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Signs of Cocaine Overdose

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like? Cocaine Overdose Symptoms. Cocaine Overdose Risk Factors. Cocaine Addiction Treatment Near Me.

What is a Cocaine Overdose?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [1], over the past three decades, the rates of cocaine overdose have gradually increased. In the United States, deaths involving cocaine range from 0.9-1.6 per 100,000 population. Only in the last five years have the rates started to decrease to 0.78 per 100,000 population. People who inject cocaine into the neck veins have been known to develop a pneumothorax, thrombophlebitis, hemothorax, and myositis.

In addition, there are reports that intravenous injections can be associated with aneurysms of vessels, resulting in rupture, obstruction, and fistula formation. When cocaine is combined with other illicit and prescription drugs, the mortality rates are also high. More important, cocaine and alcohol have been associated with a 16-fold increase in the risk of suicide than either agent alone. Individuals who use cocaine often select a violent method for self-harm. Finally, cocaine use during pregnancy is also associated with adverse perinatal outcomes.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose
No matter how much cocaine is taken, it is dangerous. Some of the most common serious cocaine overdose symptoms include heart attack and stroke.

Cocaine use contributes to tens of thousands of emergency department (ED) visits and hundreds of deaths each year [2]. While cocaine use is coincident in most cases, (e.g. trauma, psychiatric, or infections), cocaine poisoning accounts for many of these visits. The major effects of cocaine poisoning include CNS effects such as agitation, seizures, and psychosis, and cardiovascular effects such as dysrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and cardiovascular collapse.

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like?

Cocaine can bring on feelings of euphoria, foster increased alertness in the user, and result in hypersensitivity to outside stimuli. While there can be both negative psychological and physical effects in the short term, as well as long-term consequences, the most immediate danger associated with cocaine is overdose.

Cocaine overdose is brought on by a person taking enough of the drug for it to reach toxic levels in their system, causing a serious reaction within the body. Essentially, cocaine can poison the system, and toxic levels do not appear to be completely dictated by dosage. There have been cases of overdose from a few hundred milligrams, while some users can ingest several grams of cocaine without overdosing. This suggests that overdose toxicity can depend largely on the individual user and their specific susceptibility to the toxins.

The pharmacology of cocaine is complex, with effects occurring simultaneously in several organ systems. However, the initial event for all of these systems is simple; cocaine binds to membrane-bound proteins, including transporters, receptors, and voltage-gated ion channels [2]. Once the interaction occurs, a specific signal is triggered (or inhibited), and the combination of these effects produces the clinical manifestations of cocaine poisoning.

signs of cocaine overdose

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How Much Cocaine Can Cause an Overdose?

Another common question is, “how much cocaine does it take to overdose?” One of the difficult things about cocaine overdose is that it depends on different factors. A person can potentially overdose after taking a few hundred milligrams, whereas someone else could snort a few grams and not overdose. Essentially, overdose can be highly unpredictable.

Method of ingestion — orally, nasally or intravenously — plays a factor, as does the tolerance of the individual themselves. Cocaine should never be injected as this method requires the least amount to produce a fatal reaction, with as little as 20 mg. Despite the dangers, most individual doses range between 10 and 150 mg each.

The purity of the drug can play a role as well, as some street drugs are mixed with other substances to increase profits. Mixing cocaine with other substances, particularly heroin or alcohol, only exacerbates the prospect of a fatal overdose. Drug mixing should be avoided at all costs.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. 

Signs of Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdoses can have a devastating effect on the human heart and the cardiovascular system. There are several identifiable signs that a cocaine user verges on becoming an overdose victim. Some of these signs include but are not limited to:

  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure
  • Teeth grinding and chattering
  • High body temperature
  • Agitated movements and restlessness
  • Unremitting energy

Beginning Signs of Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose symptoms are similar to but more severe than the normal side effects associated with cocaine use. Cocaine’s faster absorption into the user’s system increases the risk of accidental overdose. Cocaine overdose episodes occur when a certain saturation and toxicity level is reached, which in turn overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate normal functions. 

