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Quickly Recognize a Cocaine Overdose (& What to Do)

Most people who take cocaine want to experiment with it. The substance is popular because it is said to make people feel alert and energetic.

It is important to remember that cocaine is scheduled in many parts of the world, which means it can mostly be purchased illegally.

Buying cocaine in this manner increases the chances of triggering negative health outcomes, such as cardiac issues, withdrawal, and overdose. This is true even when buying cocaine in its purest form.

The only way to truly prevent an overdose is to abstain from using cocaine. But it is inevitable that some people will take cocaine even when cautioned against it.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cocaine-related overdoses rose by 52.4 percent per data from 2015 and 2016.

Recognizing the signs of an overdose could allow you to help someone you know quickly before it’s too late. Learn what to look for and what to do.


Taking too much cocaine is not just about the amount that is ingested. It also involves understanding how long it stays in the bloodstream.

The Better Health Channel says the effects of cocaine last between 15 and 30 minutes. Cocaine has a half-life of two to four hours.

Because cocaine is not legal in many areas, there is no maximum or minimum recommended dosage. And, because it is not regulated, it’s tough to know what is actually in each batch purchased on the street.

Everyone is different, but commenters on forums such as Reddit have self-reported that 1 gram is too much for some people in a span of 1 to 3 hours. Other users report that they never go above half a gram per session.

Keep in mind that the scientific community has not studied the effects of these amounts. These are just based on anecdotal user experiences.

If cocaine is combined with other substances of abuse, such as alcohol, a small amount of cocaine might trigger an overdose.Personal factors, such as age, weight, sex, and co-occurring medical and mental health conditions, can all factor into the amount of cocaine that can trigger an overdose. There isn’t a set amount; it’s different for each person.

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Again, the best way to prevent an overdose is to avoid cocaine use altogether. If you opt to use cocaine anyway, some things you can do to avoid an overdose are listed below.

  • Do not binge
  • Don’t succumb to cravings during withdrawal
  • Don’t use just any straw/item to snort cocaine
  • Pay attention to your nose/dilute cocaine
  • Avoid mixing cocaine with other substances
  • Learn more about the signs of an overdose
  • Take care of your body
  • Know what you are taking


The signs of a cocaine overdose are similar to those of an overdose from other drugs. Per MedlinePlus, look out for these signs if you know someone has taken cocaine:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Overexcitement
  • Talking incoherently

More serious indicators of an overdose include the following:

  • Incontinence
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating and/or higher temperature
  • Coma


Many people are afraid to call 911 if they are in the presence of illegal drugs. However, calling for help if you suspect someone has overdosed on cocaine could save their life.

Many states have laws in place to protect those who call in an overdose or attempt to help someone who is overdosing.

The most important thing you can do if someone is overdosing is call 911. The DEA says that doing nothing could result in the person dying or becoming injured. When calling for help, be ready to provide information, such as:

  • How much cocaine was taken
  • Whether it was mixed with something else
  • How long ago the drug was taken
  • When it was ingested
  • Any specifics you know about the person

This information will help professionals address the overdose better.

As you wait for help, the 911 dispatcher may also instruct you to help until the paramedics arrive.

They may ask you to check the person’s pulse or breathing, or to move them onto their side if you can.

Try to stay calm and follow their directions closely.

Cocaine being cut by a razor in black and white

As soon as emergency dispatchers arrive, they will take over.


(July 2014) How to Prevent a Drug Overdose. Psychology Today. from

(May 2016) How is cocaine overdose treated? National Institute on Drug Abuse. from

(December 2018) Drug Overdose Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. from

(December 2018) Understanding the Epidemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. from

(March 2018) U.S. drug overdose deaths continue to rise; increase fueled by synthetic opioids. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from

Cocaine Overdose. The University of Arizona, Family and Community Medicine. from

(March 2017) Cocaine intoxication. Medline Plus. from

(July 2018) What is cocaine? National Institute on Drug Abuse. from

(June 2017) Cocaine. Better Health Channel. from

(November 2018) Harm Reduction Strategies When Using Cocaine. Verywell Mind. from

(May 2016) This is what cocaine does to your body and brain. Independent. from

(March 2018) Is 1 gram of coke in 3 hours too fast/too much? Reddit. from

(January 2018) How much is too much cocaine? Reddit. from

Drug Scheduling. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. from from

When Your Friend Overdoses on Drugs. Just Think Twice. from

(September 2017) How to Best Handle an Overdose. University of Utah Health. from

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