What Does Cocaine Overdose Look Like?
If someone is showing signs of a cocaine overdose, call 911 immediately. Society leads us to believe in a few falsehoods about overdose and its effects. It’s sometimes treated like a “one size fits all” cautionary tale recycling the same symptoms with different drug names. But the truth is that overdoses have several differences based on the person’s history with the drug in question. Cocaine is heavily trafficked across the Texas border, so is very common across the Lone Star State. Drugs are often described as stimulants or depressants and recreational or non-recreational. Stimulant drugs keep you energized by firing up your nerve cells, while depressants dull your senses and cause you to feel tired or “low.” An overdose comes from consuming a toxic amount of a certain drug or combination of drugs, which could lead to blackouts, seizures, or potentially be fatal. Overdoses depend on the type of drug taken and other external factors, such as:
- What the drug was cut (mixed) with
- How much of the drug was consumed
- Whether the drug was taken with other substances
- The person’s past history with the drug
It’s hard to gauge the likelihood of a cocaine overdose based purely on how much was taken. It can also depend on the drug’s potency. Regardless, it’s important to remember that high cocaine levels in the bloodstream run the risk of leading to overdose and require immediate medical attention.
Warning Signs of Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine overdoses come with a few warning signs to look out for. Some of these include:
- Heart palpitations
- Staggered breathing and chest pain
- Paranoia (fear of someone or something)
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
Cocaine overdoses are especially difficult as they could potentially shut down central body systems and lead to heart attacks, strokes, and organ failure. If you or someone near you is having these symptoms, don’t waste any time in getting help.
- Call 911 immediately
- Stay calm or encourage the individual to stay calm
- Do not allow any more drug consumption to continue
- Wait for medical assistance
What Is Cocaine?
What was once a part of the original Coca-Cola recipe is now widely recognized as one of the most popular illegal drugs in the United States. Cocaine is a recreational drug (a drug used for leisure instead of for medical purposes) that causes intense happiness, a fast heart rate, and bursts of energy. It’s also known as a stimulant, meaning a drug that excites the brain and central nervous system (CNR) — the system within our bodies that controls the mind and body functions. There is no safe consumption level for cocaine, which means even small amounts come with negative side effects. The body begins to shut down as cocaine consumption reaches overdose levels. Stimulants excite you by firing up your nerve cells, but too much of that firing can overstimulate your heart and CNR. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cocaine-related overdose deaths rose from 3,822 in 1999 to 15,883 in 2019. Many Americans battle cocaine addiction every year, with adults ages 18 to 25 making up a larger portion of that group. Also, a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that 112,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 in 2018 were past-year users of cocaine, including about 4,000 users of crack cocaine.
History of Cocaine
Cocaine is one of the oldest drugs in the world, initially discovered and created from South American coca plants and used for medicinal purposes. Explorers noticed the popularity of coca leaves among western South American natives and adopted the coca into European lifestyles. Cocaine was received positively throughout Europe and employed for recreational and medical purposes. It was later traded into the United States and became widely accessible to the public in a variety of forms and was taken as an over-the-counter option to boost energy. Cocaine’s legality, once perfect enough to stock coca tea leaves in American grocery stores, changed significantly once the U.S. discovered the consequences that came with its ”feel good” and addictive effects. A racially biased bill called the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act pushed to regulate coca products. Eventually, cocaine was considered far too risky to maintain as a legal stimulant, and the drug was declared allowable only for medical practices. The South Texas corridor is one of the primary routes for drug smuggling in the US, of which cocaine is a major product in the trade and frequently move through San Antonio on to Dallas, Houston, and across the rest of the state.
Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Let’s take a second to compare cocaine with a popular safe stimulant in the market: caffeine. Many Americans pair their morning breakfast with a cup of their favorite brand of coffee. And as you consume it each day, your body gets used to the “wide awake” feeling caffeine provides. Slowly you start to add more and more powder to the pot as you learn to enjoy its bitter flavor. And eventually, the day doesn’t feel quite right unless you kick-start it with a fresh brew. Cocaine addiction is similar to this scenario, although not nearly as cheerful. As you continue to take more cocaine, the body grows accustomed to its effects, which leads to needing a higher and higher dosage to reach the same high.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Consumption
There are several short-term and long-term medical complications associated with cocaine consumption and addiction. Short-term effects of consumption include:
- Dilated pupils (black parts of the eyes are larger)
- Feelings of euphoria (great happiness)
- Agitation (restlessness)
- Increased heart rate and body temperature
Cocaine can cause a person to lose touch with reality and, when taken in large doses, can intensify unstable or violent behavior. Some of the short-term effects of cocaine could lead to medical complications for anyone with pre-existing conditions, such as heart problems.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Consumption
Constant cocaine misuse begins to affect the brain with each intake. Regular cocaine binges could lead to loss of smell, damaged lungs, and the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. You could also potentially place yourself at risk of overdosing or struggling with long-term cardiovascular (heart), neurological (nervous system), and other physical effects.
Cocaine can cause a lot of unseen damage to the heart. The drug tends to increase our heart rate and blood pressure, causing blood vessels to tighten (cocaine was once an effective anesthetic for medical procedures) and placing strain on our cardiovascular system. This means a limited amount of blood reaches the heart and stays stagnated in the vessels. This could result in risky heart rhythm disturbances that can bring us closer to a heart attack or heart disease in the future. Unfortunately, this can also have cardiovascular effects lasting long after overcoming cocaine addiction, which is why it’s very beneficial to get treatment as soon as possible.
We have millions of nerve cells that carry messages throughout our brains. Cocaine likes to take those nerve cells and start mixing up the messages they send. There’s an increase in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) like dopamine and serotonin while taking cocaine, which causes positive feelings generally only activated when we do something “rewarding.” This area of the brain is called the reward circuit, and having it constantly stimulated tends to defeat its purpose. The reward circuit, when encouraged by natural rewards, helps the mind adapt to the world around a person. For example, it shows up when we work hard to get a good grade, a promotion, or finish a goal — enabling good behavior patterns toward success. But when cocaine gets involved, it can develop a dopamine excess resulting in an unhealthy connection between the action of taking the drug and happiness.
The energizing effect of cocaine causes us to stay alert. Initially, we might be talkative, highly active, and dismiss the need for sleep or food. Yet after a while, we notice a runny nose, trouble swallowing, and potentially irritated or scarred nasal pathways. There are some unfortunate long-term diseases that could result from cocaine addiction, like collapsing blood vessels, severe intestinal decay, and the risk of bloodborne illnesses. It’s important to remember, however, that these side effects come from constant ongoing misuse of the drug and are treatable during recovery alongside maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Drug-induced psychosis is a disconnection from reality caused by excessive drug intake. A cocaine-induced psychosis can result from intoxication or withdrawal. This can last a few hours, a few days, or (in some extreme cases) a few weeks. Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, shows cocaine-induced psychosis might come from an imbalance in dopamine levels within the brain, in which case the likelihood of violence, crime, and suicide is a lot higher. A few symptoms of cocaine-induced psychosis include:
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Clouded thinking
- High emotional distress
Immediate treatment is the only remedy for drug-induced psychosis.
Cocaine Treatment Options
The healthcare professionals at Vertava Health Texas can create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs and based on your past experiences with cocaine. Cocaine addiction treatment is usually a two-step process that includes medical detox and rehab.
Cocaine withdrawal can come with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased cocaine craving
- Vivid dreams/nightmares
At Vertava Health Texas, a medical detox may be recommended to safely wean a client’s body off of cocaine. Experienced team members are onsite to monitor clients throughout the process and may prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the cocaine addiction treatment methods you’ll find at Vertava Health include:
- Support groups
- One-on-one therapy
- Education about substance misuse
- Relapse prevention skill-building
- Outdoor-based activities
- Family therapy
- Co-occurring disorder care for mental health issues
Get Help From Vertava Health Texas Today
It’s important to seek help for cocaine addiction as soon as possible. At Vertava Health, our goal is to get you back on track with the right treatment tailored to your needs. We stay in-network with several top insurance providers, and we keep our lines of communication open 24/7 through phone, email, or live chat. For more information, call us today at (888) 759-5073. [inline_cta_one]