Have you ever been present around anyone abusing cocaine and seen them check their pulse? Maybe they complained about temporary chest pain, or you noticed them grabbing around their heart? Did you know these can be cocaine overdose symptoms?
You may not have given another thought to this behavior at the time. However, these could have been major signs of something sinister.
The cocaine high includes intense periods of high blood pressure and elevated heart rate. These intense spikes in vital signs present significant risks of cocaine overdose that lead to life-threatening conditions.
Cocaine Overdose and Methods of Administration
Smoking and injecting cocaine pose an even higher risk of developing these life-threatening side effects. Regardless of the method of ingestion, even snorting cocaine means the user is playing with fire.
Engaging in cocaine abuse is a gamble that nobody can afford to take. Regardless of how much an individual thinks it can’t happen to them, cocaine overdose is a very real scenario.
If you or someone you know uses cocaine, you need to be aware of the risks of overdose. The following article outlines information regarding cocaine overdose and the symptoms that accompany this event.
Can You Overdose from Cocaine?
Despite what many users think, you can easily overdose on cocaine. Cocaine is an extremely concentrated form of the coca plant, which causes a marked increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Strong doses of cocaine hydrochloride can cause deadly overdoses and symptoms that accompany this condition. There are several dynamics surrounding cocaine overdose, and the risk depends on the method of ingestion and the amount.
What Causes Cocaine Overdose?
Cocaine overdose is triggered because of the effect of the drug on the heart and other body systems. Normally, a temporary increase in heart rate or blood pressure isn’t particularly detrimental to a user’s health. These things commonly occur when people exercise and engage in a cardio activity.
However, when an individual uses cocaine, the sudden spike and drastic increase of these functions lead to overdose. The body is built to handle a gradual increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Any time a user engages in cocaine use, the increase in these functions happens in seconds.
There is always a risk of heart attack or other negative conditions when cocaine is abused. However, cocaine overdose typically happens when a user ingests larger amounts than normal in a short period. The body can’t handle the large dose administered, and the ensuing reaction is cocaine overdose.
In order to assist someone suffering from a cocaine overdose, you should be aware of the signs and cocaine overdose symptoms. The following section outlines cocaine overdose symptoms commonly found in users of the drug.
Cocaine Overdose Symptoms
There are distinct physical and mental indicators that exist leading up to and during cocaine overdose. Individuals suffering from cocaine overdose may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Increase in heart rate
- A rise in body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Foaming at the mouth
Some of the mental indicators include:
- Feelings of panic and paranoia
You should always look for these signs of a cocaine overdose. Before an overdose actually occurs, you may notice the following signs:
- Intense sweating
- Inability to remain still
- Slurred speech
- The user turns a pale color
- Initially, they may exhibit a flushed and red look. This gives way to loss of color.
- Dry mouth
Many users believe that only heavy users of cocaine suffer from overdose. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Light users of cocaine and even first-time users can suffer from overdose. The case of NCAA basketball star Len Bias is a classic example.
Len Bias and Cocaine Overdose
Len Bias was a star basketball player for the University of Maryland. The freshman had a promising career ahead of him, and by all accounts, was headed for a storied career in the NBA after his tenure in college. However, this would all be cut short because of cocaine abuse.
The night prior to a game, Bias was reported to have used cocaine. Bias made his way to the game the following day with no marked effects during use.
During the game’s early stages, Bias displayed signs of chest pain. Suddenly, he collapsed on the court and had to be carried off by medical personnel.
Tragically, Bias passed away at the hospital after being admitted. Initial reports claimed that this was the first time Bias had ever used cocaine.
While these reports ended up being confirmed false, the general consensus was Bias was not a cocaine addict but a social and occasional user. The fact is, what happened to Len Bias can happen to anybody.
Engaging in physical activity may have increased the risk of Bias suffering from adverse effects. It’s important to understand the risk factors for a cocaine overdose.
Risk Factors for Cocaine Overdose
There are numerous events that can increase the chances of a cocaine overdose. The following list is some of the biggest contributors to overdose.
- Strenuous exercise or intense cardio may further complicate the situation. Cocaine already drastically increases a user’s heart rate. Further cardio that increases the heart rate even more can easily lead to heart attack or stroke.
- Users that mix other substances with cocaine are at increased risk for a cocaine overdose. This is especially true when other stimulants are mixed with cocaine. This includes coffee, Adderall, Vyvanse, and crystal meth.
- Individuals that suffer from heart conditions are at the highest risk for cocaine overdose and heart attack. When someone already has a weakened heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, or issues with artery blockages, the chances of adverse effects increase exponentially.
- When users obtain cocaine of significantly high purity, there is an extremely high risk of a cocaine overdose. Many times users may be used to cocaine of certain purity. If this user suddenly obtains a patch that is of higher quality, the body is not used to this concentration, and overdose becomes a reality.
- Intravenous cocaine use also presents a significantly higher risk of overdose. When users inject cocaine, the dose is sent directly to the bloodstream and travels straight to the heart. There is no buffer before the heart receives this dose of cocaine and no metabolization. Each time someone uses cocaine on an IV basis, they take a serious gamble and risk cocaine overdose.
