Cocaine Intoxication

What is Cocaine Intoxication?

Cocaine originates from Erythroxylum coca plant that is found in many parts of the world. Available as a powder or liquid, it can be evaporated in water. This illegal substance upsets the central nervous system. When applied, it triggers the brain to release some advanced biochemicals, thereby stimulating a sense of intense pleasure. By abusing narcotic, other parts of the body are susceptible to severe, if not deadly effects.

As a street drug, cocaine enjoys pseudonyms like coke, flake, C, snow, bump, blow, toot, speedball, and so on. It can be taken by speedballing i.e. injecting it into the vein after mixing it with heroin. Or snorting, that is inhaling it through the nose. It can also be taken by smoking, which is called crack or freebase.

Cocaine is a significant drug abuse with implications around socioeconomic, public health, and dangerous medical predicaments. There is an estimation of 10 million people that are regular and occasional addicts. In the United States, more than 1,700 cocaine-induced deaths were recorded in 1987.

With its multiple mechanisms, cocaine intoxication can result in:

  • Using it with certain other drugs.
  • Taking too much or too concentrated a form of it.
  • Swallowing on purpose as a means of transport that can translate to severe intoxication and subsequent death in body packers.
  • Dehydration as a result of many side effects of taking it when the weather is hot.

When injected in excess, cocaine changes the physical and emotional states of the user, creating instant joy, increased energy, and enhanced self-esteem. This results in less self-consciousness and anxiety. Men may have problems with impotence since it affects sexual behavior. Small doses increase sexual arousal with easier erections and large doses delays organism.

The first pleasurable feelings always trigger the need for larger and larger doses until the user is emotionally and physically dependent on cocaine. Since its effects are short lived, this always leads to taking the drug continually over several hours, or even weeks until the situation of being intoxicated suffices.

Risk factors

From a novice to regular users, cocaine intoxication can happen to anyone. It is apparent that dire consequences await too much intake of the substance. The biggest risk factor of intoxication of cocaine is using it.

There are many reasons for cocaine intoxication. It can be intentional or accidental. Intoxication may stem from recreational or medical purposes. People with the intoxication of cocaine first struggle with addiction. Many of them first experience tolerance and dependence. Over the time, as they take the substance regularly, their body and brain become used to its presence, adjusting their functional abilities in an attempt to re-establish “˜normal.’

As this continues, the effects of the substance appear to become less active. Thus, it has to be taken more often or in larger quantities to experience the effects. Otherwise, stopping or reducing the intake of the drug may lead to pain, illness, or other symptoms of withdrawal.

Another major risk factor is combining the drug with other substances. The combination of depressant or sedating drugs may decrease the stimulant effects of cocaine, leading the user to more toxic level ingestion of each substance without recognizing the limitations of their intoxication. The combination of cocaine and stimulant such as Ritalin may result in fatal consequences after compounding the stimulant effects.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age – 20 -30 years
  • History of cocaine use
  • High ambient temperature
  • Poverty
  • Male gender
  • Cocaine body packing
  • Concomitant use of other sympathomimetics
  • Plasma cholinesterase deficiency

Symptoms of Cocaine Intoxication

Cocaine intoxication symptoms are as a result of the stimulant’s powerful effect that makes the user fatally overstimulate their brain and the entire body. During an intoxication process, a user may experience the natural effect of amplification like body temperature and increased heart rate. The experience of extreme stimulant effects may result in the breakdown of physiologic functions and some organs. When this happens, the brain and perhaps the entire body shut down and sometimes leading to death.

Symptoms may also include a blend of difficulty in concentration, confusion, high blood, restlessness, frequent absence, and increased physical activities. Other symptoms may include abnormal blood pressure that may be too high or low, fast breathing or increased heart rate, sweating or chills, grandiose statements or odd behavior as well as digestive problems or nausea.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Psychosis
  • Agitation or tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • Needle tracks
  • Secretive behavior
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Delusions
  • Wide mood swings
  • Euphoria (feeling too “˜high”)
  • Unusual defensiveness
  • Hyperexcitability isolation
  • Derilium

Extended duration of cocaine intoxication creates a sharp spiral out of check as the driving force for life converts to get the next hit of the drug. All these symptoms pave the way for stroke, heart attack, or seizure. High doses also cause muscle damage, kidney damage, depression, and some mental illnesses.

Cocaine Intoxication Causes

There may be no single cause of cocaine intoxication, a typical case of most mental-health related problems. A person’s risk of developing intoxication for cocaine is a combination of psychological, biological, and social factors. This can be explained by the additive environment of some families leading to the frequent use of the substance. This applies in particular to this nature, and most of the addicts recognize the risks of drug addiction.

