Cocaine Overdose: Dangers of Snorting and Taking Too Much

Last Updated: December 17, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant and one powerful substance one can easily get addicted to. Hence, it is one of the most commonly abused drugs. The substance derived from the plant is originally native to South America, but this drug’s spread of abuse is now global.

Take a deep look at the factors surrounding cocaine overdose and the possible effects of the situation, such as snorting cocaine. Contextual examples are also cited at various points, and insight is shared about the statistics and numbers for overdose cases in the country over the years.

Read on to review the signs to look out for in the event of a coke overdose, the amounts that can lead to an overdose, and the possibility of fatalities in relation to cocaine intoxication. To round things up, take a brief look at possible treatment options and how these treatments work to help patients get back to good health and into normal society.

Dangers of Snorting Cocaine

Snorting cocaine powder ravages the body from the inside out. Besides the physiological, neurological, and psychological symptoms, the drug also produces a range of long-term effects depending on the route of administration.

The following are non-exhaustive lists of common and less common dangers associated with snorting cocaine:

Common Effects

  • blockages of nasal airways
  • chronic nosebleeds
  • chronic runny nose
  • crusted skin in the nasal passage
  • collapsed nasal passages
  • damage to the cilia (hairs inside nostrils)
  • inflammation of the nasal tissues
  • loss of sense of smell
  • recurrent sinus infections
  • sores in the mucous membrane of the nose
  • whistling nose
  • aggravation of allergies
  • difficulty swallowing
  • lung infections
  • onset or worsening of snoring

Less Common Effects

  • bone loss
  • hole in the roof of the mouth
  • sore throat
  • vision impairments and blindness
  • toxic shock
  • hole in the nasal septum (perforated septum)
  • higher rates of tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • brain abscesses
  • hoarse voice
  • spinal fluid leaks out of the sinuses
  • chronic halitosis

The age-adjusted rates of coke o.d. in the country were on the same level between 2009 and 2013. However, there was a growing concern as the numbers have tripled between 2013 and 2018. In 2018, there were 14,666 reported cocaine-related overdose deaths in the country, and it shows that the risk of cocaine overdose is not only still palpable, but it is also continually growing.

woman experiencing symptoms of cocaine overdose.

Cocaine Overdose Overview

The substance is prevalent among illicit drug users because of the short-term delivery and feelings that come with usage. However, an overdose on cocaine is always a potentially fatal situation, and many drug abuse-related deaths have been attributed to cocaine intoxication overtime.

Can Overdose on Cocaine Be Deadly?

Data shows that 500,000 users have had trips to the ER for cocaine overdose symptoms in 2011.

One of the leading causes of cocaine overdose deaths is related to the substance’s cardiovascular effect on the body. Tachycardia, especially, is common. When the heart starts working too much without having the needed resources, that may result in a heart attack. The lungs can also suffer tremendously, and a person can die from respiratory failure.

A cerebral hemorrhage is another possible cause of death. In addition, seizures are also lethal. What’s more, cocaine overdose leads to an increase in body temperature and death, respectively. In fact, all organs are in danger, and when one considers all the accidents caused by coke abuse, the death rates are alarming.

Some Cocaine-Related Deaths Among Celebrities in Recent Times Include:

  • Mac Miller – an American rapper, died at the age of 26 in 2018
  • Jose Fernandez – a Cuban-American baseball player, died at 24 in 2016
  • Scott Weiland – an American musician, died at age 48 in 2015
  • Chris Kelly (Kriss Kross) – an American rapper, died at age 34 in 2013
  • Whitney Houston – an American singer and actress, died at age 48 in 2012

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms

Being able to identify the symptoms and signs can be the difference-maker between life and death. Cocaine nose affects a large number of people that abuse the substance, and some other symptoms are:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest Pain
  • Increased sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Aggressive behavior and agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors and chills
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Body aches and terrible headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures and delirium
  • Coma
  • Increased heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure

The most dangerous combination is a drug mix known as speedball – the combination of coke and heroin, usually with a fatal outcome. Another dangerous combination is mixing coke with alcohol. The combination forms a toxin called cocaethylene, which leads to different physiological and psychological problems and death.

Man lies in coma and his wife in despair sitting near.

Cocaine OD Response

However, it is not enough to know about these symptoms. One also has to know how to respond when these signs are noticed. The most effective way to respond to noticing an overdose on cocaine in anybody is to immediately call 911 for help and seek professional medical attention for such persons. However, if one is caught in a situation where there is a waiting time until medical help arrives.

There are a Few Steps that Can be Taken During the Wait:

  • Talk to the person continuously to keep them awake and conscious
  • Turn the person onto their side if breathing difficulties are noticed
  • Remove any objects that the person could hit with their head or limbs – especially if seizures occur.
  • Apply a cold compress to the person’s side and back of their neck, forehead, and wrists to reduce body temperature.
  • Perform CPR if necessary and only if proper knowledge of this procedure is known

How Does Cocaine Overdose Treatment Work?

Depending on the severity of drug overdose, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a few days before getting the go-ahead to move to rehab. While at the hospital, doctors may use benzos to lower the blood pressure and deal with high energy and anxiety levels.  Acetaminophen can be used to reduce body temperature.

Additionally, IV fluids may be administered to guard against dehydration, alongside the medications prescribed to control anxiety, nausea, high blood pressure and other cocaine withdrawal symptoms. The patient may be put on a respirator if the case is severe – at least until they can breathe properly on their own again. These steps will typically continue until the substance exits the person’s system and vital signs become stable again.


Page Sources

  1. The University of Arizona. Cocaine Overdose. https://methoide.fcm.arizona.edu/infocenter/index.cfm?stid=217
  2. Richards J. R., Le J. K. Cocaine Toxicity. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430976/
  3. Paone D. Trends in polysubstance and cocaine overdose deaths –New York City. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 2019. https://ndews.umd.edu/sites/ndews.umd.edu/files/NDEWS-Webinar-Trends-in-cocaine-overdose-deaths-NYC-PAONE.pdf.
  4. The Dangers Of Snorting Cocaine (Insufflation). Isaac Alexis. 2019. https://vertavahealth.com/cocaine/insufflation/
  5. Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2011. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.htm
  6. Cocaine Toxicity. John R. Richards, Jacqueline K. Le. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430976/
  7. Signs of Drug Overdose and What to Do if the Situation Occurs. Banyan Treatment Center. https://www.banyantreatmentcenter.com/2018/01/10/signs-of-drug-overdose/
  8. Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine. National Centre for Health Statistics. 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db384.htm
  9. Drug-Related Deaths - Notable Celebrities. Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/celebrity_deaths.html

Published on: March 15th, 2017

Updated on: December 17th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.