12 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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Cocaine or “coke” is a naturally occurring, potentially fatal, highly addictive stimulant drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is grown mainly in the Andean region of South America. It is used as a local anesthetic during medical procedures, mainly during surgeries but has been used widely for illicit drug abuse. It is available as a white crystalline powder and is often mixed with cornstarch or talc to increase the profit margin. It is a readily available street drug and may also be found in combination with amphetamines or opioids.

Most of the cocaine-related deaths occur due to cocaine being tempered with synthetic opioids. Cocaine can be rubbed on the gums, snorted, injected, or smoked. Freebase cocaine is known as “crack” and is processed to make rock crystals. This rock crystal is then heated and vaporized and inhaled directly into the lungs. It derives the name crack from the cracking sounds made by the rock as it is heated. Other street names include snow, flakes, twinkie, nose candy, white dragon, and rock. Cocaine addiction can have an extremely negative impact on a user’s social, personal, and professional life. 

Although cocaine use may start as harmless experimentation, it has the potential to escalate into a life-threatening situation with disastrous and often fatal results. Moreover, it can have a negative impact on one’s social, financial, personal, and professional relationships. It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose as prompt recognition, and early treatment can save your life. Some of the signs and symptoms include agitation, extreme confusion, sweating, hallucinations, and fever. These people may become delirious and often have high blood pressure.

Cocaine Addiction Symptoms

Cocaine sensitizes the heart to the action of adrenaline and can disturb the heart’s electrical activity, leading to fatal arrhythmias. Other fatal complications due to overdose may include heart attacks due to a severe spasm of the blood vessels supplying the heart. Cocaine users may develop severe chest pain radiating to the left arm or jaw, indicating a myocardial infarction or a heart attack. In addition, it may cause a stroke due to decreased blood flow to the brain or brain hemorrhage due to high blood pressure. 

Cocaine is a psychostimulant and is highly addictive. The amount of drugs needed to overdose depends on a lot of factors. How long have you been using the drug, or how much tolerance have you developed? People who have been using it for a long time may even tolerate 1gm of the drug without any ill effects. On the contrary, people with hypersensitivity to the actions of cocaine may have a fatal overdose from less than 30 mg.

The minimum lethal dose is 1.2 gm, but there are many other factors involved. Cocaine is often mixed with talc or cornstarch to increase the profit margin. The purer the drug, the greater the chance of overdose. Most people snort cocaine, but it may also be mixed with a liquid and injected directly into the veins. Intravenous use is associated with a greater risk of overdose. 

Factors that increase the risk of overdose include if cocaine is used with alcohol or if cocaine is mixed with other drugs, particularly opioids. Adulterated cocaine may contain different quantities of opioids, and what seems to be a safe drug may potentially be fatal the next day. If you are reading this, you or your loved ones may be worried about cocaine use. Please do not be afraid to seek help, as cocaine abuse is treatable. Our luxury center provides the best inpatient treatment for cocaine overdose and cocaine use. Seek help today to prevent any long-lasting damage! 

Cocaine produces a high minutes after its use, and a rapid crash follows it. Within a few minutes of taking the drug, there is an intense feeling of euphoria, mental alertness, sexual arousal, and a sense of being invincible. However, the user feels low within a short time resulting in panic, depression, and anxiety. People may use the drug again and again in the hope of recapturing the same high. This may result in an accidental overdose. The symptoms of cocaine overdose may include the following: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Tremors and twitches 
  • Agitation 
  • Sweating 
  • Severe chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Stroke or weakness of one part of the body 
  • Irritability 
  • Restlessness 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Tachycardia or palpitations 
  • An extreme change in mood

Cocaine exerts its effects mainly on the heart, lungs, and the brain. 

Coke Effects on the heart

Cocaine is the perfect heart attack drug. It causes an intense spasm of blood vessels supplying the heart (the coronary arteries). This cuts off the blood supply to the heart resulting in myocardial infarction. It may also cause stiffening of the vessels supplying the heart, causing an imbalance between oxygen supply and demand, resulting in angina. In addition, it sensitizes the heart to the action of adrenaline and increases the tendency to develop cardiac arrhythmias, which may prove to be fatal.

Crack is a type of processed cocaine into a rock crystal that is inhaled through smoking. Long-term use of cocaine produces irreversible changes in the walls of the blood vessels. These patients may have stiff arteries and thick heart muscles, leading to an increased risk of a heart attack—moreover, chronic use of cocaine results in irreversible thickening of the vessel wall leading to hypertension. Ultimately hypertension may lead to heart failure, which is due to improper functioning of the pumping action of the heart. 

Effects on the brain

Cocaine is a stimulant and initially produces euphoria and a short-lived but potent “high.” However, an overdose may cause impaired blood flow to this vital organ resulting in a stroke. Arrhythmias may also cause perfusion abnormalities in the brain and increase the risk of a cardiovascular accident. High blood pressure associated with cocaine toxicity may result in rupture of the vessels supplying the brain resulting in brain hemorrhage. 

A toxic build of cocaine in the brain may result in the over-firing of the neurons or nerve cells. This manifests as tremors, seizures, and jaw clenching. Psychiatric manifestations include extreme mood changes, hysterical behavior, agitation, and marked restlessness. 

