Most people think of cocaine and other stimulants as relatively safer drugs. With a lower abuse potential than heroin and methamphetamines, cocaine is often seen as a casual use “hard drug”. But, cocaine can be significantly dangerous.
In fact, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. And, in 2020, 19,447 people died of cocaine overdose. That’s more than double cocaine-related deaths in 2015, when the number was just 6,784.
If you or a loved one is abusing cocaine, it’s important to take the drug seriously. Practicing drug safety, not mixing drugs with other drugs or with risky activities, and getting help if you’re struggling are important.
A cocaine overdose happens when you take so much cocaine that your blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac rhythm are overwhelmed. For most people, this happens by means of stacking too many doses too close together. For example, if you’re snorting cocaine, doing too many lines without waiting for the old ones to wear off. In other cases, it can happen because you attempt to do too much cocaine at once.
Most people experience cocaine overdose in the form of cardiac and heart problems. In some cases, it can be impossible or difficult to tell from a stroke or heart attack occurring from other means.
In each of these cases, it’s extremely important to call the ambulance and get yourself or your loved one to a hospital right away. In this case, you can receive medical care, likely without a police report being filed about illegal drug use. If someone isn’t breathing, using CPR may keep them alive until the ambulance arrives.
Unfortunately, there’s no set limit of how much cocaine you can have before you overdose. Instead, cocaine overdose is often caused by your heart struggling to keep up. Here, dozens of different issues can contribute to the problem.
Eventually, there is no way to reduce the risk of overdosing with cocaine to 0%. Individuals in good health who use moderate amounts of cocaine are at less risk than someone who has poor heart health and uses a lot of cocaine. However, there is no safe dose of cocaine. You are never not at risk.
However, this also means that cocaine overdose is not always caused by cocaine toxicity – where you have too much of the drug in your system. Instead, it’s caused by the drug’s normal effects on the body changing over time. You might have a good experience and a bad experience with the same dose.
Anytime you use cocaine, you put yourself at risk of an overdose. However, some factors definitely increase the risk of overdose. For example, drinking, mixing cocaine with other substances, and using over longer periods.
Drinking during cocaine use increases risks of overdose in two ways. The first is that alcohol lowers inhibitions. This reduces your ability to moderate and use the drug in a controlled manner. The more you get drunk, the more likely you are to binge on another substance that might make you feel good. This means that combining alcohol with cocaine will almost always increase the amount of cocaine you use in a single sitting.
In addition, alcohol affects central nervous system, meaning it impacts your ability to breathe and your heart rate. That can overlap with cocaine, which also impacts the central nervous system, breathing, and heart rate. The result can be that you’re temperature, heart rate, and breathing are even more dysregulated. This puts even more stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your chances of overdose.
The longer you use, the more likely something is to go wrong. That’s especially true if you start using more frequently throughout the night. Here, a cocaine high usually lasts for 15-30 minutes. But, cocaine can stay in the body for up to 3 days after you take it. The more you take, the more cocaine builds up in your system. Therefore, the higher your risk of overdose.
For example, if you take a dose and wait 30 minutes and then take another, you’ll have more cocaine in your system, even if the doses were the same size. Over the course of a night, that can add up quite significantly, leading to an overdose.
Cocaine is more and more often sold mixed or cut with other drugs. For example, drugs like fentanyl are significantly cheaper to mass produce than cocaine. That can lead to drug dealers selling cocaine that’s been cut with illicit fentanyl. You might also get baby powder or talc cut with fentanyl sold as cocaine. Mixing drugs will always increase the risk of overdose, because it increases the number of side-effects. In addition, drugs play off of each other in difficult-to-predict ways. Finally, if drugs like fentanyl are involved, your risk of overdose greatly increases, simply because fentanyl is extremely strong and extremely easy to overdose on.
If you or a loved one is using cocaine, it’s important to assess if you need help. Cocaine is an illicit drug, using it can get you into legal trouble. Therefore, if you’re using it, you have a problem. Even if you’re not facing addiction, it may be important to seek out treatment, to identify the underlying problems behind drug abuse, and to get help. Rehab and treatment can help you to resolve those problems, to develop a healthier approach to drugs, and build better coping mechanisms.
Asana Recovery offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services at our center located in Orange County, California. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.