Addiction | 6 min read

Cocaine Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, & Risks Of Cocaine Use & Abuse

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On August 27, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On June 5, 2022

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cocaine is a very serious drug that comes with an extremely high amount of risk and a variety of dangers. Cocaine is a well-known drug often discussed in anti-drug PSAs and frequently shown in movies and TV shows. There are a huge number of people who use cocaine each year, many of whom either have or will develop a cocaine addiction.

Cocaine is highly addictive, which is one of the reasons that it is so dangerous. The side effect and the negative toll cocaine usage has on a person’s body and mind are also why cocaine is so dangerous. However, the risk of overdose is perhaps the most dangerous.

Overdoses are incredibly common with drugs like cocaine. Overdoses are even more common when a person tries to quit and then relapses. This is because of something called tolerance. Tolerance is when the body gets used to the constant usage of the drug, in this case, cocaine, so more of the drug is needed to reach the same high.

When a person with tolerance to cocaine stops using the drug and then relapses and uses it again, they will frequently take the same amount they were using with they quit. However, their body typically cannot handle that amount of the drug anymore because they no longer have a built-up tolerance. This can result in an overdose which is not only dangerous but can be fatal.

Knowing the signs, symptoms, and risks of a cocaine overdose is very important. You can save a life by knowing what an overdose looks like and getting help, whether for yourself or someone else. Please read on to find out more about cocaine overdoses and cocaine abuse.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Cocaine Overdose?

There are a variety of physical symptoms associated with cocaine overdose. It is very important to know what the signs are so they can be identified if a person overdoses. Overdoses are essentially when the drug poisons the body. Overdoses are caused by a toxic level of the drug in the person’s system, which causes an extreme chain reaction within the body.

The amount of cocaine needed to cause an overdose varies from person to person and also depends on the drug’s potency. Another contributing factor to overdoses is if the cocaine is contaminated with other drugs, as contamination can play a part in overdoses.

The symptoms of a cocaine overdose are sometimes physically visible to other people but are always felt by the person using the drug. The physical symptoms of cocaine overdose include the following list of signs.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Tremors
  • Confusion

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Cocaine Overdose

There are also a variety of psychological signs of a cocaine overdose. These include anxiety, paranoia, feeling panicked, delirium, and other signs of panic or confusion.

Noticing the indicators of an overdose can truly save a life. Time is of the essence when it comes to overdoses, and because of the severity of a cocaine overdose, the overdose must be identified quickly.

Overdoses can cause other physical issues, such as strokes, heart attacks, and seizures. Although these consequences may not be fatal, they can seriously damage the individual experiencing them, affecting them for the rest of their lives.

The best way to prevent overdoses is to prevent cocaine usage altogether. Noticing the signs of cocaine use or abuse is critical in preventing the user from becoming addicted or overdosing. Signs of cocaine use include frequent runny nose or frequent nosebleeds, a high, unusual level of excitement, paranoia, overconfidence, aggression, and dilated pupils.

Signs of cocaine abuse or prolonged cocaine use indicating a cocaine binge are apathy, oversleeping or excessive sleeping, depression, agitation, and a generally sour mood. People who use cocaine seriously, are addicted, or abuse cocaine are much more likely to experience an overdose than those who casually use cocaine.

The immediate and short-term effects of cocaine use and abuse are noticeable and very dangerous, but there is a slew of serious long-term effects of cocaine use and abuse.

People who snort cocaine in a powder form often experience nosebleeds, an inability to smell, trouble swallowing, and damage to their nasal passages and sinuses. People who consume crack cocaine, a crystallized rock form of cocaine, usually smoked. People who smoke crack often experience permanent damage to their mouths.

Cocaine can also be dissolved in water and injected intravenously. However, injecting cocaine can increase the risk of the user contracting diseases associated with sharing needles. These include illnesses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Any cocaine use for an extended amount of time can damage the gastrointestinal tract because of a lack of blood flow. In addition, heart tissue can become inflamed, ruptured, or permanently damaged by cocaine use.

The brain is an organ that is easily damaged and affected by cocaine. Cocaine expands the cerebral blood vessels in the brain. Therefore, cerebral bleeding is one of the biggest issues that can occur from long-term cocaine abuse. Cerebral bleeding is an incredibly serious issue. Parkinson’s disease can develop from long-term cocaine usage and is a disease that affects movement and can cause tremors.

Cocaine use can seriously affect brain functions such as decision-making, fine motor skills, memory, and cognitive speed. This type of brain damage is usually permanent.

How A Cocaine Overdose Points To An Underlying Addiction At Hand

If you or a loved one experiences a cocaine overdose, it is often a sign that they are probably struggling with underlying addiction. Cocaine addictions are very serious and must be addressed with caution and urgency.

While a cocaine overdose can occur the first time a person tries it, it is much more likely that someone who has been using cocaine for a while experiences an overdose. This is because as the individual’s tolerance for the drug increases over time, the person begins to use more to achieve the same effect.

Increasing the amount of cocaine they take puts them at a greater risk of an accidental overdose. In addition, there are differences in the potency of drugs from different dealers. The potency of one gram of cocaine from one dealer might be weaker than the potency of one gram from another dealer.

How A Cocaine Overdose Points To An Underlying Addiction At Hand

So using stronger drugs in the user’s normal amount could cause the individual to overdose. Dealers can also cut their drugs with other drugs, lacing them with more potent drugs to create a stronger response and increase sales. When drugs are cut with other drugs or laced, they can increase the risk for an overdose because the user might not be aware that the cocaine is contaminated.

Using contaminated drugs is a sign that the individual might be struggling with an addiction to cocaine.

Overdoses are serious and can affect the individual’s daily life if the consequences are severe. If you or a loved one has recently overdosed on cocaine, it is important to look at all the factors and determine whether they are struggling with an addiction to cocaine.

What To Do If You Have A Cocaine Overdose & How To Get Addiction Treatment Help

If you or a loved one experiences a cocaine overdose and believe there is an underlying cocaine addiction issue, you need to seek help. Dealing with an addiction to a severely addictive drug like cocaine is not something that can easily be done alone.

The most important step to recovering from cocaine addiction is recognizing that you or your loved one is addicted to cocaine. From there, you can take steps towards treatment, recovery, and eventual sobriety.

Asking a loved one if they are suffering from a cocaine addiction takes immense care, caution, and love. You must be gentle and approach the topic in a non-judgmental and loving way. Do not make them feel like they are being attacked. Instead, let them know you are there to support them in recovery.

If you have an addiction, communicate with trusted loved ones about your situation. Create a support team that will help you and cheers you on as you go. People who feel supported by their friends and family are less likely to relapse and more likely to stay sober.

Lastly, you must seek out professional treatment for your cocaine addiction. Professional help is one of the most effective and safe ways to address and treat cocaine addiction and make sobriety last. Sobriety is possible, so please reach out today to take this important step.

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Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cocaine DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published April 8, 2021. Accessed August 27, 2022.