The Dangers of Cocaine Overdose

August 16, 2022

cocaine overdose | Gratitude Lodge

Cocaine overdose can trigger several potentially life-threatening complications, including heart attack, stroke, and seizure. 

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant narcotic made from the processed leaves of the coca plant indigenous to South America. Classified under schedule II of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act), cocaine has some medical utility, but also carries a high risk of abuse and addiction. 


Powdered cocaine is snorted or injected. Freebase cocaine, also known as crack, is a smokable form of cocaine that delivers an even more intense and shorter-lived high. Regardless of the route of delivery, using cocaine increases dopamine release in the brain’s pleasure systems

According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), cocaine overdose occurs when blood concentration levels of the substance are raised to toxicity. This causes adverse physical reactions as the drug effectively poisons your system. 

Dosage is a contributory factor in cocaine overdose. Some reported overdoses involve dosages of a few hundred milligrams, but other people can consume a few grams of cocaine without triggering an overdose. Toxicity levels will depend on the individual and their susceptibility to the toxins of cocaine. 

In addition to the dosage, the purity of the drug influences the risk profile for cocaine overdose. The more adulterated the cocaine, the less chance there is of experiencing a deadly overdose. 

Mixing cocaine with other addictive substances – particularly either heroin or alcohol – also increases the chance of a lethal overdose. 


Ingesting cocaine exerts stimulant effects, accelerating body functions. When cocaine enters your CNS (central nervous system), this increases your heart rate, core body temperature, and blood pressure levels. Cocaine also impacts cognitive function, mood, and the digestive system. 

During cocaine overdose, these effects can reach levels that are acutely damaging, both short-term and long-term. Cocaine overdose can place such burden on your cardiovascular system that it triggers organ failure, internal bleeding, or heart attack. 

Cocaine overdose can also bring about severe neurological damage as the result of ruptured blood vessels in the brain or seizures. 

If you suspect overdose, whether in yourself or a loved one, it should be considered a medical emergency. Call 911 for immediate assistance from emergency responders. 

How do you know what to look out for, though? 


Monitor for any of these physical cocaine overdose symptoms: 

  • Raised blood pressure levels
  • High body temperature
  • Agitated movements
  • Restlessness
  • Relentless energy
  • Teeth grinding
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Incontinence
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Blue tinge to the skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure

Also look out for any of these psychological indicators of a cocaine overdose: 

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium


In addition to summoning immediate medical assistance, you can perform these steps to mitigate overdose: 

  1.  List the following details for the emergency response team: amount of cocaine used, any other addictive substances in the system, age of person, any history of drug use, any preexisting health conditions.
  2.  Ensure the person is laying on their side to minimize the chances of choking and to encourage proper breathing.
  3.  Apply cold compresses to the person if they appear to be overheated.
  4.  Make sure no sharp objects are near the person in case they have a seizure.
  5.  Remain with the person overdosing on cocaine until the emergency responders arrive.

Regrettably, there is no cocaine overdose antidote. Successful interventions, then, do not try to reverse cocaine overdose, but instead treat the primary symptoms. 

Medical professionals may continue to apply compresses, further reducing the person’s core body temperature and reducing the chance of hypothermia developing. 

In a hospital setting, treatment for overdose usually begins with the administration of a sedative. Benzodiazepines are often used for this purpose. Sedatives can help to reduce heart rate and blood pressure levels. 

Due to the strain cocaine overdose places on your vital organs, it is imperative not to overdose again. This can be challenging due to the fiercely addictive nature of cocaine, but we can help you address the physical and psychological components of cocaine addiction. 


Although there are currently no FDA-approved medications for cocaine addiction, don’t let that put you off engaging with treatment. 

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) recommends the following behavioral interventions for the treatment of stimulant use disorders like cocaine: 

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • DBT (dialectical behavior therapy)
  • CM (contingency management)

Before you engage with therapy, though, you’ll first need to detox from cocaine. We can help you with a supervised medical detox here at Gratitude Lodge. Choose from one of our three Californian locations at San DiegoLong Beach, or Newport Beach and streamline your cocaine detox. 

After a week or so, you will be ready to engage with inpatient treatment at one of our luxury rehab centers. 

If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, we offer integrated dual diagnosis treatment programs. 

When you are ready to move from active cocaine addiction into ongoing recovery, reach out to Gratitude Lodge at 888-861-1658.


Help for you or a loved one is only one call away.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.
Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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