The American Psychiatric Association estimates that anxiety affects nearly one-third of all adults. It can be caused by genetics, environmental factors, and even the substances people use to ease their minds: drugs. Does cocaine cause anxiety? Yes, but that’s not all it does. In addition to increased anxiety, cocaine use has been linked to chronic stress, panic attacks, and other mental health disorders. And since the brain and body are in a constant feedback loop, your corroded mental health can have very real (and very dangerous) physical effects on the body that can impair your overall health.
Cocaine-Induced Anxiety Disorders
When people turn to recreational drugs like cocaine as a means of stress relief, what actually happens under the hood is anything but relaxing. To put it simply, cocaine puts the body in an artificial state of stress that directly interferes with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels. The disruption of these chemicals is what can cause the development of mood and anxiety disorders.
What Is An Anxiety Disorder?
An anxiety disorder is when a person’s fight-or-flight instinct is activated inappropriately (when there are no rational stressors or threats) and hinders them from normal functioning. Cocaine and other stimulants, and even some medications, can cause heightened feelings of anxiety that occur during the onset or withdrawal of the drug.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for anxiety, but medication, psychiatric treatment, and a healthy lifestyle can go a long way towards managing this neurological imbalance.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive or irrational worry
How Cocaine Causes Anxiety
The mechanisms that enable cocaine to elicit feelings of euphoria, increase confidence, heighten alertness, and fight off fatigue are the same ones involved in the body’s physical response to stress and are known as the “fight-or-flight response”. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone largely responsible for this survival instinct, is one that is directly affected by cocaine.
In small doses, cortisol is helpful; t keeps your body primed for action and can enhance both physical and cognitive performance. However, if cortisol levels are sustained for an extended period, it quickly becomes harmful. Cortisol interferes with serotonin, an important aspect of mood stabilization, happiness, and general feelings of well-being. It also disrupts dopamine levels, a crucial neurotransmitter involved with motivation, reward, and is closely tied to addiction. Cocaine not only sustains cortisol levels in the body but can result in higher levels of this hormone’s secretion making the situation even more dangerous.
How Cortisol Affects Your Mood
Cortisol reduces the number of serotonin receptors, thereby causing serotonin levels to fall. Serotonin is involved with a number of important functions from sleep regulation to memory. However, serotonin is perhaps best known for its starring role in mood stabilization. Low serotonin levels are known to lead to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Dopamine levels, however, rise in the presence of cortisol, which is why cocaine can cause those initial feelings of euphoria. Too much of anything, however, even a good thing like dopamine, can have drastic consequences. High levels of dopamine can cause nervousness, irritability, aggressiveness, and paranoia.
These neurological imbalances can have major physiological impacts as well, making the body more susceptible to feeling stressed in the first place. In a two-pronged attack, cocaine perpetuates this harmful cycle, keeping your body in a prolonged state of stress and disrupts your body to come down from it.
Cocaine Is A Stressful Stimulant
Looking to take the edge off? If you’re using cocaine to do it, you’re actually sabotaging your efforts. Cocaine isn’t just a poor choice of stress relief, but it can actually be a source of stress. In addition to giving your bad anxiety, cocaine can lead to long-standing mental health disorders whose accompanying physical ailments are stressful all their own. Cocaine is a nightmare for your mental well-being. Contact a drug treatment center to help safely discontinue cocaine use and to learn healthier and effective stress coping mechanisms.