Cocaine Overdose and Synthetic Opioids

Cocaine is a powerful drug that is frequently used to this day. It induces feelings of euphoria in those who use it. 

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Common Signs of Cocaine Use and Overdose Symptoms

In 2019 there were over 15,000 overdose deaths related to cocaine use, and the trend is continuing upward.1 It is essential for physicians and other medically trained staff to recognize the symptoms of cocaine use and the signs of a cocaine overdose to promptly and accurately treat patients. 

Cocaine Addiction Signs

Cocaine overdose and cocaine withdrawal are both serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. Cocaine addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life, and cocaine addiction symptoms can be easily recognized. Some of the most common signs of cocaine addiction symptoms are:

  • Extreme agitation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever or sweats
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure 

Cocaine Overdose Signs

More serious symptoms occur when a person experiences a cocaine overdose. A cocaine overdose can occur any time that a person uses cocaine, and it is more likely when it is mixed with other drugs or alcohol. These include:

  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing

Cocaine toxicity occurs quickly and can cause a cocaine overdose even on the first use. When combined with other synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, toxicity levels quickly multiply.

Why is Cocaine Overdose on the Rise?

During the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in cocaine overdoses, with the majority occurring due to extreme cocaine toxicity as a result of the cocaine being laced with fentanyl. In 2020, synthetic opioid deaths increased by 55% to over 90,000 in that year.3

When used by itself, fatal cocaine overdose is rare. The symptoms of long-term cocaine use are significant as cocaine withdrawal symptoms. However, for those who experience a cocaine overdose, cocaine overdose treatment is typically effective in preventing death. 

Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine

When synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are laced into cocaine, the drug becomes significantly more potent. Opioid-laced cocaine has led to a severe increase in overdoses. The pandemic has caused more people to turn to alcohol and other illicit substances as a coping mechanism.

This increase in use is troubling, not only because of the increase in cocaine overdoses but also because having these substances in a person’s system weakens their immune system. A weakened immune system makes them more susceptible to other life-threatening illnesses. 

Polysubstance Use Driving Overdose Death

Over 50% of substance overdoses are the result of polysubstance abuse. When these extremely volatile substances are combined, they cause each other to behave in ways that they normally would not. In turn, this drug use causes the body to respond more severely than it would to a single substance.4

Another cause of this severe drug interaction is that when a person has already taken one substance, their judgment and intelligence are already impaired when they decide to take another substance. This decision often causes them to take far more than they thought that they were, which further increases their chances of overdosing.

The most common combinations of polysubstance drug abuse are:

  • Cocaine and alcohol
  • Opioids and benzodiazepines
  • Prescription and illegal drugs
  • Psychedelics and other drugs 

What is the Brain Reward System?

The brain reward system is a circuit in your brain that causes feelings of euphoria to occur when it registers a significant amount of dopamine. It typically occurs when pleasurable things occur such as being in love, exercising, etc., and thus the brain rewards the person to make them want to do it again.

Drug Addiction and the Brain

This same reward system is activated falsely by drugs because they are designed to trigger a massive dopamine surge, which is often more intense than anything that would naturally cause this surge. In turn, drug use prompts a person to seek out the same rush of dopamine again and again. Factors that once provided a dopamine surge no longer can the same way that drugs can.

Drug addiction rewires the brain’s pleasure centers and reward systems which is also what makes it so difficult to stop using a drug once a person has started. The severity of withdrawal symptoms increases as more damage is done to the brain’s reward system. 

Cocaine Overdose Treatment

When symptoms of cocaine overdose are present, doctors will work to alleviate those symptoms as a method of treating the overdose. No medication is currently specifically used for cocaine overdose treatment. Rather, a mixture of other medications and treatment options are used to treat the signs of a cocaine overdose.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are used to lower a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to more manageable and safe levels. This sedative reduces a person’s chance of a heart attack or stroke, and this drug also helps to lower their anxiety. In cases where these sedatives do not work in reducing heart rate, non-dihydropyridine calcium channels blockers may be used instead.

In some cases of cocaine overdose treatment, antipsychotics may also be given if the patient is agitated, hallucinating, paranoid, violent, or unmanageable. 

