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Cocaine Abuse (cont.)

Diagnosis of Cocaine Abuse

Often, the final diagnosis of someone who is abusing cocaine is not made by emergency department evaluation and may require admission to the hospital, further testing, and results of tests, which take time or are not done in a hospital emergency department.

Overall, the doctor will conduct whatever tests are necessary to evaluate the symptoms of someone with cocaine-induced conditions. In addition to a physical exam and medical history, tests may include blood and urine analysis, chest X-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, and spinal tap.

  • Cocaine-induced headaches can include such conditions as tension headache, stroke (bleed in head), sinusitis, meningitis, or brain abscess.
  • Cocaine-induced seizures might indicate more serious problems such as bleeding in the brain, meningitis, very high blood pressure with organ injury, or low blood pressure, respiratory failure, and heart problems. Infants may experience seizures caused by parents' smoking cocaine in their presence. It is important to note that this is a form of child abuse and should immediately be reported to local child-welfare services.
  • Psychiatric complications caused by cocaine abuse may include cocainomania, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, psychoses, violence, major depression, suicidal or homicidal tendencies, or attempted suicide or homicide.
  • Nasal and throat complications of cocaine abuse can include diagnoses of nasal itching, postnasal drip, nosebleed, sinusitis, laryngitis, and perforated nasal septum.
  • Pulmonary diagnoses may include pneumonia, bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema), asthma or reactive airway disease, or a collapsed lung.
  • Cardiovascular complications include heart problems such as chest pain, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, and various heart conditions that can lead to sudden death.
  • Pregnancy complications may include vaginal bleeding, threatened abortion, incomplete abortion,  spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage. Ultrasound may be used to establish the diagnosis in these cases.
  • Infectious complications may include cellulitis, shooter's abscess, lung abscess, brain abscess, septic shock, hepatitis, and any of the opportunistic infections associated with AIDS if you are HIV infected. Poor decision making associated with cocaine abuse also increases the risk of infection with other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Body packers and stuffers may have various diagnoses depending on whether the packets leak or remain intact. If they leak, the diagnoses may be massive cocaine intoxication with seizures, high temperatures, hypertension, muscle breakdown, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, kidney failure, and death. If the abuser has no symptoms with normal vital signs and refuses medical care, invasive procedures may not be done until proper legal documentation has been provided.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/3/2015

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