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Effects of Cocaine on Your Mental Health

Any substance that affects the brain has an effect on mental health. In this cocaine is no different from many other recreational drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine addiction is a mental disorder. It changes the brain and disrupts normal brain patterns. In order to understand why people are addicted to cocaine and the mental issues an addict can suffer from it, is important to understand how cocaine effects the brain, what the long and short term effects are, and the conditions associated and caused by cocaine use.

How cocaine effects the brain

Cocaine has a profound effect on the brain. When someone injects, snorts, or smokes cocaine, it causes the dopamine receptors to become excited. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that cocaine stops dopamine from exiting the synaptic space between two neurons. This amps up the normal functioning of dopamine and cause the communication in the brain to be disrupted. This increase in dopamine activity is what causes a person to become high off the drug.

Cocaine also changes the reward system or pleasure center of the brain after long term use. This causes a person to need more and more of the drug in order to get the same high. This is when the most psychological damage occurs.

Short term effects on mental health

While the drug is actively in your system, it affects your mental health. Although most of these effects are temporary, there are some that may become permanent. The short term negative mental effects of cocaine are:

  • confusion,
  • paranoia,
  • agitation,
  • panic,
  • anxiety,
  • erratic, and
  • violent behavior.

All of these are psychological side effects that appear while someone is using cocaine or one of its derivatives. These short term effects when experienced repeatedly turn into long term effects.

Long term effects on mental health

cocaine brain effects

Cocaine can have a dramatic impact on brain functioning.

According to a study done in World Psychiatry on the relationship between cocaine use and mental health problems, one of the most profound effects of cocaine use happens after a person stops taking the drug. The medical term for this effect is anhedonia. Anhedoina is the inability to feel pleasure. This means that anything that was pleasurable previous before starting cocaine is no longer pleasurable. Cocaine floods the dopamine receptors in the brain. This flood eventually causes these centers to stop functioning properly without massive amounts of dopamine. The anhedoina itself is not treatable and is linked to other issues including depression, psychosis and anxiety. Fortunately, the dopamine receptors eventually return to normal but may leave behind other mental illnesses.

Other long term mental and psychological effects of cocaine use are:

  • difficulty concentrating,
  • cravings for the drug,
  • depression,
  • anxiety, and
  • a general feeling of mental exhaustion.

It is important to remember that no all cocaine users suffer from these effects when in cocaine withdrawal. Many studies including the one in World Psychiatry say that both long term and permanent mental health problems depend on the intensity and frequency of cocaine use rather than the drug itself.

Psychological conditions associated with cocaine use

Some doctors and scientists suggest that psychological and mental health issues are present before cocaine use and cocaine use is a form of self-medicating. Some of these disorders include:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome,
  • depression,
  • bi-polar disorder, and
  • post traumatic stress disorder.

Some addicts may be using cocaine to compensate for these mental health issues. Since there is not much information on a perfectly healthy individual using cocaine it is not known whether the cocaine caused many of these problems or if the mental health issue caused the addict to use cocaine. Cocaine and crack cocaine are known to make certain disorders worse. People with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder often experience more intense symptoms after using cocaine.

Psychological conditions caused by cocaine

It is impossible to separate other factors from cocaine use completely. The other factors are age, mental status at the time of first use, income, family health, health history, and the presence of other medical and nonmedical stressors. There is a higher prevalence of certain mental disorders in those studied that use cocaine. Although it cannot be said that cocaine is the only cause for these disorders, it can be said that it is a factor in their presence. The psychological issues commonly thought to be associated with the use of powdered cocaine and crack cocaine are:

  • paranoia,
  • psychosis,
  • anxiety,
  • aggression,
  • violent outbursts,
  • periods of intense irritability,
  • PTSD, and
  • chronic depression.

Doctors and scientists generally agree that powdered and crack cocaine along with other factors sometimes cause serious mental issues. One of the most serious mental health factors associated with cocaine abuse is the risk of suicide. This is a risk while using the drug, during withdrawal, and after being off the drug.

Everything people experience affects their mental health in some way. Using cocaine exacerbates this impact. If a stressor or mental disorder exists before a person starts using cocaine, the cocaine will make the stressor or mental disorder worse. When using cocaine you are at a higher risk for developing a mental health issue, these issues are sometimes permanent and can only be treated with drugs and psychotherapy. You are also at a higher risk for committing suicide or having suicidal thoughts and ideation. The effects of cocaine on your mental health are always negative and almost always need some form of treatment.

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