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Treatment is possible for cocaine addiction symptoms at any time. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible to limit the chances of an overdose. Unfortunately, many individuals will not seek treatment for their addiction until they have overdosed and have been forced to seek care.

There is currently no specific medication for cocaine addiction. Although many have been tested, and some have shown effectiveness in managing some of the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, none have been able to do so with any consistency in research. 

Detoxing

Inpatient detox is the first and foremost treatment option that should be considered for cocaine addiction. Once the patient has fully detoxed and is no longer experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, then they can begin behavioral therapy to help them from relapsing. 

Rehabilitation

Inpatient and outpatient behavioral therapy are still the most effective treatment option for helping patients overcome cocaine addiction. These treatments help the patient to understand and manage any underlying causes or conditions that may be causing their addiction.

In addition, these therapies help patients learn healthy coping mechanisms and help them to develop support groups that will help support their recovery which is essential in long-term sobriety. 

Resources

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Gina Bowman

Executive Assistant

Gina Bowman is the Executive Assistant at Brooks Healing Center. She was born in Florida but resides in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with her husband, Tyler Bowman, and two daughters Charlotte and Isabella.

Gina is a friendly, loyal, and dedicated individual. She has a heart for helping others and understands the effects of addiction and the toll it can take on families. She is the one that helps make things happen behind the scenes and brings fun ideas to Brooks Healing Center as well as keeping things organized. 

Colleen Bradford, MBA, BA-MHR

Executive Director, Human Resources Director

Colleen Believes servitude towards others provides a solid foundation for personal and professional growth. She is a calm problem solver who juggles multiple situations simultaneously and works confidently and efficiently in even the most challenging, fast-paced environments. She is highly regarded for her consistent ability to apply sound judgment, emotional intelligence, and etiquette to sensitive, confidential, and unpredictable situations. She is an organized, professional, resourceful, and seasoned healthcare professional with diverse skills for boosting organizational productivity and quality of care initiatives.

Colleen has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration with a minor in health care administration from Trevecca Nazarene University. She has been married for 32 years to Doyle Bradford, and they have two sons, Thomas and Allen Bradford, along with two grandchildren, Ben and Faith Bradford. She is excited to have this unique opportunity to serve her community. She is a phenomenal cookie baker and mother figure to those at the Brooks Healing Center. We are honored to have her be a part of our vision. 

Frank Throneberry

Co-Founder and COO

Frank is a lifelong 7th generation native of Middle Tennessee. Frank cares for his local community and keeping Tennessee healthy, knowing that people all over the USA seek out his home state’s friendly and outdoor atmosphere. He is a hardworking and energetic person that is no stranger to going out of his way to help others.

Frank started his recovery from alcohol and substance abuse over seven years ago. He is continually working on a recovery program and became passionate about sharing his story, helping others, and supporting others to find freedom from their addiction. He also formerly owned and managed ‘recovery community’ homes where he walked with and encouraged many individuals in their journey. Frank’s servant attitude is what helps him listen, understand, and put others’ needs first.

Outside of his career, Frank cherishes his time with his wife, Maribeth, and his three children: Jackson, Piper, and Charlie. They enjoy the great outdoors on their family farm in Shelbyville, TN, and boating and fishing with family on Tim’s Ford Lake. He is a dedicated husband and father. 

James “Tyler” Bowman

Founder and CEO

Tyler is the heart of the Brooks Healing Center. His vision is to guide others to find their own recovery and to thrive in life. Tyler was fortunate to have lived through his addiction and now finds fulfillment in serving others. Tyler has worked in the substance abuse field for over five years and felt convicted to build a place where individuals are loved until they can learn to love themselves.  

Tyler has the love and support of his family as he continues to provide care to those who have lost themselves along the way. Tyler is the father of two daughters, Charlotte, his oldest, and Isabella, his youngest. Tyler’s wife, Gina, supports the Brooks Healing Center’s vision, and she shares his passion for helping others as well.  

Tyler has a story to tell and is willing to share his experiences, good or bad, with anyone. Brooks Healing Center is the way he gives back for all he took when he was using. For the past seven years, Tyler has gone beyond to share his recovery and is thriving in life.