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Can you die from taking cocaine?

Potentially dangerous physical effects of cocaine include raising heart rate and blood pressure. But can cocaine actually kill you? Learn more here.

4
minute read

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.

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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:

  • 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.

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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.

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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
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

17 Comments

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  1. Hello Kelly.

    According to the National Institutes of Drug Abuse … “Regularly snorting cocaine can lead to loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and an overall irritation of the nasal septum leading to a chronically inflamed, runny nose.” There is no mention of swelling or redness of the external nose, although we’ve read information about this as related to alcoholism. You can learn more about accompanying symptoms for long term use of cocaine here….https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use

  2. I am so broken hearted about my husband’s sudden death. He had returned to cocaine use after more than a year of being clean. Before he died, he had again become paranoid, suspicious of our family, and selfish – claiming we weren’t doing enough to demonstrate our love and appreciation of him..

    I was very much still in love with him after 11 years. I was living out tough love with him to encourage him to make a change but he wasn’t listening yet and ran out of time. If I hadn’t started making good decisions I would have been not only devastated by the pain of lost love but crushed with being unprepared financially and in having a safety net to carry on.

    I’ve never used drugs so I continue to search for understanding.

    My advice is to get out of such a relationship ASAP. It will only lead to extreme loss and heartache. Heal yourself. You can’t save someone until they are ready.

    Ironically, my deceased husband would often say, “once a person has made up there minds to hurt themselves, there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

  3. Are you serious 2 grams. You would die absolutely.
    That’s way to much. I was addicted to needles for 4 years heroin coke and meth and am now clean for over a year.
    I would never do over half a gram of coke and even that might scare me. It’s not Advil you don’t need 3 to feel it. This stuff is extremely effective in small doses.

  4. I am engaged and i just found out my Fiance has used cocaine i dont where he gets it we dont live together he claims he spent $20 dollars on it. And back in 2012 he used it and snorted it that time and this time both times gave him a sinus infection but both these times he told me he got a cold from me now what do i do. Just a year or to ago i found put he had been lying to me about his past. So i been with him for 7 years i love him so much. Not to mention i have same problems with my family only not cocaine related pills related help me. Im scared and i dont want know one to know

    1. 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.

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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!

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