 2020, a survey found that about 5.2 million Americans had used cocaine within the previous 12 months.
How much cocaine is required to overdose can vary based on a person’s biological factors and drug use history. Using cocaine concurrently with other substances, such as alcohol, heroin or weed, can also increase the risk of overdose.
Due to the severity of cocaine overdose symptoms and the risk of permanent organ damage and death, emergency medical treatment is critical. Fortunately, recovery from a cocaine overdose and cocaine addiction is possible with the proper treatment.
Can You Overdose on Cocaine?
It is possible to overdose on cocaine, and the consequences can be fatal. A cocaine overdose can cause a variety of life-threatening consequences, including:
- Fast and irregular heartbeat
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
- Dangerously high body temperature
Cocaine Overdose Statistics
Cocaine is commonly implicated in overdose deaths. In 2019 alone, around 20% of overdose deaths involved cocaine. The vast majority of cocaine overdose deaths also involve synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Of the more than 19,000 cocaine overdose deaths in 2020, more than 15,000 involved an opioid.
Colorado has also been heavily impacted by overdose deaths. Cocaine overdose deaths reached an all-time high in Colorado in 2020, with 219 deaths. This was a large increase over the 135 cocaine-linked deaths in Colorado in 2019 and 60 cocaine-related deaths in 2015.
How Much Cocaine Does It Take To Overdose?
The dose required to overdose varies widely and depends on the person. Even when taking the exact same dose of cocaine, the amount of cocaine in a person’s body can vary by a factor of three. Individuals with underlying medical problems like liver disease may experience an overdose with a lower cocaine dose than individuals who have developed a physical tolerance to the drug.
Individuals who use cocaine in conjunction with other substances, such as alcohol or heroin, are also at an increased risk of overdose due to interactions between the substances within the body. This is especially true because the drug can be contaminated with substances that can cause an overdose on their own, such as fentanyl.
It is important to note that cocaine overdoses can occur with any amount of the drug, and no quantity of cocaine is considered safe from the risk of overdose. Since cocaine overdoses vary from person to person, it is also important not to compare overdose circumstances.
Signs of Cocaine Overdose
A cocaine overdose can lead to cardiovascular and nervous system damage, coma and death. Due to these risks, it is critical to quickly identify the signs of a cocaine overdose and seek emergency medical care immediately. Although initial signs may be difficult to identify, several signs can indicate an individual is experiencing a cocaine overdose. These include:
- Extreme energy
- Complaints of headaches or racing heartbeat
- Teeth grinding
If you believe that you are experiencing an overdose or witnessing one, call 911 immediately.
Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law
To encourage people to seek help for others during a drug overdose, Ohio has a Good Samaritan Law. This law provides immunity for people seeking emergency medical help for others. Per Ohio law, you cannot be prosecuted if law enforcement finds drugs as a result of calling 911 during an overdose. However, the Good Samaritan Law has some restrictions. The immunity can be used twice, and those on parole or probation aren’t eligible.
Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
Initially, cocaine overdose symptoms mirror the typical side effects of the drug, such as increased energy, excitability and euphoria. However, overdose symptoms can quickly escalate and may become life-threatening without prompt treatment. Cocaine overdose symptoms often occur in stages:
Stage 1 Cocaine Overdose Symptoms: These are early overdose symptoms that may worsen over time. If someone has an early symptom of a cocaine overdose, you should seek medical attention before symptoms worsen. Symptoms include:
- Wide pupils
- Increased blood pressure
- Fast breathing
- High body temperature
- Mood changes
Stage 2 Cocaine Overdose Symptoms: These overdose symptoms occur when a cocaine overdose has progressed. These symptoms are more serious and can be life-threatening, so immediate medical attention is needed. Symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Bluish skin, especially on the fingers and toes
- Rapid breathing or gasping
- Irregular breathing or pauses between breaths
Stage 3 Cocaine Overdose Symptoms: These overdose symptoms are imminently life-threatening and include:
- Pupils that don’t get bigger or smaller
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Cardiac arrest
- Respiratory failure
The effects of a cocaine overdose and how long an overdose lasts depend on the dose, administration route and individual biological factors such as height, weight, age and health. Cocaine overdoses can persist for minutes or hours and can range in severity from minor to life-threatening.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Overdose
A cocaine overdose is a major health risk in the short term, but it can also lead to lasting side effects and permanent organ damage. Long-term risks of a cocaine overdose include:
- Mental health conditions like anxiety and psychosis
- Decreased cognitive function
- Cardiovascular damage
- Kidney failure
- Muscle damage
Treatment for Cocaine Overdose
Unfortunately, no medication exists that can specifically reverse a cocaine overdose. This is why overdose treatment focuses on addressing life-threatening symptoms and providing supportive care. Medical professionals responding to a cocaine overdose concentrate on restoring blood flow to the heart or oxygen to the brain if an individual suffers a heart attack or stroke. Anti-seizure medications are administered if necessary.
For individuals seeking recovery from cocaine addiction, cocaine detox can be challenging due to severe withdrawal symptoms. A professional detox program is recommended, as trained medical staff are available to monitor and manage withdrawal symptoms.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to cocaine, The Recovery Village Columbus can help. Contact us today to speak with a representative who can help you explore cocaine addiction treatment programs and locate detox centers in Ohio.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?” May 2016. Accessed July 26, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug Overdose Deaths: Other Drugs.” November 18, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2022.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Counts of drug overdose deaths in Colorado, 2000-2020.” Accessed July 26, 2022.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” January 20, 2022. Accessed July 26, 2022.
Heard, Kennon; Palmer, Robert; Zahniser, Nancy R. “Mechanisms of acute cocaine toxicity.” Open Pharmacology Journal, 2008. Accessed July 26, 2022.
Richards, John R.; Le, Jacqueline K. “Cocaine Toxicity.” StatPearls, June 27, 2022. Accessed July 26, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Cocaine Intoxication.” MedlinePlus, February 12, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2022.
Ohio Department of Health. “Call. No Matter What.” Accessed July 26, 2022.
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