Stimulants in general are not recommended when you're dealing with severe anxiety. Many people recommend against caffeine. Some even recommend against chocolate. But of all of the stimulants available today, the one that is essentially guaranteed to cause severe anxiety is cocaine.
Cocaine is an illegal recreational drug that causes severe anxiety, even in those that do not normally suffer from anxiety. If you also have an anxiety disorder, the potential for short and long term consequences is high.
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The Many Reasons That Cocaine Causes Anxiety
It's clear that cocaine should be avoided. All hard drugs, regardless of the "high" they provide, have significant dangers and are known to ruin people's lives. Anxiety isn't anywhere close to the only reason that you should avoid cocaine, nor should cocaine be something you even remotely consider if you want to avoid anxiety.
It's also important to note that many people turn to drugs like cocaine because they suffer from anxiety, as the high itself becomes an addictive coping tool. That's why it's important to work on your mental health in addition to your drug use habits. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more.
There are many different issues that appear to link cocaine to anxiety. They include:
- Stimulant Before all else, cocaine is a stimulant, and all stimulants can increase anxiety cocaine rapidly excites neurotransmitters in your brain, and while most people think that only low levels of neurotransmitters lead to anxiety, there are many - like norepinephrine - that in excess create extreme levels of anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common side effects of cocaine use, and may be even worse if you already have an anxiety disorder.
- Withdrawal Once cocaine wears off, the body goes into withdrawal mode. During withdrawal, those same neurotransmitters drop dramatically, leading to the development of depression and anxiety. The brain also tries to adapt to recover, and any time the brain is struggling the person may become more prone to anxiety.
- Cocaine Behaviors Many of the behaviors that people engage in on cocaine can also lead to anxiety. For example, those that have chronically abused the drug may find themselves with severe insomnia, and insomnia is known to cause the development of anxiety disorders. In addition, the exact behaviors people engaged in while high may also cause feelings of anxiety and regret.
- Physical Stress The mind and body are often connected. Cocaine use can cause many physical stresses, from the way the nerves react to the drug to the itching that may be caused by severe abuse. No matter the symptom, physical stress often leads to the development of mental stress, and thus anxiety.
- Lifestyle Finally, there are many components of the cocaine lifestyle (due the legality, the effects, and the addictive power) that contribute to anxiety. Often it needs to be bought in dangerous neighborhoods. It can be so addictive that people lose their jobs or lose money, and are forced to find ways to pay for it. It can cause severe dehydration (which causes anxiety), pain, psychomotor agitation, nausea, increased heart rate and more. All of these have components that may lead to the development of anxiety.
This is just a small sample of the number of ways that cocaine use can lead to severe anxiety. Because the mind can quickly adapt its neurotransmitters to cocaine, using the drug one or two times can lead to the development of an anxiety issue.
It's also important to remember that anxiety is often self-sustaining. Even if you only use cocaine once and it leaves your system without a problem, any anxiety you experience while on cocaine does have the potential to last, simply because anxiety tends to fuel itself by starting various fears, and eventually you may develop chronic stress or an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety/Stress and Drug Use
Finally, one of the most forgotten reasons to avoid drugs like cocaine is that they cause psychological dependency. When you use any drug - even alcohol - to cope with anxiety and stress, your mind decides to forget how to cope with stress without the drug. Eventually, you essentially lose your own mental ability to control anxiety, and you'll start to need a drug like cocaine to handle even a small amount of stress.
That's one of the reasons that many people that have quit drugs like cocaine have gone back to them months or years later, despite knowing the effects they have. It's not just physiological dependence (which is when your body actually craves the drug). It's also psychological dependence, because you'll have lost your ability to cope with stress unless you use the drug.
Controlling Anxiety - Quitting/Avoiding Cocaine
One of the reasons that drug use is so prevalent in the world today is because most countries go about drug use incorrectly. They focus on the health hazards and make the drug illegal. While drugs are dangerous and can be dangerous enough to cause death or long term disability, the main reason people turn to these drugs is because they are struggling to cope with the stresses of life.
So that's what should be a priority - making sure that you're learning how to enjoy life as is, reducing your stress and anxiety so that you have no desire or need to try drugs like cocaine. If more people were able to control their stress and anxiety and find more joy out of life, fewer people would ever bother to take recreational drugs that cause so much long term harm.
I've helped many people struggling with stress cure their anxiety without the use of drugs. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test, and find out more about how you can control your anxiety for good.
Yang, Xiao-Min, et al. Anxiogenic effects of acute and chronic cocaine administration: neurochemical and behavioral studies . Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 41.3 (1992): 643-650.
Sarnyai, Zoltn, et al. Brain corticotropin-releasing factor mediates 'anxiety-like'behavior induced by cocaine withdrawal in rats . Brain research 675.1 (1995): 89-97.
Weiss, Roger D., et al. Psychopathology in chronic cocaine abusers. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse 12.1-2 (1986): 17-29.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.