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Can Cocaine Use Cause Anxiety?

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Anxiety is a mental illness that affects approximately 40 million adults in the United States on a yearly basis. Over 60 percent of those individuals never seek treatment for their anxiety.

Substance use is common among individuals struggling with mental illness. In fact, studies have shown that more than half of individuals struggling with cocaine addiction experience clinically significant levels of anxiety and depression.

Cocaine is one of the more popular substances of use. Cocaine produces euphoria and decreases negative emotions and feelings. While a person may use cocaine to ‘feel better’, over time, this attempt at self-medication often backfires.

Cocaine Use And Managing Anxiety

Mental health professionals suggest using anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications to treat symptoms of anxiety. However, many individuals decide to self-medicate using illicit drugs, including cocaine, to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Although cocaine is a stimulant and causes physiological responses similar to the symptoms experienced by those who have anxiety disorders, cocaine has some perceived calming effects to the person using it.

Individuals who struggle with anxiety and are abusing cocaine have disclosed that they feel more at ease when interacting in social situations and are less concerned with other people’s perceptions when they are under the influence of cocaine.

Using a drug like cocaine for temporary relief of anxiety symptoms can backfire, however. In order to experience the perceived anxiety-relieving properties of cocaine, a person would need to continuously use the drug. This binging behavior can quickly result in addiction.

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Cocaine And Anxiety: The Relationship

There has been significant research investigating the relationship between cocaine and anxiety. A link has been found between cocaine and anxiety, however, it has been debated whether or not one causes the other.

Cocaine affects specific neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in high energy levels. This increase in brain function can contribute to increased levels of paranoia, aggression, racing or uncontrollable thoughts. 

Conversely, if a person is dependent on cocaine may continue to use cocaine in order to avoid feelings of anxiety. Stopping cocaine once dependent can result in symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, and high anxiety is one of the most reported withdrawal symptoms. 

Additionally, signs that a person could be struggling with cocaine dependence and anxiety may include insomnia, overthinking, restlessness, nausea, or obsessive thoughts. Being hyperfocused on the opinions of others or situations that are out of the person’s control may also occur. 

Some people may actually experience anxiety attacks when they use cocaine, while others may experience anxiety when they are coming down off of cocaine. Negative feelings often occur once the cocaine starts to wear off. This can evoke anxious feelings. 

Treating Cocaine Addiction And Anxiety

When anxiety and addiction occur at the same time, it is referred to as a comorbid, or co-occurring, disorder. Seeking treatment for substance use or anxiety separately can affect the success of either treatment or intervention. 

It is important to treat both symptoms of anxiety and cocaine addiction at the same time. This increases the chances of maintained sobriety and decreases the likelihood of relapse. Because the two are connected, it can be valuable to provide treatment for them both at once. 

Substance use treatment facilities exist that are equipped to help a person struggling with addiction who also has symptoms of mental illness, like anxiety. These facilities offer detoxification, medication management, treatment of mental health symptoms, counseling, addiction treatment services, aftercare planning, and comprehensive care. 

Finding a cocaine addiction treatment facility that offers the type of treatment needed for you or your loved one may seem difficult, but that is where we can help. Our representatives are available right now to explore options. 


American Journal on Addictions  Anxiety, mood disorders and injection risk behaviors among cocaine users: Results from the COSMO study

Anxiety and Depression Association of America  Facts & Statistics

Journal of Clinical Psychology  Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms

Journal of Dual Diagnosis  Increased Depression and Anxiety Symptoms are Associated with More Breakdowns in Cognitive Control to Cocaine Cues in Veterans with Cocaine Use Disorder 

Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy  Depression, anxiety, hopelessness and quality of life in users of cocaine/crack in outpatient treatment