Can you overdose or die if you use cocaine?

Len Bias preparing to throw ball

Victim of Cocaine Overdose

One of the most famous victims of cocaine overdose is Len Bias, a senior at the University of Maryland, who had been drafted as the No. 2 pick by the Boston Celtics on June 17, 1986. Just 2 days later, he died from a cocaine overdose.

Yes. In 2018, 859 people ages 15–24 died from a cocaine overdose in the U.S.

Cocaine can be deadly when taken in large doses or when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Cocaine-related deaths often happen because the heart stops (cardiac arrest), then breathing stops. Using cocaine and drinking alcohol or using other drugs increases these dangers, including the risk of overdose.

For example, combining cocaine and heroin (known as a “speedball”) puts a person at higher risk of death from an overdose. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or soon after. Among the deaths that occurred from cocaine use, most also included misuse of an opioid of some form, either a prescription pain reliever, heroin, or man-made opioids like fentanyl.

Learn more about drug overdoses in youth.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2018 on CDC WONDER Online Database, X45, Y15, released 2019. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov.