Warning Signs of a Crack Cocaine Overdose

Crack cocaine, commonly referred to as crack, is made from cocaine after it has been processed with baking soda or ammonium salts, which form into a rock substance. Although the two drugs cause similar effects, crack is considered to be a more potent form of smokable cocaine. When people smoke crack, they are at a higher risk of developing crack addiction or substance abuse versus cocaine use.

Crack poses a major health risk. According to a 2014 case study, an average of 5,500 people died from crack overdoses. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a crack overdose can help save a life.

Red text on a blue background displaying the three key factors contributing to a crack cocaine overdose.

Key Takeaways

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive drug that poses psychological and physical life-threatening risks.

When someone shows symptoms and signs of a crack overdose, it is important to seek immediate medical attention for stabilization. Contact Indiana Center for Recovery for more information.

Understanding Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive form of cocaine made from the cocoa plant in South America. Even though crack and cocaine have similar effects, they differ due to their chemical composition and method of production.

Crack is made from cocaine after it has been processed with baking soda or ammonium salt that forms into a crystallized rock. The rock substance is typically smoked, whereas cocaine powder is snorted. When crack is smoked, people immediately feel an intense rush because the smoke reaches the brain quicker and causes a high.

When crack hits the brain, it triggers the body to release dopamine, an effect associated with pleasure and reward. The rush of dopamine produces a strong yet short-lived euphoric and energized feeling where people tend to have an increase of focus and a sense of invincibility to danger.

Along with an elusive sensation, using the drug also comes with danger. For example, it causes blood vessels to constrict, increases heart rate and blood pressure, and disrupts the normal functioning of the central nervous system.

Long-term crack use poses many severe health problems. The constriction of blood vessels can cause heart attacks and strokes, which can result in death. Elevation in heart rate and blood pressure strains the cardiovascular system and can lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

Crack use may also cause respiratory issues. When crack is smoked, it irritates the lungs and airways, which can cause chronic coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Long-term crack use may inflict threatening risks to the respiratory system from infections and lung damage.

Not only can crack use affect people physically but also mentally. Because of the immediate, intense release of dopamine, it disrupts the brain’s reward and pleasure system. When the system is disrupted, people are at risk of addiction and dependence.

People addicted to crack cocaine typically experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms and are unable to stop or control their substance use. This cycle often leads to the development of mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Defining a Crack Cocaine Overdose

An overdose of drugs is life-threatening. This occurs when individuals take a higher dosage of a drug than their body can handle. In the case of a crack cocaine overdose, serious health complications occur that can result in death if not rapidly treated. Because of its potency and its addictive nature, crack inflicts heightened risks of overdose on its users.

An overdose is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment. When users are overdosing, they experience overwhelming effects from the drug and often show a combination of symptoms and health complications. Elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures, and respiratory distress are signs of an overdose.

Crack also affects the central nervous system, relating to high dopamine levels. Individuals can take an intolerable dose for the brain to handle. When this happens, their body is unable to withstand the excessive stimulation, and can result in an overdose.

How Overdosing Occurs: 3 Key Factors

There are several factors that lead users to a crack overdose. Below are the three key factors that cause an overdose to occur.

Purity and Potency

Street drugs sold illicitly are often “cut” or adulterated with other chemicals or substances to increase profit. Individuals typically are unaware that the crack they smoke is laced, putting them at a higher risk. These added chemical substances are toxic and can provoke an overdose.

Dosage of Crack Use

Another factor that contributes to overdose is the amount of crack use. Because the short-lived high can cause a pattern of binge use, people with crack use disorder typically repeatedly take large doses within a short period. This pattern can inflict a crack overdose.

Tolerance Level

From regular crack use, the body begins to develop a tolerance to the drug, which requires a higher dose to achieve the desired effect, putting the body at overdose risk. However, even people smoking crack for the first time are at risk of overdose as well if they take too high of a dose or consume a highly potent batch.

Physical Effects of a Crack Cocaine Overdose

A crack overdose causes many physical and severe concerns. When excessive amounts are used, the cardiovascular system is overwhelmed and can cause heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, chest pain, and even heart failure. The intense stimulation of the drug strains the heart, causing a dangerous elevation in heart rate and blood pressure. The strain causes the heart to be overworked and become fatigued and weakened.

Crack overdoses can also result in seizures, extreme body temperature fluctuations, and respiratory distress. When the effects of the substance produce an abnormal surge of electrical activity in the brain, people are at risk of seizures. The severity of seizures varies from mild muscle twitches to full-body convulsions that cause harm. When extreme body temperatures fluctuate, people are at risk of experiencing hyperthermia, causing organ damage and even death.

Psychological Effects of a Cocaine Overdose

Crack overdoses also cause extreme psychological concerns. Users experience psychological effects from a crack overdose that include anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, extreme agitation, and delirium. These symptoms can be dangerous, leading to self-harm and harm to others.

Crack hallucinations can cause users to have visual or auditory scenarios that are imaginary even though the individual believes it is real. These hallucinations typically are incredibly realistic and vivid and cause distress and confusion.

Crack also causes agitation, making users feel restless and unable to concentrate or sit still. When people experience hyperactivity, it can lead to delirium, which provokes individuals to feel confused, disoriented, and make irrational decisions.

Crack Cocaine Overdose Warning Signs

When a person is overdosing, their body is pathologically overstimulated, and this can lead to fatal symptoms and disturbances.

Below is a list of crack overdose warning signs to look out for.

In many cases, when people are experiencing crack overdose symptoms, and they rapidly increase, sudden death can occur. If users are experiencing these symptoms, it is vital to get medical help immediately to avoid death and other possible damage to their organs and muscles.

What to Do in Case of Crack Cocaine Overdose

If you suspect that you or another person is experiencing a crack overdose, call 911 right away for emergency help. The faster medical attention is received, the higher the chance of survival.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the common signs of a crack cocaine overdose?

The common signs of a crack cocaine overdose include seizures, intense sweating, extreme agitation, difficulty breathing, and irregular heartbeat. Other serious symptoms include hallucinations, high blood pressure, and hyperthermia. If these symptoms escalate, it can result in death. If you or someone is experiencing any of the symptoms, call 911 immediately for medical attention.

How quickly can symptoms of crack cocaine overdose show?

The symptoms of crack cocaine overdose can show within minutes of use due to the rapid absorption into the bloodstream. The arrival of symptoms can vary depending on the amount and potency of the use.

How dangerous is a crack cocaine overdose?

A crack cocaine overdose is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Overdoses can cause serious health risks such as heart attacks, seizures, and psychosis. Immediate medical attention is required because these symptoms can cause death or severe organ damage.

What to do if someone is showing signs of a crack cocaine overdose?

If someone is showing signs of a crack cocaine overdose, it is vital to call 911 immediately. When waiting for medical help to arrive, try to keep the person calm. Never try to treat a drug overdose yourself.

Can a person experience an overdose from their first use of crack cocaine?

Yes, a person can experience an overdose from their first use of crack cocaine. Because the drug’s potency is unpredictable, every use is risky, whether you are a first-time user or a long-term user.