Cocaine Overdose Symptoms & Effects

Every day, cocaine overdoses are responsible for hospitalizations, injury, and even death. While it’s true that the majority of cocaine users will never experience an overdose or overdose symptoms, it’s possible to have an overdose on just your first time trying cocaine. And of course, even experienced users with a long history of use can fall prey to overdoses. Knowing the symptoms of a cocaine overdose can keep you or a loved one from overdosing from cocaine.

In this article, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about cocaine overdose symptoms and signs. We’ll discuss:

  • Cocaine Overdose Facts
  • The Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
  • Risk Factors Influencing Cocaine Overdose
  • Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
  • How Cocaine Overdoses are Treated
  • The Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from cocaine addiction, seek help immediately. While overdoses aren’t always fatal, they can cause serious long-term effects, from brain damage to PTSD. Of course, deaths resulting from cocaine overdoses happen every day, so anytime you use cocaine you’re accepting that risk.

Cocaine Addiction And Overdose Facts

Before we dive deep into the nuances of cocaine addiction and overdose, let’s go over some cocaine addiction and overdose facts. Some of these may be surprising (or even shocking) while others may give you the upper hand if you or a loved one are dealing with addiction.

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 7,000 people died from cocaine overdoses in 2015. That’s a sharp rise from 2010 when only 4,000 people died.
  • Men are nearly three times more likely to suffer from cocaine overdoses than women.
  • The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), has estimated that nearly 1 million emergency room visits involved illegal drugs. Of that, over 400,000 were cocaine-related. This means that cocaine causes more emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. In fact, the only drug to cause more emergency room visits is alcohol.
  • Though men are more likely to overdose on cocaine, women are more likely to be brought to the emergency room for cocaine-related injuries.
  • A cocaine overdose can occur from any ingestion method. Many users think they’re safe as long as they don’t inject, but this just isn’t true.

These are just a few facts showing how dangerous a cocaine addiction is. Read on to learn about the details and dangers of a cocaine overdose.

Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction

Knowing some of the side effects of cocaine abuse can greatly help you or a loved one overcome a cocaine addiction. When you overcome cocaine addiction, you’re completely getting rid of the risk of overdose along with all these unpleasant side effects:

  • Nausea: Often those who abuse cocaine can experience nausea or upset stomach. Though this is a sign of addiction, as long as it’s minor it’s not generally a sign of any major health-threatening conditions.
  • Physical changes: Every user of cocaine will experience increased pulse, irregular breathing, and increased body temperature. When these become severe, it’s a sign of addiction and dependence.
  • Psychological changes: Often, the first thing people notice when interacting with a loved one who is abusing cocaine is a change in their behavior or psychological outlook. These traits can include panic, becoming delirious, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, and even paranoia.
  • Mood swings: Alongside the negative psychological traits mentioned above, many cocaine abusers will have dramatic (and at times even violent) mood swings. This is a sure sign of addiction and dependence. If you or a loved one is experiencing cocaine-related mood swings, seek help from a trusted professional immediately.
  • Tremors or shaking: Even mild cocaine use can cause a user to be shaky. In more severe cases, the user can have mild to severe tremors. These are uncontrollable and can often be scary for the user and those around them. If these worsen, you may be having an overdose or other negative reaction.

As you’ll see, the symptoms listed above will have many similarities to the symptoms of a cocaine overdose. In fact, many overdose symptoms are the above symptoms intensified. Doing cocaine even once is a bad idea, but if you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s a sure sign you’re moving down the path of addiction.

Risk Factors In Cocaine Overdose

Because there are many factors that can influence an overdose, whether or not a cocaine overdose will happen is extremely difficult to predict. Because of this and the extremely addictive potential of cocaine, it’s always best to say no. It’s just not worth the risk.

The following are just some of the risk factors at play.

Polydrug Use

While polydrug use is a strange term, it’s actually an extremely simple concept to understand. Polydrug use literally means using more than one drug. This can mean using more than one drug at the same time, or within a short time of one another. For example, stimulants such as Adderall can affect a user for 24-48 hours. This means even if a user no longer feels ‘high’ from taking Adderall, the lingering effects (such as an increased pulse) can cause complications if they decide to ingest cocaine.

Some of the most dangerous drugs to take alongside cocaine are sedatives. This combination is extremely dangerous because the effects of sedatives counter the stimulant effects of cocaine. So when taken together, the user may be able to ingest a lot more of each of the drug without feeling how intoxicated they really are. This increases the risk of an overdose and drug-related injury and hospitalizations.

Another extremely dangerous combination is combining stimulants with cocaine (such as the Adderall example above). When combined, the stimulant effects may become too intense. Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature can all result in overdose or other complications.

Lastly, heroin mixed with cocaine (often called a ‘speedball’) is extremely dangerous. Many celebrities have died from this combination.

Of course, staying away from drugs is always a smart idea. But if you or someone you know uses drugs, make sure not to mix them. This creates a much more dangerous situation in which injury or death is much more likely to occur.


