What is Cocaine?
Table of Contents
- What is Cocaine?
- Methods of Cocaine Use
- Understanding Cocaine Addiction
- What are the Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse?
- Is it Possible to Overdose on Cocaine?
- What are the Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose?
- Treating Cocaine Overdose
- Cocaine Addiction Treatment
- What are Common Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?
- Addiction Treatment Resources and Support are Found Here
- Medically Reviewed By
Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant found in South America. It is most commonly found in a white powder form, but it can also come in the form of solid crystals, known as crack cocaine. With this guide, we delve deeply into answering, ‘Can you overdose on cocaine?’
Methods of Cocaine Use
There are several methods of cocaine use that a person may choose to engage in, each of which can produce a different high and side effects.
Most cocaine users choose to snort this drug in its powder form, nasally ingesting it. Others may choose to rub it onto their gums, or inject its water-soluble form directly into the bloodstream via needle.
Those who use crack cocaine will usually heat up the ‘rocks’ and smoke the vapor this produces.
Regardless of how an individual chooses to use cocaine, each of these methods can result in negative side effects, such as cocaine toxicity or overdose.
Understanding Cocaine Addiction
Despite cocaine being one of the most infamous drugs known to cause addiction, people are still heavily drawn to this substance.
In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 5.2 million people aged 12 and over reported using cocaine within the year 2020 alone. In most cases, individuals engage in cocaine use due to the euphoric high and boost of energy it produces.
While some people may simply be using it for pleasure, this is rarely the sole motivator for why someone chooses to get involved with cocaine. There are several risk factors that may cause an individual to engage in substance abuse, including:
- Mental Illness. Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders are quite common. This is because many people turn to drug use or alcohol as a means of self-medicating the difficult thoughts and feelings that many mental illnesses can cause. When it comes to cocaine addiction, this is particularly prevalent amongst people with bipolar disorder.
- Environmental Factors. Living in environments that are unstable, such as abusive or neglectful households, or communities that have a heavy drug culture, can significantly increase an individual’s likelihood to engage in drug and alcohol abuse.
- Social Pressure. Individuals who surround themselves with people who regularly partake in and encourage addictive behaviors are much more likely to develop these habits themselves.
- Increased Stress. High-demand jobs, familial and relationship pressures, and unresolved traumatic or past difficult experiences are all risk factors that can significantly increase an individual’s stress levels, ultimately causing them to turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
What are the Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse?
When cocaine is introduced to the body, this drug releases a flood of dopamine into the parts of the brain that control an individual’s reward and motivation systems. This can produce a euphoric high, as well as increased alertness or energy levels.
This extreme happiness can make individuals want to use this substance continuously. However, repeated use of cocaine will eventually result in building a tolerance towards it, thus requiring it to be used more frequently and in higher doses in order to achieve the same high.
This, unfortunately, can lead to several negative side effects, as well as increase an individual’s risk of overdosing.
Short-Term Side Effects
There are several unpleasant side effects that can occur when using cocaine in addition to the exciting high it can produce. These may include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Muscle twitches
Long-Term Side Effects
When using cocaine repeatedly and over long periods of time, individuals increase their risk of developing more serious long-term effects as a result of this drug usage. These can be particularly severe, and will likely require medical attention.
Long-term side effects of specific methods of cocaine abuse may include:
- Loss of smell, nosebleeds, chronic runny nose, and difficulty swallowing when snorting cocaine on a regular basis.
- A regular cough, asthma, increased risk of pneumonia or other infections, and other respiratory issues from frequently smoking cocaine.
- Reduced blood flow through the body, potentially resulting in severe distress or decay to the gastrointestinal tract when regularly using cocaine orally.
- A greater risk of contracting bloodborne diseases, such as hepatitis C or HIV, as well as developing skin infections, and experiencing collapsing or scarring in the veins from injecting cocaine.
Other general long-term effects resulting from this form of drug abuse may occur as well, including:
- Increased aggravation and irritability
- Increased fatigue
- Cerebral bleeding
- Impaired cognitive functions
Is it Possible to Overdose on Cocaine?
As with most illicit drugs, there is such a thing as taking too much cocaine. A cocaine related overdose occurs when an individual uses enough of this drug to produce severe, or even life-threatening consequences.
Cocaine use can be extremely dangerous in itself, particularly when injecting or smoking this substance. Furthermore, drinking alcohol while using cocaine, or mixing this substance with other drugs, can also drastically increase the risk of a cocaine overdose.
Taking even half of a gram more than the normal dosage of cocaine can introduce toxic levels of this drug to a person’s body. This, ultimately, creates the risk of overdose due to cocaine toxicity.
It is also not uncommon for drug dealers to mix cocaine with other substances, allowing them to make a bigger profit; usually at the expense of their unaware customers. Unfortunately, this may further increase their chance of accidental cocaine overdose.
