How To Treat A Cocaine Overdose

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Cocaine overdose, also known as cocaine toxicity, can occur even with small doses of cocaine. If you or someone close to you uses cocaine, it helps to recognize cocaine overdose symptoms and understand the basic treatment options.

Cocaine Overdose Treatment

Cocaine is a stimulant derived from the coca plant in South America. It is most often sold as a white powder or in its crystalline form, crack cocaine.

Cocaine has the ability to affect your cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and central nervous system, which makes a cocaine-related overdose incredibly dangerous.

As such, a cocaine overdose is a life-threatening situation that requires prompt medical care at your local hospital where providers can stabilize you and treat symptoms as they arise.

Approaches To Cocaine Overdose Treatment

The treatment you receive for a cocaine overdose at your local emergency department may vary depending on your symptoms and any underlying medical conditions you may have.

This treatment often includes the use of:

  • prescription drugs to manage arrhythmia and respiratory distress
  • prescription sedatives to offset the psychological effects of cocaine toxicity
  • external cooling measures to help manage high body temperature (hyperthermia)

Recognizing Signs Of A Cocaine Overdose

The initial signs of a cocaine overdose can be difficult to detect, as many of the symptoms are fairly similar to those you would experience with general cocaine intoxication.

With that said, the symptoms can progress quickly. Oftentimes, the earliest noticeable side effects of cocaine overdose are nausea, dizziness, and changes in vision.

These symptoms are linked to extreme fluctuations in heart rate, blood flow, and blood pressure, so you should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you notice these early signs of drug overdose.

Later symptoms of cocaine overdose are much harder to miss, as they affect three of your major organ systems.

Treating The Cardiovascular Symptoms Of A Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine is a vasodilator; it causes your blood vessels to constrict. As a result, the use of cocaine routinely causes an increase in heart rate as well as an increase in blood pressure.

During a cocaine overdose, these changes are exaggerated. You may experience rapid heart rate, irregular heart beat, dangerously high blood pressure, chest pain, fever, and tachycardia.

Without medical intervention, these symptoms could result in a myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, or cardiac arrest.

Emergency Measures

If someone near you is experiencing a cocaine overdose, then call emergency medical services while someone else goes to find an automated external defibrillator (AED).

While you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, monitor the affected person’s condition and administer CPR as needed.

Medical Treatment

In a controlled environment, under the direction of a physician, benzodiazepines can be used to counteract the stimulating effects of cocaine to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

If cardiovascular symptoms have escalated by the time they receive professional medical care, then blood thinners, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and surgery are common treatments.

Treating The Respiratory Symptoms Of A Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. One of its effects is an increase in your respiratory rate. Under normal circumstances, you may not even notice this change.

However, during a cocaine overdose the changes to the way your respiratory system behaves may cause you to feel short of breath or struggle to breathe.

Cocaine use is associated with a number of respiratory conditions, but respiratory distress is the primary concern during a cocaine overdose.

Check Airways

As always, you should call emergency medical services if someone is experiencing symptoms of a cocaine overdose.

While someone is calling 911, check the affected person’s airways, loosen any tight clothing that could be obstructing their breathing, and help them with prescribed medications, if necessary.

Seek Respiratory Support

When help arrives, the affected person will be put on respiratory support. Benzodiazepines may be administered at the hospital where respiratory rates can be closely monitored.

Treating The Neurological Symptoms Of A Cocaine Overdose

The primary goal of cocaine use is to block the reuptake of dopamine to produce a sense of euphoria. This is just one of many ways that cocaine affects your brain.

Unfortunately, during a cocaine overdose, the changes to your central nervous system can be much more severe.

The first symptom is usually an uncontrollable twitch followed by feelings of anxiety and confusion. In serious cases, these symptoms may progress into cocaine-induced psychosis.

This condition causes vivid auditory and tactile hallucinations that impair your ability to identify reality. It isn’t uncommon for people to accidentally hurt themselves as a result of this psychosis.

Prescription Medications

The neurological symptoms of cocaine overdose are difficult to manage without the help of prescription medication.

If someone is experiencing severe anxiety or cocaine-induced psychosis, your top priority is to keep them as calm as possible and prevent them from leaving until help arrives.

When the ambulance does arrive, the paramedics may administer benzodiazepines and/or antipsychotics to calm the person down so that their other symptoms can be treated.

Additional Testing

Treatment at the hospital may vary depending on the results of the toxicology report, which will check for the presence of additional drugs like opioids or amphetamines.

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine overdoses are more treatable than ever thanks to advances in medical science, but cocaine is still involved in one of every five overdose deaths.

If you want to protect yourself or a loved one from the risk of a fatal overdose, the best approach is to find treatment for the drug use that puts you at risk.

Evidence-based treatment programs for cocaine recognize the effect the drug has on the brain and body, and they have treatment plans that are designed to meet your individual needs.

These programs typically offer a combination of detox, group therapy, behavioral therapy, and dual diagnosis treatment to provide comprehensive treatment plans.

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment For Cocaine Abuse

If you need help finding a cocaine addiction treatment program that meets your needs, give our helpline a call.

We can discuss your treatment goals and preferred approaches to find the right fit for you and your family.


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Bedrock Recovery Center


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