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Cocaine intoxication

Definition

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that affects your central nervous system. It produces a sense of extreme joy by causing the brain to release higher than normal amounts of some biochemicals. However, cocaine's effects on other parts of the body can be very serious or even deadly.

See also:

Alternative Names

Intoxication - cocaine

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cocaine intoxication may be caused by:

  • Taking too much cocaine, or too concentrated a form of cocaine
  • Using cocaine on hot weather days, which leads to more harm and side effects because of dehydration
  • Using cocaine with certain other drugs
  • Severe intoxication and death can occur in "drug mules" or "body packers" who intentionally swallow packets of cocaine

Symptoms

Symptoms of cocaine intoxication include:

  • Agitation
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Feeling of being "high" (euphoria),
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

With higher doses, sweating, tremors, confusion, hyperactivity, seizures, stroke, irregular heart beats, and sudden death can occur.

Treatment

The health care provider will m easure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. A class of medications called benzodiazepines are given to calm a rapid heart beat and lower blood pressure. The medicines include diazepam and lorazepam.

Long-term treatment requires drug counseling in combination with medical therapy.

References

Perrone J, Hoffman RS. Cocaine, amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 168.


Review Date: 6/17/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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