Substance Use

Does Cocaine Cause Anxiety?

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Cocaine Addiction and Mental Health Side Effects

It’s been nearly a century since doctors first isolated cocaine hydrochloride, a now-illegal chemical stimulant, and began adding it to carbonated soft drinks. It’s hard to believe that an illicit substance like cocaine was ever widely available and legal.

Some would argue cocaine is still widely available, but today it’s a Schedule II controlled substance.

For people who abuse cocaine, anxiety is just one of many side effects. But does cocaine cause anxiety or panic attacks, and, if so, how?

If you or a loved one is using cocaine, struggling with cocaine abuse, or otherwise suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD), compassionate help at a treatment center is just a phone call away. Reach out to Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to learn about our treatment options.

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Does Cocaine Cause Anxiety?

The relationship between cocaine use and anxiety is complex, and exactly how cocaine use can lead to anxiety is not fully understood.

Research has identified several factors that may contribute to the link between using this substance and subsequently developing panic, paranoia, and/or other anxiety-related symptoms.

1. The Brain’s Reward System

Research shows that cocaine significantly affects the brain and nervous system. It’s these effects that can contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Cocaine increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, affecting the brain’s pleasure center and reward system.

The brain’s reward system is a network of structures and neurotransmitters that is responsible for regulating pleasure and motivation. Cocaine activates the brain’s reward system by increasing its levels of dopamine, but it’s this very activation that leads to chemical changes in the brain believed to contribute to anxiety.

The increased levels of neurotransmitters produced by cocaine use can also lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can further exacerbate mood and behavioral changes.

Over time, this can lead to anxiety, particularly in individuals prone to anxiety disorders or with a family history of anxiety.

Cocaine use can also increase the risk of other mental health issues, including depression and psychosis, which often require the assistance of healthcare professionals.

2. Interrupted Stress Response

Another factor that may contribute to the belief cocaine causes anxiety is the way that cocaine can disrupt the brain’s stress response system.

The brain’s stress response system is a network of structures and neurotransmitters responsible for regulating the body’s response to stress.

Cocaine can disrupt this response by increasing the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and by inhibiting the production of neurotransmitters involved in stress regulation, such as serotonin.

These changes can again lead to ever increasing anxiety and other stress-related symptoms.

3. Social, Psychological, and Other Trauma

Individuals who use cocaine or suffer from substance use issues may do so in response to anxiety (as opposed to anxiety induced by cocaine use), to help relieve symptoms and essentially self-medicate.

A history of trauma or lack of social support could be to blame. Whether they use cocaine and then experience anxiety or experience anxiety and use cocaine to self-medicate could both be true.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant and commonly used recreationally due to its ability to produce a feeling of heightened energy.

Cocaine works by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain. This can produce feelings of euphoria and energy, as well as increased alertness and pleasure.

Cocaine is also highly addictive and can have serious negative effects on the body and mind. Long-term use can lead to a range of negative health consequences, including feelings of anxiety.

Addiction treatment with a caring and knowledgeable professional healthcare team is often necessary.

Signs of Cocaine Use

There are several signs that may indicate that someone is using cocaine. Some common physical signs of cocaine use include:

  • Dilated pupils: Cocaine can cause the pupils to dilate or become larger.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Cocaine stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Increased body temperature: Cocaine can raise the body’s temperature, causing the person to feel hot or sweaty.
  • Decreased appetite: Cocaine can reduce appetite and cause weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea and vomiting after using cocaine.

There are also several behavioral and psychological signs of cocaine use:

  • Increased energy and alertness: Cocaine is a stimulant, so it can cause people to feel more energetic and alert.
  • Talkativeness: People under the influence of cocaine may become more talkative and have difficulty sitting still.
  • Agitation and irritability: Cocaine can cause people to become agitated and irritable.
  • Paranoia and social anxiety: Cocaine can cause paranoia and social anxiety, particularly at higher doses or with long-term use.
  • Mood swings: Cocaine can cause mood swings, with people alternately feeling very happy and then very depressed.

These signs may not necessarily indicate that someone is using cocaine but are good indicators when more than one sign is present.

Alone, however, a bad day at work can cause agitation, or extremely good news can bring intense joy and even rapid talkativeness.

But when a combination of physical, behavioral, and psychological signs is presented together, it could point to cocaine use. 

If you suspect that someone you love might be using cocaine, please approach the situation with sensitivity. Zinnia Health has caring and compassionate treatment specialists available to chat 24/7/365. We’re here when you need us. Contact us at (855) 430-9439.

Cocaine Side Effects

Short-term cocaine use can also lead to anxiety, with individuals who use the drug often report:

  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

These effects can be particularly pronounced in individuals who are not used to using cocaine or who use large amounts of the drug in a single session.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

While short-term cocaine use can trigger symptoms of anxiety, long-term cocaine use increases the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Chronic, long-term cocaine use can cause significant changes in the brain and can lead to a range of mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Treating Anxiety and Cocaine Abuse as Co-Occurring Disorders

There are several therapeutic approaches that can be effective in treating cocaine-induced anxiety, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and support groups, when substance abuse and anxiety receive dual diagnosis treatment and are treated as co-occurring disorders.

In some cases, medications may also be used to help manage anxiety symptoms in individuals who are struggling with cocaine addiction.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication that can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Other medications, such as benzodiazepines, may also be used to help manage anxiety in the short-term.

It is important to note that a comprehensive treatment program should join prescription medication with therapy and other types of support from a qualified mental health or treatment professional.

Relying on medication alone for anxiety or other disorders can be dangerous and should not be used as a substitute for detoxing from cocaine, seeking counseling, or joining support groups.

1. Cocaine Detox

If you’ve been using cocaine for any length of time, speak with a trusted physician or treatment specialist to learn what you can expect from the detox process.

Typically, someone who has abused cocaine may need medically assisted detox in which a healthcare professional oversees your progress clearing the cocaine from your system, and provides medication to help alleviate the unpleasant nature of cocaine withdrawal symptoms.

2. Counseling

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and other mental health issues.

This can be a particularly effective therapy in treating anxiety disorders, including anxiety that’s related to cocaine use.

3. Support Groups

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous, can also be a helpful resource for individuals who are struggling with cocaine addiction and anxiety.

These groups provide a supportive community of individuals who are facing similar challenges and can offer practical advice, encouragement, and emotional support.

Heal Anxiety and Cocaine Addiction with Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Cocaine use can lead to anxiety in short- and long-term use. If you are struggling with cocaine addiction and related anxiety, Zinnia Health can help.

With the right treatment and support, it’s possible to overcome these challenges and live a healthy, anxiety-free life of sobriety.

Reach out to Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to speak with one of our compassionate treatment specialists.

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(855) 430-9439
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