Cocaine Overdose: What Is Cocaine?
Normally when we think of drug abuse, the immediate thing that comes to mind is when someone takes drugs every day, several times. But with cocaine addiction, signs can be ambiguous. You do not have to be taking cocaine, or crack cocaine, every day to be addicted to it. A sign of addiction is that you’ve tried to cut down or stop but are unable to. Any use of cocaine is considered abuse because it is an illegal substance.
Even when cocaine is a highly addictive drug, one of its main issues is that it may be hard to recognize its addiction. For example, craving cocaine, even if the use or need appears every few days, and ignoring the consequences that come with it are signs of an addiction.
Psychological addiction is often the hardest part to overcome, although there are undeniable physical symptoms of addiction. Someone who uses cocaine frequently will develop a dependence on it, meaning they need to have it to feel normal.
Once dependence has developed, a tolerance will develop and withdrawal symptoms will occur when stopping use. Once someone becomes addicted to cocaine, it can be very hard to stop. This is because cocaine abnormally increases the level of dopamine in the brain, eventually reprogramming the brain reward system.
Cocaine is a stimulant, meaning it increases alertness and energy. It affects the neural pathways in your brain, leading you to feel talkative, energetic, and euphoric. Cocaine addiction can develop quickly, even after trying it only a few times. An addiction can be physical, meaning your body craves the drug. It can also be mental, meaning you strongly desire the drug’s effects. Moreover, Cocaine can be consumed in a variety of ways.
Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine causes the heart rate of a user to increase, which can result in heart problems. Elevated blood pressure is also common, another factor that can lead to serious health complications. Physical symptoms of cocaine overdose include but are not limited to:
- Elevated heart rate
- Rise in body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the chest
Some psychological symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:
- Panicked feelings
Dangers of a Cocaine Overdose
It’s extremely important for people to recognize any potential indicators of an overdose, as time is a crucial factor in such a situation. Cocaine is one of the more serious stimulants available, mainly because of the potential for overdose leading to death, which can occur due to a multitude of complications, including heart attack, seizure, and stroke.
According to NIDA, cocaine-related death totals have seen a significant fluctuation in the last decade or so. In 2006, there were more than 7,000 cocaine-related deaths in the nation, the highest number in the last 15 years. The totals steadily declined following that year, bottoming out around 4,000 in 2010.
However, since 2010, cocaine-related deaths have been on the rise again. In 2015, there was a 1.6-fold increase in deaths from 2010, the highest rate since 2006. As far as gender is concerned, these statistics show that males are much more likely to overdose on cocaine than females, averaging an approximate 3:1 ratio of male to female.
Polydrug use in cocaine overdoses is common, especially in overdoses resulting in death. Opioids, a drug group that includes prescription painkillers, are associated with a large number of cocaine deaths every year. It’s a trend that is on the rise as well, according to NIDA. In 2010, the numbers of cocaine overdose deaths involving opioids and those not involving opioids were essentially equal.
By 2015, the number of annual cocaine overdose deaths involving opioids had more than doubled, while overdose deaths not involving the use of opioids had increased at a much less significant rate. This implies that not only is polydrug use with cocaine increasing, but it’s also becoming more fatal.
While death is certainly the most drastic of the consequences of a cocaine overdose, it is not the only one. A heart attack, stroke, or seizure brought on by an overdose can do significant damage to the human body without resulting in death.
Recognizing the symptoms of cocaine use can be a good tool for overdose prevention. As noted earlier, the potential for potency differences in batches of cocaine means even a casual user runs the risk of overdose. Narconon notes the following physical and psychological symptoms of cocaine use:
- Nose constantly running
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Dilated pupils
- Unusual level of excitement
- Increased aggression
Cocaine Overdose: Symptoms of prolonged use or bingeing
- Agitated behavior
- Apathetic attitude
- Excessive sleeping
While casual users are in danger, the risk of overdose increases dramatically for more serious users. Those with an addiction to the drug often take it in binges, ingesting a large amount of the substance in a short time. According to NIDA, short-term effects from this type of use can be drastic.
A user’s heart rate can be disturbed, which can lead to the aforementioned heart attack risk. Serious neurological effects ranging all the way from headaches to coma are possible as well. Cocaine users can also experience gastrointestinal problems.
In cases of polydrug use featuring a combination of cocaine and alcohol, the heart is put in grave danger due to the toxicity of the cocktail being heightened by the mixture. Polydrug use of cocaine and heroin, sometimes referred to as a “speedball,” can be extremely hazardous as well.
The long-term effects of cocaine can also be drastic. Abusers of cocaine will often experience an increase in tolerance, meaning that larger quantities of the drug need to be consumed to achieve the same effects that were achieved before the tolerance increase. Long-term psychological effects are common, ranging from irritability all the way to psychosis. In extreme cases, a user can completely lose their connection to reality and even experience hallucinations.
Cocaine Overdose: Crack Cocaine
Crack, another popular form of cocaine, is found in the form of crystal rock, and it is usually smoked. This can do damage to the lungs. Taking cocaine intravenously increases the risk of contracting diseases commonly associated with sharing needles, such as hepatitis C and HIV. Internal damage is also possible with long-term cocaine use. The gastrointestinal tract can be damaged by a lack of blood flow, and heart tissue can become inflamed or ruptured.
The brain is also very susceptible to the effects of cocaine. The expansion of cerebral blood vessels and cerebral bleeding are some of the neurological issues that arise with long-term abuse. Parkinson’s disease, a condition that affects movement and can bring on tremors, can also be an effect of cocaine use. Over time, cocaine use can have negative effects on basic brain functions, such as decision-making, memory, and motor functions. It’s clear that even if a user survives long-term cocaine abuse, other major health concerns can crop up.
What to do in the Event of a Cocaine Overdose?
If you suspect a cocaine overdose, the first thing to do is call 911, as the situation demands professional medical assistance. If the user is having a seizure, it is important to keep them away from any objects that might injure them due to their body movement. A cold compress can be useful in helping to decrease body temperature.
If a cocaine user survives an overdose, getting them into a treatment program is crucial. According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, cocaine use is high among those ages 18 to 25. This means that young people are putting themselves at risk for major health problems and even death due to overdose. Getting someone’s help before an overdose is ideal, and there are effective treatment methods available to those in need.
Behavioral therapies have proven to be useful in treating cocaine addiction. Contingency Management, an incentive-based program has shown to be effective in rewarding those in recovery for abstaining from drug use. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is useful in helping clients avoid relapse by developing new skills to cope with situations and triggers that could lead to cocaine use. Therapeutic communities and comprehensive treatment facilities foster a recovery in an immersive environment, which can be crucial in the vulnerable stages of early recovery.
Overall, there are plenty of options available to help those struggling with cocaine abuse and addiction. Getting professional help as soon as possible is the best way to prevent a cocaine overdose; it can mean the difference between life and death.
Reclaim your life after (or before) a Cocaine Overdose
A cocaine overdose can be life-threatening and cocaine addiction is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.