Other cause of cocaine intoxication may be due to mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Antisocial personality disorder, a personality disorder, may also be the cause of it.

Other causes of the intoxication of the substance may include:

  • Once the narcotic is used, it mimics the side effects produced by these chemicals at an increased level, resulting in a “˜high’ experience.
  • After the utilization of the drug, the intoxication side is triggered. The “˜high’ link to the substance will last longer when a large concentration dose is used.
  • It accelerates the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals in the brain manage the feelings of alertness and pleasure.

Treatments for Cocaine Intoxication

There may be signs of aggression and disorientation in someone with cocaine toxicity. Delusions of persecution and hallucination are also parts of the signs. In the event of treatment, care providers must have caution since the user may attempt to harm. And to prevent hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis, physical restraint must be avoided. Otherwise, adequate personnel and caution must be used if the physical control is necessary.

Various treatments can be given to the user before taking them to the hospital for more appropriate treatments.

Some prehospital treatments include:

  • Provision of oxygen
  • Access to intravenous
  • Close monitoring of temperature and other minor vital signs
  • Dispense benzodiazepines for seizure management
  • Close monitoring of glucose level of patient with mental health status
  • Careful assessment of the patient’s breathing and circulation

In the hospital, certain tests and exams will be carried out which include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) and measuring platelets as well as white and red blood cells.
  • Urinalysis
  • Computerized tomography scan (CT) to detect possible head injuries.
  • Measurement of electrical activity in the heart through EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • Chest x-ray
  • CHEM-20 for liver function and blood chemistries
  • Evidence of heart attack or damages through cardiac enzymes

For emergency care or treatment, people with cocaine intoxication problem should be treated with initial stabilization and evaluation such as monitoring cardiac and pulse oximetry, attention to ABCs, and oxygen.

As for people with hyperthermic, the potential to restraint may arise. Early intervention and close monitoring may be required as temperature may get to critical level. Cocaine must be removed from nares if present.

Most essential for the health care giver is to monitor and measure the patient’s blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate, and some other vital signs.

Treatment may include:

  • IV fluids through a vein
  • Treatments for symptoms like a seizure, agitation, anxiety, pain, and nausea.
  • Breathing machine (ventilator) and breathing support such as a tube down the throat or oxygen
  • Other treatments for kidney complications, muscle, and brain.
  • Counseling to forestall potential future addiction or further drug abuse.

It is unfortunate that treatments for cocaine intoxication are continually ignored by most addicted people. It is estimated that fewer than 40% of such people receive any form of therapy. While this statistic is due to demographic characteristics or socioeconomic independence, there seems to be a connection with other mental health disorders of these people.

Abstinence, or recovery, is the only primary goal to treating this intoxication of cocaine. Others are rehabilitation or relapse prevention. The first step in this stance is for the addicted person to withdraw from using the drug. Then the need for help in lessening the effect of the withdrawal which is called detox or detoxification. There is a rehab facility where this kind of treatment is done, though it is can still be conducted in a hospital. Here, frequent medical assessments will be performed in line with medications used to decrease the withdrawal.

Cocaine Intoxication Prevention

The best way to prevent cocaine intoxication is to stop using the substance. Cocaine tolerance will build over the time for those who continue to use it. The more the understanding heightens, the more the binge patterns of use start to arise, leading to further solidifying of developing an addiction, and subsequently, greater the risk of intoxication.

The idea of polydrug use, that is, mixing cocaine with other drugs increases the risk of devastating complications. This case must be prevented at all costs. Users “˜take the edge off’ stimulation of cocaine during intoxication and this increase the blood’s content of cocaine up to 30% when drinking. Also, there is the formation of a cardiotoxic compound known as cocaethylene when the metabolism of cocaine is present in alcohol.

Another dangerous combination is cocaine with heroin know as speedball. This is meant to alleviate both heroine’s sedation and cocaine’s stimulation, thus the components of speedball act at biological odds with one another. A perfect instance is heroine reduces respiration while cocaine increases the need for oxygen.

Furthermore, the effort to relieve cocaine “˜crash’ may lead to the alarming amount of sedatives or mixing of alcohol and narcotics, which in itself has great potential of intoxication.

In a situation of underlying physical and mental health issues that need adequate treatment, health care provider must be kept abreast to provide alternatives and safety measures. There must be total adherence to taking medication dosage prescribe and frequency. Mixing medication must never happen. Aside from that, the patient must not purchase drugs from internet dealers or source or take someone else’s prescription. The best bet is to reach out to the appropriate personnel to address tolerance, concerns of addiction, and dependence.

Required help for cocaine intoxication may be the gap between life and death.

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Last Reviewed:
September 25, 2017
Last Updated:
December 07, 2017
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