Beginning signs of cocaine overdose include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Intense sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion, seizures, and tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble breathing
  • Very high body temperature
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms

As a psychoactive drug and a stimulant, cocaine speeds up the body’s central nervous system (brain and spinal column). Cocaine toxicity can cause these common side effects of use to become more intense to the point that they become dangerous and life-threatening

Stage 1

Stage one of acute cocaine toxicity commonly includes symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Twitching
  • Rapid breathing
  • Spinning sensation
  • Pseudohallucinations
  • Paranoia and confusion
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate

Along with the beginning of problematic physical effects from cocaine, the first symptoms of a cocaine overdose can include unusual changes in mood or behavior. For example, a person who overdoses on cocaine may become paranoid, delirious, confused, and even violent. As a result, the individual may become a threat to themselves as well as

Stage 2

During the second stage of a cocaine overdose, symptoms can intensify to include:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular or temporary cessation of breathing

Some of the short-term physical effects of cocaine include increased body pressure, blood temperature, and heart rate, but these same effects can lead to respiratory and cardiac problems and even seizures with an overdose.

Stage 3

Finally, during the third stage of cocaine toxicity, individuals may experience:

  • Loss of vital functions
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma

The most severe cocaine overdose symptom effects include organ failure, seizures, and unresponsiveness. At this point, the individual’s life is at risk, and they need urgent medical attention as the body is beginning to shut down. However, if they receive the proper medical attention and survive, they may still have lasting effects.

When treating a cocaine overdose, time is of the essence. The immediate effects of cocaine can be felt after a few minutes, and the three stages of cocaine toxicity can intensify instantly, so it is crucial to act fast. In addition, if there are other substances in a person’s system, it is crucial to get help at the first sign of a cocaine overdose.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose
It is easy to lose control over cocaine use and become addicted.

Dangers of a Cocaine Overdose

The total overdose deaths involving cocaine have increased from 1999 to 2019. Cocaine overdose may also be involved with other drugs such as opioids. Cocaine overdose also results in a substantial amount of ER visits each year. Many of these ER visits were from people experiencing severe chest pain, which is one of the main signs and risks of a cocaine overdose. Serious consequences can result if proper cocaine overdose treatment isn’t provided. This danger is why quick treatment in these situations is essential.

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Cocaine Overdose Risk Factors

The purity of cocaine can play a role in cocaine overdose, as some street drugs are mixed with other substances to increase profits. Mixing cocaine with other drugs, particularly alcohol, heroin, or Xanax, only intensifies the likelihood of a lethal overdose. Drug mixing should be avoided at all costs.

Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [3], cocaine is particularly dangerous to use with alcohol, as the combination produces a powerful toxin in the body called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is eliminated even slower from the body than cocaine and can intensify the cardiotoxic effects, for instance, by further increasing the heart rate and enhancing the concentration of cocaine in the bloodstream. Cocaine addiction is difficult to recover from, but it can be treated.

Mixing Cocaine and Xanax

Both cocaine and Xanax are addictive drugs, and chronic abuse of either drug can lead to physical drug dependence and the psychological inability to control drug use. With physical dependence on cocaine and Xanax come withdrawal symptoms when the drug stops being active in the body. People may resort to other drugs to try and manage these uncomfortable withdrawal side effects. Xanax may seem to ease cocaine withdrawal, for instance.

One of the most important risks of mixing Cocaine and Xanax is the risk of overdose. Anytime a person abuses cocaine and takes Xanax recreationally, there is a great risk that it could lead to an overdose. The more of a drug that you use, the higher that risk. When someone takes two separate drugs simultaneously, they’re increasing their effects. They’re also asking the body to process two toxins at the same time. This can overload the system and can cause an overdose.

Mixing Cocaine and Ketamine

Combining cocaine and ketamine is commonly known as Calvin Klein or CK Blend. This is a dangerous combination that can result in major cardiovascular consequences and, in some cases, death. Mixing cocaine and ketamine can produce a range of intense effects, including extreme euphoria, cardiovascular manifestations, and psychosis.

These are both powerful, mind-altering drugs with the ability to result in fatal overdose as individual substances taken alone. Risks and the potential for life-threatening effects increase when these substances are mixed.

