What side effects of cocaine require emergency care?

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Dr. Elif E. Oker, MD
Medical Toxicology

Cocaine can lead to a variety of side effects that require emergency care.

Cocaine is a highly addictive and widely used drug of abuse that is a derivative of the coca plant. In medicine, it is a local anesthetic. On the street it is smoked, inhaled or injected. Illicit use/abuse can result in death.

Cocaine causes constriction of the blood vessels. This can result in a decrease in the blood supply to the heart, brain and other vital organs.

Acute coronary syndrome including myocardial infarction (heart attack) can be a side effect of cocaine use. Cocaine use can result in high blood pressure and heart rate leading to stroke and/or arrhythmias. Cocaine overdose can also result in high body temperatures leading to hyperthermia. Kidney failure and stomach ulcers have also been reported.

Regularly snorting cocaine can result in a perforated nasal septum.