Cocaine seizures are a concerning and potentially life-threatening medical phenomenon. While not as commonly discussed as other drug-induced conditions – such as meth mouth – cocaine-induced seizures are a significant cause for concern for those struggling with cocaine abuse and addiction. Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that can trigger various physical side effects, including sudden, involuntary muscle contractions or convulsions. To bring awareness to these dangers, our BHOPB detox center is shedding light on whether cocaine can cause seizures, the risks involved, and the signs to look out for.
What Are Seizures?
A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells that causes temporary abnormalities in muscle tone and movement, such as stiffness, twitching, or limpness. Seizures also cause abnormalities in behaviors, sensations, or states of awareness.
There are two major types of seizures: focal onset and generalized onset. Focal onset seizures start in one area and can spread across the brain and cause mild to severe symptoms, depending on how far the electrical discharges spread.
As the seizure spreads across the brain, more symptoms appear. The more of the brain affected by seizures, the more intense the individual’s symptoms. Symptoms may include feeling confused or dazed or experiencing minor shaking, muscle stiffening, or fumbling or chewing motions.
Generalized seizures can start as focal seizures that spread to both sides of the brain. These can also occur as onset seizures in which seizure activity starts on both sides of the brain. Generalized seizures usually occur during childhood and are usually characterized by abnormal regulation between parts of the brain, causing the seizures.
Can Cocaine Cause Seizures?
To put it simply, yes, cocaine can cause seizures. According to research, cocaine can cause seizures, exacerbate a pre-existing seizure disorder, or cause an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, which can lead to seizures. Cocaine-induced seizures can occur shortly after ingesting the drug or even while high.
But why does cocaine cause seizures? As a potent CNS stimulant, cocaine alters the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals play crucial roles in regulating various bodily functions, including mood, movement, and perception.
When ingested, cocaine interferes with the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, allowing them to accumulate in the brain. This disruption can result in an intense and rapid surge of brain activity, which can lead to an imbalance in electrical signaling. This, in turn, produces an environment in the brain that’s prone to seizures.
Seizures can occur when there’s a sudden jolt of electrical activity in the brain, disrupting normal brain function and contributing to various physical and cognitive symptoms. Cocaine can also spike blood pressure and heart rate, which puts further stress on the cardiovascular system and may contribute to seizures.
This combination of heightened electrical activity and cardiovascular strain can increase the risk of seizures, particularly in people who are sensitive to the drug’s effects or have underlying seizure disorders. Additionally, the risk of experiencing a seizure is higher in people who use cocaine in large amounts or over a long period. Even so, cocaine seizures can also occur when small doses are taken, especially in individuals who are particularly sensitive to the drug’s effects.
Individuals with underlying seizure disorders or who have experienced seizures before are at a higher risk of experiencing seizures if they use cocaine. Cocaine-related seizures are a serious medical concern, as they can lead to injury, loss of consciousness, and, in severe cases, long-term neurological damage.
Additionally, the combination of cocaine with other substances, such as alcohol or other drugs, can increase the likelihood of seizures and other dangerous health complications. Therefore, it’s important to receive cocaine detox and treatment as well as medical attention for seizures in these cases to promote healing and long-term recovery.
Cocaine-Induced Seizure Symptoms
Cocaine-induced seizures are marked by various symptoms, which can range from mild to severe depending on the individual and the amount of cocaine consumed. Common symptoms of cocaine-induced seizures include:
- Blank stare
- Confusion and disorientation
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Foaming at the mouth
- Incontinence (loss of bladder and/or bowel control)
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle rigidity
- Twitching or jerky movements
In cases where an individual experiences a seizure as a result of cocaine use, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for medical personnel to arrive, you can help the individual in several ways:
- Remain with the person
- Roll them onto their side if they have food or water in their mouth
- Protect them from injury
- Loosen any tight clothing
- Place something soft under their head
- Time the seizure if you can
- Gently roll the person onto their side after jerking movements stop
If the individual experiencing the cocaine seizure is in a wheelchair, follow these steps after calling 9-1-1:
- Leave the person seated with the seatbelt on (unless it’s hurting them)
- Put the wheelchair brakes on
- Tilt the seat back and lock in position (if possible)
- Support their head until the seizure stops
- Lean the person slightly to one side so any fluid drains from the mouth
Seizures can be a medical emergency, and professional medical intervention is essential to ensure the individual’s immediate safety and long-term recovery. Furthermore, addressing cocaine use and seeking cocaine addiction treatment can also be a crucial part of recovery and prevention for the individual.
Long-term substance abuse can increase your risk for medical conditions like seizures along with various other problems, ranging from physical conditions to financial and relationship strains. To help yourself or a loved one get sober, call Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches today at 561-220-3981 or contact us online.
- National Library of Medicine – Relation of cocaine use to seizures and epilepsy