Cocaine abuse and mental health

Stimulant drug cocaine is a very powerful illegal substance that comes in the form of a very fine granular white powder. Some users snort cocaine up their nose after separating it into in ‘lines’, while others mix cocaine with other drugs such as heroin, turning it into a potent liquid by adding water to create a solution which is then injected directly into the bloodstream. The substance can also be smoked, which in turn can lead to lung-related health issues and breathing difficulties.

Users of cocaine often focus on the ‘happy’ or ‘buzzed’ feeling it gives them, more commonly referred to as a ‘high’. Feelings of confidence, assurance and excitement are all heightened, but beneath this exterior are some damaging side effects that can have a great impact on a person’s physical and mental health. A user may be aware of the physical damaging effects that cocaine abuse can have on their body, such as a deviated septum (with prolonged use), heightened blood pressure, pregnancy complications, weight loss, fits and difficulty sleeping, but the long-term mental health effects are far more severe and worrying. This is especially the case as the cocaine abuser’s tolerance of the drug continues to rise.

 

Cocaine binging and mental health

The act of binging when taking cocaine, i.e. taking a very large amount of cocaine in one session, poses a very dangerous risk for a user’s mental health. Side effects such as feeling on edge and restless, paranoid and irritable are very common, with many users experiencing mood swings. In extreme cases, a person can even reach a state of psychosis during a binge, in which they cannot demonstrate normal cognitive function and go into a trance-like state. Cocaine can trick the brain by giving the user hallucinations that feel very powerful and incredibly real. A common side effect for instance is the user feeling convinced that they can fly. Previously, this has led to some users jumping to their deaths out of high rise buildings, as the effects of their psychosis were so powerful that they had no concept of reality. This can be frightening for both the user and those around them.

Such mental health side effects vary from person to person, and some people manage to recover from them after getting clean in rehab, but for some users these effects can linger on to the point where a full recovery isn’t possible. In many cases, cocaine has devastating consequences for those who binge on it regularly and suffer from psychosis as a result. For some people, the mental health effects of cocaine are similar to that of schizophrenia. After the initial ‘buzz’ feeling, most cocaine users experience a ‘crash’ in which they suddenly feel low, anxious or scared as the ‘high’ feeling wears off. With long-term use, this can cause mental health conditions like depression as the user becomes more dependent on cocaine to feel ‘good

 

Cocaine abuse and paranoia

If you abuse cocaine heavily, experiencing symptoms of paranoia is highly likely. Up to 85% of cocaine users experience paranoia at some point when taking the drug. Paranoia can be highly dangerous to the user under the influence of the drug and those around them. Because cocaine can increase feelings of anger and irritability, a user can become worryingly aggressive and even harm themselves or others, meaning long-term consequences and even affecting the user’s relationships with others in the long term. More than 50% of users have reported violent or aggressive feelings/actions when under the influence of cocaine.

Cocaine-induced psychosis

Psychosis most commonly occurs in a cocaine user who takes the drug by snorting or smoking it. If a person abuses cocaine for a long time, psychosis can last from a few days to a few weeks. Over 50% of those who have used cocaine report psychosis-related symptoms. Research suggests that psychosis happens due to a lack of dopamine levels in a person’s system when they are under the influence of cocaine, which can lead to mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in the long term. Symptoms of cocaine-induced psychosis include:

  • – Feeling anxious
  • – Demonstrating violent, aggressive behaviour
  • – Being delusional
  • – Experiencing paranoia
  • – Hallucinations and delirium
  • – Lack of cognitive function
  • – Confusion
  • – Inability to articulate
  • – Extreme depression/suicidal thoughts

Depression is common in cocaine abusers, especially in those who are heavily reliant on the drug to get a ‘high’. Because the drug lowers dopamine levels and serotonin (the happy hormone) when it wears off, the user can feel very low and even contemplate taking their own life. Depression is very common in users who have entered rehab and are going through a detox process. Feeling low is common when experiencing cocaine withdrawal, and a user should therefore be closely monitored in rehab for their personal safety.

Cocaine-induced hallucinations

Cocaine tricks the brain into seeing and hearing things that are not real. For an abuser, this can prove very dangerous as all senses are masked by the drug’s powerful effects. A user may become completely incapacitated as a result. Almost half of cocaine users are unable to focus on present day reality when taking the drug, and even imagine dangers or threats that are imaginary. Frequently reported hallucinations from cocaine abuse involve a user feeling as though they are being monitored, followed by another or watched when there is nothing and no-one present.

Cocaine abuse: warning signs

Cocaine use in the UK has become so normalised that along with drinking, it is becoming widely accepted that cocaine use every weekend is just a way of life. If you or someone you love has a problem with cocaine abuse, you should look out for the following mental health warning signs in their behaviour that could indicate an addiction:

    • – Changes in behaviour
    • – Restlessness
    • – Being overly confident or talkative
    • – Over-confidence
    • – Extreme mood swings
    • – Paranoia
    • – Hallucinations
    • – Taking risks

If you have noticed some or all of the above symptoms, get in touch with us at Ocean Recovery. We are a private drug rehab and alcohol rehab facility based on Blackpool Beach, offering alternative and research-based therapies for drug addiction. Get in touch with us today on 01253 847 553 if you are worried about cocaine abuse and would like advice on rehab options.

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John Gillen - Director at Ocean Recovery
John Gillen

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.