Effects on the lungs

Cocaine use can lead to an acute spasm of the bronchioles (bronchospasm) manifesting as dyspnea or increased work of breathing. Patients with an overdose may develop a pneumothorax. 

Most people have the misconception that cocaine is safe and may start using the drug experimentally. However, it is very addictive and soon ensnares its users in its trap. Cocaine misuse can be rapidly fatal. Cocaine use has increased quickly recently, and this has led to an increased incidence of cocaine-related deaths. Around 14666 people died from a cocaine overdose in the US in 2018. Cocaine can cause death by cutting off the blood supply to the heart causing a fatal heart attack of arrhythmias. It may also lead to an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke that may be fatal. For people who are sensitive to cocaine, even a minute dose can kill you. 

“ My twin died from cocaine use, and I couldn’t stop her” Jennifer Russel talks about how cocaine overtook her sister’s life. “My sister started using cocaine after she went to art school. The pressure to be creative, get good grades, prove to our parents that she was a success finally took her life” Jennifer Russel and her twin Stella chose two different paths in life. While Jennifer decided to become a vet, Stella went to an art school. Busy schedules meant that they saw each other only during the holidays. “Stella seemed so preppy and full of energy at Christmas. She was always ready to do anything, but now, when I look back, I realize there were tell-tale signs that I had overlooked. She was edgy, full of wild ideas, and paranoid. The next time I saw her was when she was hooked up to the monitor in the hospital after suffering a fatal heart attack. I have always wondered if I had recognized her abuse, I could have done something to help her. My twin was screaming for help, and I didn’t do anything. I was too wrapped in my own life to look beyond the superficial.”

Stories like Stella’s are familiar. Thousands of people lose their lives because of cocaine use every year. In 2018 only, close to fifteen thousand people died as a consequence of drug overdose. People who live may suffer permanent damage. 

Tom’s story is equally heartbreaking. “I started using cocaine as a way to relieve my stress. I had joined the job in a prestigious firm as a Junior financial analyst and felt that everyone was smarter than me. I had a hard time fitting in and finishing my workload. A friend offered me some cocaine at a party, and I was hooked. I started using more and more till a time came when people at work were gossiping and probably knew. I became even more stressed out and took some cocaine laced with fentanyl. All I remember is a blinding headache and severe vomiting before passing out. Later I was told that I had a seizure and was taken to the emergency department. My blood pressure was sky high at that time. I suffered a brain hemorrhage and could not move the left side of my body. I have regained some of the function with physiotherapy and can now walk with crutches, but I lost my job, my girlfriend, and suffered a big financial setback. My family supported me during this time, and now I have been cocaine-free for the last 6 years.” Tom had a chance to turn his life around, but not everyone is that lucky. People may lose their loved ones due to their drug habits. If you are reading this, you may be worried about suffering from an overdose. Seek help before it’s too late! 

Cocaine is taken because it has a short half-life and produces instant feelings of euphoria and exhilaration. An overdose occurs when the user takes in a large amount of drug or repeatedly takes it to recreate the exact effects he craves. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of cocaine use is the first step in avoiding an overdose. Look for telltale signs of anxiety, euphoria, restlessness, and paranoia in users. Frequent runny nose, white powder around the nostrils, financial troubles, and getting late for work repeatedly with violent mood swings, wild ideas, and irritability are other clues that may point to drug use. Seeking help is the first step in preventing an overdose. Our state-of-the-art addiction center has carefully hand-selected counselors and physicians who will help treat you and your loved ones in the luxury and comfort you deserve. 

If you are still using cocaine, do not use it with alcohol as it increases the chances of an overdose. Increasing the dose to more than 1.2 grams per day can also be deadly. Cocaine, in combination with other drugs, particularly opioids, can also be harmful. The best way to prevent an overdose is to stop using it altogether. 

If you encounter someone having an overdose, please do not wait and call 911 immediately. Remember every second counts, and any delay in seeking help can have potentially disastrous consequences. If the user has collapsed and you are qualified to do so, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If the patient has a seizure, please turn them on the left side to stop them from inhaling their vomitus and getting aspiration pneumonia. Do not put anything in their mouth.

Cool the body temperature with tepid water sponging and wet towels. These simple measures can be beneficial in saving someone’s life until qualified help arrives. Shifting the patient to the hospital or a skilled medical facility is a priority. 

Once the patient is in the hospital, targeted therapy can be provided. Cooling measures are used until they are no longer needed. Alcohol swabs in the axilla and intravenous antipyretic drugs may be used to prevent the body from overheating. Sedatives are given to control anxiety and high blood pressure. Cardiac monitoring may be required to detect any disturbance of the heart’s electrical rhythm, which needs specified anti-arrhythmic drugs. Heart attacks are managed with appropriate medications. Lowering the blood pressure decreases the risk of stroke and heart attack. 

If you or your loved ones are ready to break free from the shackles of addiction, we are here to help—our highly qualified, empathetic and caring, high-quality, evidence-based care to those who need it the most. We will provide appropriate treatment without compromising on your luxury and comfort. Remember that help is only one click away. Reach out to us for more information. We will be happy to answer any questions, and your information will be kept confidential. 

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