Cocaine, a potent stimulant, can lower the seizure threshold in people with or without epilepsy.

Cocaine is a powerful, illegal stimulant drug that can have significant harmful effects on your brain and body, including potentially causing seizures.

Seizures can happen suddenly after cocaine use, and the risk may be greater in people with a history of epilepsy or a predisposition to seizures.

Cocaine use can trigger seizures, worsen an existing seizure disorder, or even lead to strokes (both ischemic and hemorrhagic), which may then cause seizures.

Seizures are considered one of the major harms of using psychostimulant drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine/amphetamine, and MDMA), along with stroke, neurocognitive issues, Parkinson’s disease, and psychotic illness.

The increased risk of seizures is due to cocaine’s effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers the seizure threshold (the minimum level of stimulation the brain can handle before it triggers a seizure).

Cocaine use also causes long-term changes in your brain. Studies on animals have shown that cocaine affects how glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, is released and received in the reward pathway.

Cocaine can have a significant impact on people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Cocaine use can lower the seizure threshold in people with epilepsy. It may have a direct toxic effect or lower the threshold indirectly by contributing to factors such as missed doses of epilepsy medication, a less nutritious diet, and disrupted sleep patterns.

If you have epilepsy, it’s important that you avoid cocaine and other substances that could worsen your condition and lead to potentially dangerous consequences.

If you see someone having a seizure, follow these basic steps to provide assistance and ensure their safety:

  • Stay calm: It’s important to stay calm and try to keep others around you calm as well.
  • Keep the person safe: To prevent injury, gently guide the person away from any hazards. Clear the area around them of any sharp or dangerous objects.
  • Do not restrain: Do not try to hold the person down or restrain their movements during the seizure. Allow the seizure to run its course.
  • Protect their head: If possible, place something soft (such as a folded jacket or cushion) under the person’s head to protect it from hitting the ground.
  • Turn them on their side: If the person is lying down, gently roll them onto their side. This position helps prevent choking if there is any saliva or vomit in their mouth.
  • Cushion their head: If the person is sitting up or unable to lie on their side, support their head to prevent it from snapping back and hitting the ground.
  • Do not put anything in their mouth: Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to put anything, including your fingers or objects, into a person’s mouth during a seizure. The person could end up swallowing the object or biting your fingers.
  • Provide post-seizure care: After the seizure, the person may be confused or disoriented. Offer support and help them as needed.

Learn more about the symptoms of cocaine overdose.

Always call for emergency medical help if:

  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person is injured during the seizure.
  • The person is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The person has repeated seizures without regaining consciousness in between.
  • The person has difficulty breathing or appears to be in distress.
  • The person is experiencing seizures for the first time.
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Cocaine, a potent stimulant, has significant effects on your brain and body, including the potential to trigger seizures. It lowers the seizure threshold in people both with and without seizure disorders, making them more susceptible to sudden and unpredictable seizures.

If you or someone you know is dealing with substance misuse or experiencing seizures related to drug use, seeking professional medical help and support is essential for treatment and recovery.