Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose is a real and potentially deadly threat to anyone who uses cocaine, whether they are first time users or have used cocaine many times in the past, and deaths from cocaine overdoses have been on the rise in recent years.


It is important to recognize the symptoms of a cocaine overdose because immediate medical care increases a person's chances of survival. If a person may be suffering from a cocaine overdose, call for emergency medical help immediately.

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that has powerful mental and physical effects on its users. Some of the physical effects of cocaine can be deadly, especially if the cocaine user overdoses. Because the strength and chemical makeup of cocaine changes from batch to batch, any time a person uses cocaine they take the risk of a cocaine overdose. A cocaine overdose often causes death due to heart attack or stroke, though an overdose of cocaine can also damage other organs and body functions.

The use of cocaine among young people has been declining in recent years, but the number of cocaine-related deaths has actually increased in many parts of the US. The cocaine statistics about cocaine overdoses and deaths point to a worrisome problem:

  • Deaths from all drug overdoses have increasing rapidly in the last ten years, and over 25,000 people die each year of drug overdoses. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose is the second leading cause of accidental injury deaths in the United States, and cocaine is the second most common drug causing an overdose, after prescription painkillers.
  • Cocaine and other drug overdoses are increasing among white adult men and women living in the suburbs, which is a change from the historic statistics of higher cocaine and drug use among young African-American city dwellers. In some cases, these are people who got addicted to cocaine when they were younger and are still using the drug, while others began using it as adults.
  • Cocaine overdoses are frequently related to combining cocaine with other drugs. Recently, more cocaine users have been mixing cocaine with prescription painkillers, which increases the risk of a deadly overdose.

Though anyone using cocaine may suffer a cocaine overdose, there are some conditions that make an adverse reaction or cocaine overdose more likely:

  • Using cocaine with other drugs, including alcohol and prescription drugs
  • Using an especially pure form of cocaine
  • Using cocaine that has toxic substances added as fillers
  • Some studies have suggested that cocaine-related deaths are more likely to occur in warm or hot weather because of cocaine's effects on body temperature

Cocaine overdose can happen quickly, and a person suffering from a cocaine overdose needs immediate medical attention. Some signs that a person may be suffering from a cocaine overdose, or having a cocaine-induced heart attack or stroke, include:

  • Feeling anxious or panicked
  • Anger or aggression
  • Insomnia, or inability to sleep
  • Seeing, hearing, or believing things that are not real
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest or head pain
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Excessive body heat and/or sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

If a person has taken cocaine and may be suffering from an overdose, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately. The operators at 9-1-1 or the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can give advice on first aid and help you determine if the person needs an ambulance or should be driven to the hospital. Remember that no one who has been using drugs or alcohol should drive.

There is no treatment for an overdose of cocaine, but medical professionals can sometimes combat the effects of a cocaine overdose. Some of the treatments used may lower the person's body temperature and blood pressure, prevent or manage seizures, heart attacks, and strokes, assist in breathing, and treat severe psychological reactions.

Despite these medical interventions, a cocaine overdose can still be fatal. The best way to prevent a cocaine overdose is to avoid using cocaine or to get treatment for a person who is using cocaine.


The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, "Cocaine" [online]

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States" [online]

National Institute on Drug Abuse, "NIDA InfoFacts: Cocaine" [online]

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, "Drug Abuse First Aid" [online]

American Heart Association, "Heart Attack Symptoms and Warning Signs" and "Stroke Warning Signs" [online]

The Palm Beach Post, "Cocaine: Deadlier Than Ever" [online]

Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and Other Drugs, Addiction Journal, "Cocaine-related Deaths Rise in Warm Weather" [online]

Related Article: Effects of Injecting Cocaine >>