Drug and Alcohol - Sobriety

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like (And What You Should Do)

Experiencing a cocaine overdose is scary, and a warning sign of drug addiction. Learn what to look for and what to do next in our blog!

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like (And What You Should Do)

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 23, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

Cocaine is often thought of as a party drug. Compared to the overdoses caused by opiates, including heroin and fentanyl, it diminishes the seriousness of the consequences of cocaine use. For the last decade, public officials have been focused on the opioid epidemic, and rightfully so.

Overdoses associated with opiates and methadone claimed the lives of 56,516 Americans in 2020. 

Unfortunately, while combating this crisis, Americans need to learn more about the dangers of cocaine, the warning signs of a cocaine overdose, and the necessary interventions to save someone's life.

Cocaine: An Overview

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that comes from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Once thought to be harmless, cocaine was readily available in drug stores in the United States well into the early 19th century. The damaging effects of the drugs became apparent, and in 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Act, which strictly regulated the sale and use of cocaine. 

By the 1950s, recreational usage of cocaine was outlawed entirely, but that has not stopped millions of Americans from using cocaine. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration revealed in a 2020 report that 5.2 million people used cocaine in the last 12 months. Additionally, 1.3 million people had suffered from a cocaine use disorder, and 19,447 people died from cocaine overdoses in the same year.  

Signs and Symptoms of a Cocaine Overdose

The recreational usage of cocaine comes in various forms: snorting, smoking, or injection. Regardless of the method used for ingestion, cocaine overdoses occur when enough cocaine is ingested to toxify a person's system. It is important to remember that an individual does not need to be a regular cocaine user to experience an overdose.

With cocaine often presenting itself as a fine white powder, it is very easy for cocaine to be contaminated with other substances such as methamphetamine, MDMA, heroin, and fentanyl, making the drug even more deadly. Cocaine overdoses mainly occur when an individual uses other drugs or alcohol. It can lead to strokes, seizures, and heart attacks. 

It is vital to recognize the physiological and psychological responses an individual will have if they are experiencing an overdose.

Physical Signs of Cocaine Overdose
  • Tremors or seizures

  • Fever and sweats

  • Increased heart rate

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Difficulty breathing

Psychological Signs of Cocaine Overdose
  • Hallucinations

  • Paranoia

  • Delirium or confusion

  • Panic or anxiety

What to Do if You or a Loved One Are Experiencing a Cocaine Overdose

If an individual believes they or someone they are with is experiencing a cocaine overdose, they should call 911 immediately. This way, paramedics can start administering life-saving medical care and get the individual to a hospital as quickly as possible. If an individual fails to act when they recognize the signs of a cocaine overdose, the person having the overdose could experience a heart attack, stroke, or seizure. 

People might be afraid of calling 911 if they are also using cocaine or another illicit substance when the overdose occurs. It is essential to remember that 47 states and the District of Colombia have enacted Good Samaritan or Overdose Immunity laws that prevent an individual that reported the overdose from being arrested if they too were intoxicated at the time. Even if individuals are in a state that does not offer immunity laws, they are less likely to be charged with a crime if they do the right thing and call 911. 

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Overdoses

If the person does not die from these severe medical complications, they can still suffer long-term health effects from these complications. Long-term effects and complications can include: 

  • Impaired mobility

  • Memory loss

  • Brain damage

  • Heart failure

There is no time to waste when someone's life and well-being are at risk. 

What to Do After a Cocaine Overdose

If an individual experiences a cocaine overdose, it is time to start seeking help for addiction treatment. Although first-time cocaine users can experience overdoses, those that have been using the drug long-term are more susceptible to having an overdose. 

The individual who went through this crisis is likely dealing with a substance use disorder and potentially other mental health issues. If these conditions are not addressed, the individual is unfortunately at risk of experiencing another overdose that they may not survive. 

Luckily, some resources can help people suffering from these conditions, including inpatient and outpatient detox, therapies, and long-term care options that have the tools to help individuals recover from their addiction. In order to prevent more overdoses and fatalities, it is vital to reach out and get help.

The Forge Recovery Center Treats Cocaine Use Disorder

Seeking help for you or a loved one can be a tough decision, but the consequences of long-term substance abuse, especially in the face of an overdose, can be irreversible. There is a life waiting for a person struggling with substance use rooted in happiness, health, and peace. It all begins with taking the first step.

Here at The Forge Recovery Center, we offer a place where those struggling with addiction and mental health can overcome their battles in a judgment-free environment. We understand that it can be challenging to determine the next steps on the road to recovery. However, with our expertly trained staff, we have the resources to help you or your loved one understand what treatment options would be best for their circumstances and provide the tools they need to make their recovery manageable and worthwhile.

For more information, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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