Because of the significant risks involved with the IV use of cocaine, as well as the fentanyl crisis in America, many cities are considering safe injection sites. These injection sites would provide users with clean needles for injection, as well as a private, safe place to administer the drug.
The main goal of these injection sites is to prevent the risk of death from overdose. Medical staff should always be on-hand at these sites to take action during the event of an overdose.
Likewise, identifying a cocaine overdose is crucial. Seeking help for overdose becomes vital to save the life of the individual suffering from this event.
Seeking Help for Overdose
Do you know what to do if someone has overdosed on cocaine? Many people would answer yes; however, when the time arises to take action, most people have no idea what the protocol is.
The first step is knowing the stages of a cocaine overdose. Use the following list to guide you in the event an overdose occurs.
- The initial stages may entail a user becoming unable to sit still and becoming incredibly sweaty. The body temperature becomes elevated as well.
- Before the onset of an overdose, most users complain of chest pain or numbness in a particular body area. During this phase, it’s important to keep individuals calm because of anxiety setting in. Many users also report darkening or tunnel vision. This is because of the intense blood pressure rushing through their body.
- Once overdose completely takes hold, individuals may collapse, convulse, and foam at the mouth. This may be an indicator of cardiac arrest; however, cardiac arrest isn’t always present during times of cocaine overdose.
Once the final stage manifests, individuals present must seek emergency medical intervention. Tragically, many individuals die from overdose simply because people around them are too frightened to call 911. It’s not uncommon to hear reports of individuals suffering from overdose being left completely alone.
In many cases, these users could have been saved if the emergency medical intervention had taken place. Once you are certain a user is in danger and exhibits signs of the final stage, you should immediately call emergency medical professionals.
What to do While Waiting for Overdose Help
Keep the user stable while you wait for help to arrive. Keeping the user on their side may be necessary to prevent asphyxiation. Never beat or hit someone in the middle of an overdose. Additionally, you should also never pour cold water on them. This could further complicate the process or send them into shock.
When you notice them losing consciousness, always monitor for signs of a pulse and breathing. If their heart stops or they quit breathing, CPR will need to be administered to keep them alive.
Many times individuals aren’t trained to perform CPR. If you’re not, alert the dispatcher that they’ve quit breathing or their heart has stopped, and they may guide you through the steps to perform CPR safely. This could be the difference between life and death.
After an overdose, a user must refrain from cocaine abuse. A user is often at higher risk for a subsequent event once they suffer from the first overdose. This is especially true in the occurrence of a cardiac event.
Once a user suffers from a heart attack or other severe cardiac issue, the chances are raised significantly for another occurrence. This is because of the already weakened state of the heart.
In cases of cocaine users who suffer from an overdose, seeking treatment for cocaine may be the only option to refrain from using. Luckily, there are multiple treatment options for these individuals.
Seeking Treatment for Cocaine
Users who suffer from cocaine dependence or addiction will benefit greatly from some treatment programs. There are multiple options for recovery in the case of these individuals.
Inpatient rehab consists of a controlled setting where trained medical staff monitors patients around the clock. This treatment may include prescription medications or other methods of treatment to keep the user comfortable during withdrawal and detox. These medications may also assist in the mental conditions present during treatment. However, these are only temporary remedies, as one-on-one counseling is the best form of care. This is one of the most significant benefits of inpatient rehab. Patients are provided with one-on-one sessions as well as group therapy meetings to educate them in addiction and identify underlying issues.
Outpatient rehab allows an addict to continue to live in their home environment while participating in the same treatment options as an inpatient. However, one-on-one sessions will require patients to attend a counseling practice or sessions with their primary care psychiatrist. There may also be requirements for patients to attend peer meetings to benefit them in recovery further.
Long Term Cocaine Recovery
Long-term cocaine recovery is possible with the programs mentioned above. However, continued care should be engaged through Narcotics Anonymous meetings and continued attention to mental health.
A strong support system and family dynamic are also mandatory for individuals in recovery. It’s only through continuous education and treatment of underlying causes that individuals suffering from cocaine abuse disorder can maintain long-term cocaine recovery.
It’s important to note that being an addict is a lifetime diagnosis. The chances of failure are raised if users complete detox or rehab but fail to engage in continuing education and therapy.
Cravings and temptations will persist throughout the life of an addict, and it’s important to understand how to react when these situations arise. Holding yourself accountable and reporting to a sponsor and your peers is an effective way to promote abstinence.
If you know someone who suffers from cocaine addiction, it’s important to educate them on the dangers of their habit and the benefits of treatment. You may feel like you are wasting your breath, but a simple conversation could provide the motivation they need to take the next step in recovery.
At Circle of Hope Treatment Center, we’re equipped to provide individuals suffering from cocaine abuse disorder with the help they need. Our areas of expertise range far and wide, and our capabilities have allowed us to assist many clients in a successful recovery period. If you have any questions, our Admissions Department can assist you with more information regarding the intake process.