Show Summary Details
Page of

Management of cocaine poisoning 

Management of cocaine poisoning
Management of cocaine poisoning

Nicholas J. Johnson

and Judd E. Hollander

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD MEDICINE ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Medicine Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 May 2022

Cocaine is powerful central nervous system (CNS) stimulant derived from the coca plant. It affects the body via a number of mechanisms including blockade of fast sodium channels, increased catecholamine release, inhibition of catecholamine reuptake, and increased concentration of excitatory amino acid concentrations in the CNS. It is rapidly absorbed via the aerodigestive, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary mucosa, and also may be injected. When injected intravenously or inhaled, cocaine is rapidly distributed throughout the body and CNS, with peak effects in 3–5 minutes. With nasal insufflation, absorption peaks in 20 minutes. Its half-life is approximately 1 hour. Common clinical manifestations include agitation, euphoria, tachycardia, hyperthermia, and hypertension. Chest pain is a common presenting complaint among cocaine users; 6% of these patients will have myocardial infarction. Other life-threatening sequelae include stroke, intracranial haemorrhage, seizures, dysrhythmias, and rhabdomyolysis. Clinical signs and symptoms, as well as severity of intoxication, should dictate the diagnostic evaluation and treatment of cocaine intoxicated patients. If the patient has chest pain, an ECG, chest radiograph, and measurement of cardiac biomarkers should be performed. A brief observation period may be useful in these patients. Many manifestations of cocaine intoxication, including agitation, hypertension, and chest pain, are effectively treated with benzodiazepines. Beta-blockers should be avoided in patients with suspected cocaine intoxication. Special attention should be paid to pregnant patients and those who present after ingesting packets filled with cocaine, as they may exhibit severe toxicity if these packets rupture.

Access to the complete content on Oxford Medicine Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.