Psychological Issues and Cocaine Use
Almost every illicit drug on the market today has some form of psychological effect. It is not difficult to see that anything that has a psychological effect may cause psychological issues. Cocaine is not only one of the more addictive drugs, it is also known for its psychological effects and damage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine has both desirable and undesirable effects. These effects range depending on the length, type, and amount of use. To fully understand the issues cocaine creates, you need to know what it does, why people use it, and it’s long and short term psychological side effects.
What Cocaine Does
Cocaine is an extremely powerful nervous system stimulant. Some say it is the most powerful naturally occurring stimulant in the world. It causes euphoria by stimulating the receptors that release dopamine into the blood stream. Dopamine is the primary chemical for pleasurable feelings and mental attentiveness. It also prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed and stored in the body, so it remains active for a longer period. The longer that dopamine is active the longer the euphoria lasts. This causes significant psychological and social effects.
Short Term Psychological Side Effects
The initial high from smoking, injecting, or ingesting cocaine creates a variety of short term effects. Some of these effects are desirable and are the reason people use cocaine and others are not. The common short term psychological effects are:
- self confidence,
- a more social feeling and desire to be social,
- sensory arousal,
- loss of appetite,
- bizarre behavior,
- violent behavior,
- hallucinations including tactile feelings,
- decrease in the need for sleep, and
- affects judgment and behavior.
These short term effects are sometimes felt immediately after taking cocaine, other times they might come on after the high diminishes. Most of these effects go away but some may persist and turn into more long term consequences of using the drug.
Long Term Psychological Side Effects
The long term psychological effects sometimes stop after you stop using while others are more lasting, causing permanent psychological damage. These long term effects can after one use. Some of these long term effects are:
- loss of the ability to feel pleasure,
- mood disturbances,
- mental exhaustion,
- tolerance to the drug,
- increased risk taking behavior, and
- severe depression.
These long term effects can last months or years depending on the frequency and amount of cocaine use. They often lead to long term damage including mood disorders and psychosis.
Why People Use Cocaine
Cocaine use cocaine for a variety of reasons. Some start using it as a form of recreation and these people normally do not become addicted or dependent on the drug. Others use it to self medicate. The initial effects of cocaine are somewhat beneficial to those suffering from psychiatric disorders. A few of the reasons why people start using cocaine are:
- to combat depression and anxiety due to personal circumstance or underlying psychiatric disorder,
- peer pressure,
- ease of use, and
- to ease hopelessness and worry.
Many of these reasons to start using cocaine begin because of psychological issues. These issues must be resolved in order to stop the addiction.
Psychological Issues as a Cause of Cocaine Use
According to the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, most people who use cocaine do so as a way to combat an underlying mental illness. It is uncertain whether the psychological issues that follow cocaine use are because of the addiction or if they were underlying before initial use. Either way most studies show that there is at least a correlation between cocaine use and psychological issues. The frequency and intensity of use often predicts the prevalence of psychological issues associated with cocaine use. Many of these disorders are initially helped by the drug but ultimately made worse. A few of the disorders that seem to cause cocaine use are:
- mood disorders,
- antisocial personality disorder,
- anxiety disorders, and
- bipolar disorder.
Scientists are certain that people already diagnosed with any of these disorders are at a higher risk for abusing cocaine. Many people who go into addiction treatment centers find that these disorders existed before the cocaine use. Introverted people with social anxiety for instance often find that cocaine solves problems with inhibition and use the drug to feel more comfortable in social situations. People with depression often use cocaine to keep the depressed mood at bay despite the fact that it ultimately makes the depression worse. Each of these disorders is treated by the initial effects of the drug which prompts the user to continue despite the dangers.
In some cases, treating the initial disorder also treats the addiction. Many psychological issues coincide with cocaine use others are caused by using the drug. These disorders often are underlying and are discovered while in treatment. It is also possible that the cocaine use exacerbates previously undiscovered issues.
Fortunately, both inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities treat both the underlying disorder and the addiction. Treating both can help to prevent relapse. This is why it is important to find a treatment center that addresses the psychological issues and cocaine use.