Many people wonder how much cocaine it takes to cause an overdose and what factors influence whether someone’s next high will be their last. Cocaine is an inherently dangerous and powerful stimulant with difficult to predict consequences. Purchased on the street, cocaine is frequently diluted or cut with a dozen or more inert or even harmful chemicals. No two doses are likely to be exactly alike. But taking that into account, what other factors can predict the likelihood of overdose? Here are just a few to consider:
Males are much more likely than females to both use cocaine and to experience a fatal overdose. This is generally consistent with other drugs of abuse as well. In one study conducted in New York, nearly 80% of cocaine fatalities were men. This may not be due to biological differences between the sexes, but rather, more readily explained by psychological differences relating to risk-taking behavior. Men are more willing to engage in high-risk activities, including illegal drugs use, than women are. That said, men are slightly more likely to receive treatment, although this is often through the criminal justice system.
Cocaine use among youth populations is on the decline; however, use among those age 26 and older continues to remain steady or increase slightly, depending on the year. The highest rate of abuse was for individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 years. Risk of overdose increases with age, especially among male drug users. Middle-age is generally the highest risk period for overdose, despite the ample media coverage received by teen drug deaths. Cocaine is second only to opioids in terms of overall overdose deaths.
Cocaine is cardiotoxic, meaning that it is especially harmful to the heart. Users with existing cardiac issues are at a higher risk of heart attack while using cocaine; however, even healthy individuals can have a heart attack precipitated by use of the drug. This is one reason why many older users die from overdose – older people are more likely to suffer from heart conditions. Cocaine use degrades the overall health of its users, which in turn can make them more vulnerable to overdose and serious health conditions more generally.
Cocaine users require more and more cocaine to achieve the same level of high or euphoria they experienced when they initially began to use the drug. These ever-increasing dosages expose users to greater risk of physical dependence, side effects, and overdose. The impurity of cocaine contributes to this risk as well. If a user receives cocaine that is substantially purer than what they are accustomed to using, they may administer too much at once, not realizing its potency.
The amount of cocaine required to overdose is impossible for any user to know. This uncertainty is one of the many things that makes cocaine so dangerous. Regardless of many personal characteristics and health factors that influence risk, cocaine addicts should realize that they cannot be used to reduce risk or actively avoid overdose.
If you or a loved one is suffering from cocaine addiction, consider giving us a call at our Helpline at 800-447-9081 to learn more about the risk of overdose and how to begin treatment before it’s too late.