Dangers of a Crack Cocaine Overdose

Dangers of a Crack Cocaine Overdose


Crack cocaine use can lead to a lethal overdose for individuals with addiction. Crack intoxication typically follows three phases: early phase of stimulation, hyper-stimulation with possible tonic convulsions and a third phase of depression of the central nervous system. The symptoms of intoxication can be difficult to separate from signs of an overdose. Learn the signs and prognosis for an individual who might be overdosing on crack.


How it Happens

Crack is made of cocaine hydrochloride processed with ammonia or baking soda and water into a form called ‘freebase.’ The mixture is cooled and filtered, then chips or chunks called ‘rocks’ are smoked in a crack pipe. Smoking crack is a dangerous activity as the drug enters the bloodstream quickly and crosses the blood-brain barrier which impacts neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Chest pains with convulsions can occur during crack inhalation. Unintentional overdoses of crack are common.



A crack overdose depends on a person’s level of tolerance to cocaine. Chronic use of cocaine, high levels of tolerance (addiction included) can increase a person’s ability to smoke more crack. Anything higher than 5 grams has been proven to cause heart attacks in most people, even when individual body composition is taken into account.



One of the myths related to crack is that it is less harmful than powder cocaine as it has a shorter half-life. Crack can cause severe damage and produce overdose effects. The amount of time crack stays in the body has nothing to do with the level of harm crack can do even though it is highly addictive. The most common signs and symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Agitation
  • Cold sweats
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Coughing which produces black mucus
  • Excessive tremors
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Narrowed pupils
  • Labored breathing
  • Seizures
  • Lack of pulse
  • Violent behavior
  • vomiting



Prolonged use of crack cocaine can cause adverse side effects on the brain and body. Chronic intoxication and overdose with crack can lead to anorexia, weight loss, physical exhaustion, behavioral issues and chronic depression. Crack overdose can cause development of hemoptysis, pleuritic chest pain, pulmonary infiltrates, asthma and reactive airway disease. High risk of overdose during pregnancy is also possible. The mortality rate is greater than that of the general population. Approximately 10% of fatalities are caused directly by overdose effects with common fatalities related to an overdose which include loss of vital functions, partial or full body paralysis, coma and respiratory and circulatory collapse. Individuals who smoke crack cocaine may experience overdose death in up to 75% of cases within 5 hours of administration. Up to 25% may occur within 1-2 hours post dosage.


The lethal nature of smoking crack cocaine cannot be understated. If you or a loved one need help quitting crack, call us to get more information on how we can assist you. Our resources can help you find the program that best suits your or your loved one’s needs.