Rate of Cocaine Overdoses in the U.S.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of cocaine-related deaths in the U.S. steadily increased from five thousand to nineteen thousand between the years of 2014 and 2020.
While concerning enough on their own, these numbers are even more so when considering that most cocaine overdoses involve the use of other substances, such as heroin or synthetic opioids.
Unfortunately, the number of overdose deaths in this country are only continuing to rise. Thus, it is essential to understand the causes of addiction and drug overdose.
Not only will this help eliminate the stigma that surrounds addiction, but may allow those struggling with this condition to seek out the professional help they need.
What are the Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose?
Cocaine overdose may have many of the same effects as other forms of drug overdose, especially in cases where this drug is mixed with other substances.
However, because cocaine use can turn deadly so quickly, it is important to be able to recognize cocaine overdose symptoms.
This will not only allow individuals to recognize when they need immediate medical attention but will help their healthcare providers determine what type of medical assistance they require.
Some of the most common signs of cocaine overdose are physical effects, which can not only be extremely uncomfortable but are highly likely to become lethal without treatment.
Physical cocaine overdose symptoms may include:
- Deadly arrhythmias
- Heart attack
- Cardiac arrest
- Difficulty breathing
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
Other cocaine overdose signs include those that are psychological in nature. Individuals may experience hallucinations, as well as extreme agitation, confusion, anxiety, or panic.
Physical symptoms of cocaine toxicity may also be significantly worsened when simultaneously using heroin or other drugs.
Treating Cocaine Overdose
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing a cocaine overdose, the first thing you should do is call 911. There is nothing you or any other untrained professional will be able to do on your own, and attempting to do so may only result in further harm.
If the user is experiencing a seizure, it is important to try to keep them away from objects that may cause injury. Furthermore, in the event of a sudden increase in body temperature, applying a cold compress or finding other ways to keep cool can be useful until help arrives.
Once in the hands of medical professionals, treatment for cocaine overdose symptoms will likely include the administration of overdose reversal medications, fluids, and other emergency services.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
There are several methods of treating cocaine addiction available today. If you believe that you or a loved one may be struggling with cocaine abuse and are at risk of overdose, it is strongly encouraged that you seek out professional treatment options. These may include:
When it comes to substance abuse treatment, a particularly important step in this process is an individual’s participation in a medically supervised detox process.
This treatment program will allow individuals to be gradually weaned off of an addictive substance in a safe and controlled environment. Participants will also be given a strict and balanced diet to better allow their bodies to recover from a cocaine addiction.
Furthermore, this treatment process will likely involve the administration of medications that can help combat or prevent more intense withdrawal symptoms and lower the risk of relapse.
For individuals with more severe cocaine addictions, participating in a residential or inpatient treatment program will likely be essential to their recovery.
Because people become so dependent upon this drug in order to be able to experience joy or pleasure, relapse is not uncommon. Thus, the constant supervision and professional support provided by a residential program can help keep them on track in their recovery process.
If a person is unable to meet the time commitment required by an inpatient treatment program, outpatient options such as partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient services may be beneficial.
These programs offer a more flexible, but still effective, treatment option to those recovering from substance abuse.
Furthermore, participating in behavioral therapies has also been found to be particularly helpful in treating various forms of habitual drug use, including cocaine.
What are Common Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?
There are several side effects that may occur when stopping usage of cocaine, of which can be extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable to deal with.
While these are most commonly psychological in nature, individuals may experience physical symptoms of cocaine withdrawal as well.
The most common physical withdrawal symptoms from cocaine can vary in severity based on the the extent of a person’s addiction to this substance, and may include:
- Muscle aches
- Nerve pain
- Drug cravings
- Increased appetite
The psychological symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are typically the most difficult to deal with, thus often requiring individuals to receive professional assistance when attempting to overcome cocaine addiction.
These symptoms may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slowed cognitive functions
- Slowed activity or becoming easily fatigued
- Inability to experience sexual arousal
- An inability to feel pleasure
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Intense dreams and nightmares
Addiction Treatment Resources and Support are Found Here
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and are ready to begin seeking addiction treatment options, know that you are making the right choice, and help IS available.
Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we are dedicated to connecting our clients with rehab facilities and services dedicated to meeting their personal care needs.
Our hotline is available 24/7, so that our representatives can provide addiction recovery support and resources any time you need them. So don’t wait; call today, and let us help you take the first step on your path to achieving long-lasting sobriety, and a happier, healthier you!
Nicole Rogers is an experienced and accomplished writer with special interests in the fields of Anthropology, English, and behavioral health, and has written countless articles for newspaper publications, institutional research journals, and Find Addiction Rehabs.
Her alma mater is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Nicole hopes to spread awareness of and combat the stigmatization surrounding addiction and substance abuse treatment through her writing and work in the field.