How Much Cocaine Does it Take to Overdose? – Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that has a limited medical use but is most often found illicitly. Someone who snorts, smokes or injects too much cocaine can experience an overdose, which can be life-threatening.
Cocaine doses typically range from 30 – 70 mg, but as users develop tolerance, they tend to use more and increase their doses above 1 g. The minimum dose of cocaine that is considered lethal is 1.2 g, but users with hypersensitivity to cocaine have suffered fatal overdoses from as little as 30 mg. In some rare cases of remarkably high tolerance, cocaine addicts have reported using 5 g of cocaine daily, which would prove fatal for most individuals.
The intensity of cocaine effects also largely depends on its method of administration. While many cocaine abusers snort it so that the drug is absorbed through the nasal cavity or smoked into the lungs, injection brings on the fastest high and therefore is the most dangerous method of use.
In addition to the amount used and the method of administration, whether cocaine use results in an overdose also depends on the drug’s purity and the user’s level of tolerance and overall health.
People who regularly abuse cocaine build a tolerance over time, which compels users to increase their dose in order to achieve the desired effect. Tolerance can also lead to binges, which can significantly increase the risk of an overdose.
Cocaine Overdose Symptoms
After a person uses too much cocaine, seizures or convulsions can begin within 2-3 minutes, and they can last up to a half an hour. The objective of emergency medical technicians is first to stop the seizures, then stabilize temperature, heart rate, and breathing. If the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen, the person can slip into a coma. If a person experiencing a cocaine overdose does not receive medical attention in time, death may ensue.
Permanent effects of a survived overdose can include damage to the heart, liver, lungs, brain, kidneys, intestines, and reproductive organs.
Other symptoms that indicate a person may have used an excessive amount of cocaine include the following:
- Chest pain
- Extreme mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- High levels of energy
- Panic attacks
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive talkativeness
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Dizziness or fainting
- Twitches or tremors
How Cocaine Overdose Affects The Body
Cocaine’s immediate physical harm and potentially life-threatening effects originate from the multitude of systems it affects throughout the body.
Impact on the Heart
A cocaine overdose has a tremendous impact on the heart. The user may suffer from severe chest pain or pressure as the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart constrict. At this point, the heart is being deprived of both oxygen and blood and begins to work excessively hard – which can eventually result in a stroke or a heart attack.
Blood pressure and heart rate will also perilously spike during an overdose, which could also cause heart failure. Also, if the user already has high blood pressure or heart problems without the use of stimulants, the risk of experiencing a life-threatening heart attack or stroke is much greater. Additionally, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) can occur which can also result in death.
Impact on the Lungs
An overdose of cocaine overdose can also lead to acute bronchospasm as well as a number of other more severe lung conditions – such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung). Some users – especially those who injected cocaine – are also at increased risk of developing blood clots in the lungs.
Impact on the Brain and Central Nervous System
As noted, seizures and convulsions can occur during a cocaine overdose, as the brain is susceptible to toxic levels of the drug. Likewise, blood vessels in the brain can rupture, so the user may experience a fatal aneurysm or hemorrhagic stroke.
Also, the overdose process may lead to nerve cell “miscommunication” – an effect that can result in uncontrollable muscle movements such as shaking, jaw clenching, and teeth grinding.
An increase in muscular activity can lead to a dangerously elevated body temperature. The extremities may also feel shaky and weak, and, eventually, the exhausted muscles may seize up to a point where the user may not even be able to call for help.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction, if left untreated, can be a devastating and life-threatening disease. Fortunately, however, cocaine addiction is treatable. Persons abusing cocaine are highly encouraged to undergo long-term, comprehensive addiction treatment that includes evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.
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Related: Signs of Cocaine Use