Cocaine overdose

Chest | Emergency Medicine | Cocaine overdose (Disease)


Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is prepared from the leaves of the coca plant. Cocaine is a strong stimulant to the nervous system, with effects that can last from 15–30 minutes to an hour, depending on the way of administration.

The signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose are related to the psychological and stimulant effects of the drug. The classic signs are high blood pressure (hypertension) with a fast pulse (tachycardia) and an increased rate of breathing (tachypnea). This occurs with agitation, confusion, irritability, sweating, and hyperthermia (increased temperature). Cocaine is also highly pyrogenic, because the stimulation and increased muscular activity cause greater heat production. Heat loss is inhibited by the intense vasoconstriction. Sometimes seizures may occur. Anxiety, paranoia and restlessness are also frequent. Stroke, seizures, fever, infection, kidney failure, liver hepatitis, pneumonia, thrombophlebitis (clotting of the veins), and HIV are other potential complications of cocaine use and cocaine overdose.

Causes and Risk factors

Cocaine intoxication refers to the immediate effects of cocaine on the body. Although cocaine intoxication and cocaine dependence can be present in the same individual, they present with different sets of symptoms. Cocaine overdose can also present as a heart attack with chest pain.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Cocaine overdose is treated as a medical emergency. Treatment often consists of administering a benzodiazepine sedation agent, such as diazepam (Valium) to decrease the elevated heart rate and blood pressure, but here is no officially approved specific antidote for cocaine overdose. ...