This is a massive factor that is wholly unknown to the user. Purity can cause overdoses in two ways.

For example, a user can buy a much stronger and purer batch of cocaine than they are used to. This means they’ll be ingesting much more than they think and won’t know it. This becomes much more dangerous when a person uses intravenously or ‘shoots up’.

The other way purity can be dangerous is when dealers add dangerous cocaine-like substances into the batch. This is referred to as ‘cutting’ or ‘adding cuts’, and is done to increase supply and profit for the dealer.

Often, dealers will use extremely toxic and sometimes even lethal substances. You never know what you’re getting when you choose to put cocaine in your body, so the only smart move is to refrain from use.

Method of Ingestion

This is a big point. Snorting and smoking cocaine, though extremely dangerous, are generally considered as having a lower risk of overdose. This is because when smoking or snorting, only a small amount (relative to injection) can be administered, meaning larger doses take longer to ingest. This also means that before a user will take their next dose, they usually will feel the effects of the last dose, allowing them to gauge how much they’ve taken.

Because shooting up can administer a large dose very quickly, a user can’t gauge their reaction and stop or slow down their use. This is why many cocaine overdoses happen from shooting up.

Symptoms of a Cocaine Overdose

While under the effects of cocaine, a person will experience many physical sensations and physiological changes. These effects all relate back to cocaine’s strong stimulating effects. During an overdose, these effects intensify and ultimately cause complications or damage.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of a cocaine overdose:

  • Heart Complications: Even small amounts of cocaine use will cause changes in the heart. These include increased heart rate, heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), and high blood pressure. When intensified during an overdose, these symptoms can be damaging or even fatal. This is especially true when combined with some of the other symptoms such as increased temperature.
  • Dangerously high body temperature: During cocaine use, your body will heat up, but during an overdose, your body will heat up to dangerous levels. This is usually accompanied by extreme sweating. Excess body temperature can cause everything from stroke to death. If you feel yourself getting excessively hot while doing cocaine, seek help immediately.
  • Vomiting: As mentioned before, nausea can be a symptom of cocaine abuse. However if a user begins to vomit, it could be a sign of overdose. If this happens, contact a medical professional immediately.
  • Extreme psychological shifts: Severe anxiety, agitation, and paranoia can all be the beginning signs of a cocaine overdose. These symptoms can worsen and turn into aggressive behavior or even hallucinations and psychosis. Seek help before these extreme conditions appear.
  • Tremors, seizures, or strokes: The shakiness associated with light cocaine use can become intensified and turn into a serious problem. Shaking can turn into extreme tremors (increasing chance of injury) or even seizures and strokes.

If you or a loved one ever experiences any of these symptoms while taking or shortly after taking cocaine, seek help immediately. Doing this could save a life. At the very least, they’ll be in the best hands to stop their cocaine addiction and get on the road to recovery.

Cocaine Overdose Long-Term Effects

As mentioned before, not all cocaine overdoses end in death. Some overdose patients recover with little or no lasting change. Others can experience minor effects or major debilitating conditions.

Here are some of the things you put yourself at risk for when ingesting cocaine.

  • Heart damage: As mentioned above, cocaine puts a lot of stress and strain on your heart. In fact, cocaine use restricts your coronary arteries (the arteries responsible for feeding fresh, oxygenated blood into the heart). Even in healthy individuals, this can result in heart attack or stroke. If a patient already suffers from heart complications, their risk is greatly increased.
  • Lung damage: Cocaine overdose can cause acute bronchospasm, which is also referred to as an asthma attack. This is when your lung passages constrict, making it hard to breathe. Worse, a cocaine overdose can result in your lungs collapsing, an extremely painful and debilitating condition. Those who inject, increase their risk of developing blood clots in their lungs.
  • Central nervous system damage: Your brain is extremely sensitive to the toxic nature of cocaine. A cocaine overdose can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst, resulting in brain damage, stroke, or even death. Seizures and convulsions are also common and can result in physical injuries to the spine or spinal column. Lastly, a cocaine overdose can cause havoc to your brain’s delicate chemical system.
  • Mental trauma: Though this isn’t talked about nearly as much as the other sources of damage from a cocaine overdose, experiencing PTSD-like symptoms are very possible. Everything from disorientation and hallucination to tremors and seizures can cause extreme mental blocks and psychological issues for years, or even a lifetime.

What To Do During A Cocaine Overdose

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a cocaine overdose, it’s vital to contact medical professionals immediately. While waiting for medical professionals, here’s a few things you can do to lower the risk of death or serious complications:

  • Apply a cold compress to keep the body temperature at a safe level.
  • In the case of tremors or seizures, remove sharp or hard objects from the immediate vicinity, to prevent injury
  • Stay by their side until help arrives.

If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction, contact Peaks Recovery immediately. It could save a life.

Want to learn more about recovering from cocaine addiction? Read about the cocaine withdrawal timeline, or find out how long does cocaine stay in your system through our comprehensive blog.

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