Understanding the Cocaine Side Effects on Your Mental Health

Cocaine has many psychological side effects that will cause problems for your mental health and well-being. While many individuals start abusing cocaine with the intention of having fun or feeling the intense high, other side effects can start to appear even on your first use of the drug. These can cause extreme issues for your mental health can even lead to severe psychosis.

A Cocaine High’s Effect on Your Mental Health

According to the NCBI, there are psychological effects that occur minutes after initial cocaine use (or instantaneously when it comes to the abuse of crack cocaine). These effects are “intense euphoria, pleasure, and ecstasy, states in which everything pleasurable is intensified.” While you may wonder how this could be problematic, it is important to understand that the pleasure one feels due to the abuse of cocaine immediately starts to change the way the brain works.

The NIDA states, “With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforces and to the drug itself.” This can cause a person to develop psychological issues as a result of cocaine abuse, including:

  • Tolerance to the drug where the individual will start to need more and more of it each time to feel the same high
  • Psychological dependence on the drug that can result in the person
    • Not feeling normal unless they are on cocaine
    • Being unable to get through the day without the drug
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to obtain cocaine such as depression, irritability, anxiety, and cravings for the drug
  • Addiction to cocaine which can cause a host of problems in the individual’s life
  • An inability to feel pleasure unless they are on high amounts of the drug

The first high you experience from cocaine abuse can lead to all of these issues quickly because it is an extremely addictive and intense drug. A person may not become addicted after abusing the drug once, but there is a possibility, especially if they are smoking crack cocaine, which causes the effects to reach the brain much faster and to dissipate much more quickly, leading to repeated use and a higher likelihood for addiction and tolerance to develop.

Short-Term Psychological Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine abuse has many psychological and mental health effects, but many people believe that they are safe from them during the short-term abuse of the drug. Because they feel very euphoric and good, these individuals may not realize how dangerous the effects of the drug are to them.

cocaine issues

Cocaine has been known to cause psychiatric issues.

Some of the short-term effects cocaine abuse has on your mental health are:

  • Mental alertness
  • Euphoria
  • High amounts of mental and physical energy
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Vertigo
  • Restlessness

A person may feel very good when they start abusing cocaine, but the high can often become frightening or unpleasant. Many people do not realize this their first time abusing the drug, and there is no guarantee that every time will be the same or even similar to the first time.

Many users also experience a crash period after coming down from cocaine which is both mental and physical. The energy, alertness, and excitability will all melt away as the cocaine high wears off, and the individual will experience varying degrees of listlessness, depression, irritability, and exhaustion. This will take a toll on your mental performance and abilities after the high of the drug wears off, and many individuals take more in order to try and avoid the crash period which is also incredibly dangerous.

Cocaine Induced Psychosis: An Extreme Danger to Your Mental Health

In the long-term, “cocaine abusers can also experience severe paranoia––a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis––in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory [and tactile] hallucinations” (NIDA). This state is both dangerous to the individual’s mental health and their physical well-being as well as the well-being of others.

This paranoid psychotic state is different than the general paranoia one might feel from trying cocaine for the first time. The symptoms and signs are:

  • Hallucinations (like coke bugs, a tactile sensation of bugs burrowing under the skin)
  • Violent behavior (homicide is common)
  • Aggression
  • Severe paranoia
  • Delirium

While it is not usually permanent, this state can take a large toll on a person’s mental well-being. It can take quite a while in some cases for all of the symptoms to disappear with treatment. Even afterward, it can be very hard for some individuals to cope with their former state of cocaine induced psychosis.

Long-Term Psychological Effects of Cocaine Abuse

A person who abuses cocaine in the long-term will often experience the effects of cocaine psychosis as well as addiction, dependence, and tolerance for the drug. The inability to feel pleasure except when on cocaine (and sometimes not even then) can occur after long-term use, making the individual continue to abuse cocaine just to curb their withdrawal symptoms but unable to feel happiness or any other positive emotions.

When someone has been abusing cocaine for a long time, it is likely that they will become addicted. The drug is highly potent and can cause addictive symptoms, especially cravings, that can last for a very long time after treatment. According to the NLM, “The craving and depression can last for months following cessation of long-term heavy use (particularly daily),” and the withdrawal syndrome and its symptoms actually “rivals or exceeds” those caused by other drugs of abuse.

Understanding the Effect of Cocaine on Your Mental Health

It is important to understand the effect of cocaine on your mental health simply because the drug can cause severe issues that can only be undone through intense therapy over a long period of time. Cocaine abuse can also cause you to become mental unstable and act in ways you would not normally, sometimes even causing irrevocable damage to your life. Cocaine has dangerous effects on a person’s mental health, whether they are taking the drug for the first time or have been taking it for years.


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