Mixing Cocaine and Ritalin 

Cocaine and Ritalin are both stimulants, although cocaine is illegal and Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription-only medication. They work in similar ways and can be very dangerous when taken at the same time. When used together, these two substances can have dangerous results and possibly lead to overdose or death.

Individuals most commonly mix cocaine and Ritalin together to increase the intensity and length of the high. Someone combining these two drugs is most likely not aware of the risks involved and is simply looking for a more intense experience.

Cocaine and Depression

Many who struggle with depression use cocaine for relief. But for those who use cocaine, depression the next day can become part of a familiar and worrisome pattern. The reason cocaine and depression have this relationship has to do with how the brain works. As a stimulant, cocaine activates the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the fight-or-flight response. The state of intensified alertness and surging energy triggered by the release of norepinephrine can’t be sustained for long and will be followed by a crash.

One of the most pronounced and typical effects of cocaine withdrawal is depression. This mental illness may arise because long-term cocaine use causes key neurotransmitters to dwindle to chronically low levels, because using cocaine damages cells in the brain’s pleasure center. Cocaine abuse causes brain cells to “eat themselves.” These changes to the brain can cause people to develop chronic depression or have an acute depressive episode.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose
The role of a good medically monitored detox program is to make sure the client is safe while going through Cocaine withdrawal.

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What To Do During a Cocaine Overdose

If a loved one is showing signs of a cocaine overdose, it is crucial to act fast. Being able to recognize cocaine overdose symptoms and knowing how to respond when a loved one overdoses on cocaine could make all the difference.

Call 911

  • Asking for professional medical care is the most practical and effective way to handle cocaine overdose symptoms and prevent deadly consequences.

Stay on the Phone

  • It is natural when abusing an illicit drug like cocaine to be anxious about seeking help, but the individual you are with needs you. Stay on the phone with 911 until first responders arrive and do as the 911 operator instructs.

Turn Them on Their Side

  • If the victim is throwing up or having a seizure, turn them on their side. This procedure can help keep their airways clear and keep them from choking on their own vomit.

Remove Immediate Dangers

  • If the victim is having a seizure, try to remove any objects that are sharp or could fall on them from their immediate area. Do not put anything in their mouth.

Stay Calm

  • It is normal to feel panicked when a loved one is experiencing a cocaine overdose, but do your best to stay calm. Do as the 911 operator tells you. If the victim has temporarily stopped seizing, do not take this as a sign that danger has passed. Continue to seek emergency medical attention right away as seizures may happen.

How is Cocaine Overdose Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no specific medication that can reverse a cocaine overdose. The medical intervention relies on treating the principal symptoms of the overdose. In a hospital setting, treatment starts by giving the person a sedative to lower their blood pressure and prevent a heart attack. Medications such as benzodiazepines are used to accomplish this. Giving these drugs also lessens the chance of a stroke.

Following recovery, it is important that one avoids overdosing again in the long term. The tremendous stress an overdose puts on vital organs leaves them susceptible to future damage and trauma. Given cocaine’s very addictive nature, this is easier said than done. Sometimes, the best support is preventative care. Seeking out the proper treatment efforts can put you or your family members on a path free of the fear of overdoses altogether.

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Cocaine Addiction Treatment Near Me

First and foremost, if you think that a loved one is abusing cocaine, you should first research the drug and addiction associated with it so that you can better understand what your loved one needs. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved ones with options to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, make sure that you offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, offer your support throughout the entire treatment process.

In addition, prolonged Cocaine use can have severe physical and psychological effects, so it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Inpatient drug rehab offers intensive care that can help you get through the early stages of withdrawal promptly. Now that learned about the signs of Cocaine overdose it can be a good start in learning more about cocaine addiction by reading “10 Interesting Facts About Cocaine” 

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient rehab treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to medically assist your recovery. So, reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Signs of Cocaine Overdose
No matter what, when dealing with cocaine addiction problems, the care and supervision of a medical professional are necessary.

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[1] NCBI –
[2] [3] NCBI –
[4] Cocaine and Alcohol – We Level Up NJ