Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Can you die from taking cocaine?

Yes, cocaine has triggered fatalities.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It produces short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness, in addition to potentially dangerous physical effects like raising heart rate and blood pressure. But, what are the signs of cocaine overdose and how can you treat it? When do they become life threatening? We provide answers to these questions in the text below. Then, we invite your feedback or questions in the comments section at the end.

Dangers of cocaine ingredients

The danger of cocaine ingredients are far-ranging. They cause sudden death, acute medical and psychiatric illness. Physiological effects of cocaine include increased blood pressure and heart rate, dilated pupils, insomnia, and loss of appetite. The widespread abuse of highly pure street cocaine has led to many severe adverse health consequences related to cocaine overdose such as:

  • cardiac arrhythmias
  • convulsions
  • death ischemic heart conditions
  • sudden cardiac arrest
  • stroke

In some users, the long-term use of inhaled cocaine has led to a unique respiratory syndrome, and chronic snorting of cocaine has led to the erosion of the upper nasal cavity.

Serious adverse side effects of cocaine

In general, medical complications of cocaine reflect the intense sympathomimetic activities of cocaine itself, also known as a ‘sympathetic neural storm’. Cardiovascular complications include arrhythmias and sudden death, acute myocardial infarction, myocarditis, dissecting aneurysm and bowel infarction. Neurological complications include seizure, intracerebral haemorrhage and brain injury due to hyperthermia and/or seizures, and headache. Psychiatric complications include acute anxiety or panic, as well as paranoid psychosis.

While the serious side effects of cocaine can be physical or psychological (affecting body and mind), other effects of cocaine include those to society. These can include:

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  • criminal activity
  • infectious complications
  • reproductive disturbances
  • societal disruption (including child neglect, abuse and lost job productivity)
  • trauma

Signs of cocaine overdose

Fatal instances of cocaine overdose have been reported often due to the other major systemic effects of cocaine overdose (myocardial infarction, stroke, multiorgan failure). There is no specific therapy or antidote for acute cocaine toxicity. Experience of, and exposure to, overdose are not rare events. How much cocaine does it take to OD? This you cannot predict. Cocaine users need to be aware of the possibility and nature of overdose, and that cocaine overdose can occur irrespective of method of use. In fact, there is a need to emphasize the potential danger of combining cocaine with other drugs and health officials are working to educate the public about these risks.

How to treat cocaine overdose

In cases of cocaine overdose, a health care provider will typically measure and monitor the patient’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will then be addressed as appropriate. For example, a class of medications called benzodiazepines may be given to calm slow a rapid heart beat, and lower blood pressure, and treat anxiety and/or agitation. These medicines include diazepam and lorazepam. Further, fluids maybe be administered through a vein.  Heart, brain, muscle and kidney complications will be treated with additional medications. Long-term treatment to address the reason for cocaine overdose requires drug counseling in combination with medical therapy.

FDA warnings about cocaine

Presently, there are no FDA-approved medications that treat cocaine addiction. Consequently, NIDA is working aggressively to identify and test new medications to treat cocaine addiction safely and effectively. Several medications marketed for other diseases (e.g., vigabatrin, modafinil, tiagabine, disulfiram, and topiramate) show promise and have been reported to reduce cocaine use in controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram (used to treat alcoholism) has produced the most consistent reductions in cocaine abuse.

Are you taking too much cocaine? Help for cocaine use or misuse

People addicted to cocaine might take bigger doses or take it more often to get high. A cocaine high usually doesn’t last very long. So people take it again and again to try to keep feeling good. 12-step support groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, have helped many people addicted to cocaine. Alternative groups such as SMART Recovery are also an option for those who do not like the 12-step approach. However, if you’re taking too much cocaine…it may be time to stop. Reach out for help by calling out hotline number.

Questions about cocaine fatalities

If you have any further questions about the danger of using cocaine, please share them in the comments section. We will do our best to provide you with a quick, personal answer.

Reference sources: DEA: Drug of abuse
LiverTox: Cocaine
NCBI: Non-fatal cocaine overdose among injecting and non-injecting cocaine users in Sydney, Australia
MedlinePlus: Cocaine intoxication
NIH: Signs of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
NIH: What treatments are effective for cocaine abusers?
MedlinePlus: Cocaine withdrawal
NCBI: How toxic is cocaine?
NIH: Cocaine

Photo credit: Township of Longhill, NJ

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10 Responses to “Can you die from taking cocaine?
10:45 am August 1st, 2015

My friend is so strong out cocaine don’t no what to do ..

8:48 pm December 23rd, 2015

Is injecting 2 g of cocaine fatal (in a never-before drug abuser)? By how much percent?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:32 pm December 29th, 2015

Hi, Maggie. We are here to help you with an addiction problems, not to give fatal dosage (which is different for each human body). Please, reconsider what you are going to do, and think about everyone who cares and loves you. You’re not alone!

9:07 pm October 13th, 2016

Injecting cocaine is something stupid and the perfect recipe to die.You can snort cocaine but not shot this crap in your body….

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:28 pm October 21st, 2016

Hi Roderick. It is possible to inject cocaine. Many users dissolve it into water and then inject it.

2:25 pm February 7th, 2017

I have a friend back home who did 3.5 of cocaine and passed. I do not know much about cocaine, and my other friend is saying he doesn’t think it is enough to kill someone. Is it possible it was laced with something or taken with other drugs?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:21 pm March 8th, 2017

Hi Megan. I’m really sorry for your loss… The causes of death should be put in the toxicology report. So, if the cocaine was laced with something else or your friend has taken other drugs, then they would be written down in the report.

9:20 am April 22nd, 2017

How can you get help and for free after work hours like 6:00 CT

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:53 pm April 24th, 2017

Hi James. Call the number you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant. The helpline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.

6:33 pm July 17th, 2017

What are the effects on the body when u use small amounts over a long period of time?

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