Panic attacks are often observed in individuals suffering from claustrophobia. Learn if cocaine can induce panic attacks or even contribute to causing claustrophobia.

Article at a Glance:

Cocaine can induce panic attacks and exacerbate symptoms of claustrophobia

Cocaine use may increase susceptibility to claustrophobia

Claustrophobia may develop after trauma

Like other anxiety disorders, claustrophobia may result in people abusing cocaine to cope with the symptoms

Cocaine and Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is a form of anxiety disorder characterized by the fear of being confined in a small space. Individuals with claustrophobia may fear suffocating in the small space or may fear the physical restriction. Although some individuals living with claustrophobia may only experience mild anxiety in a confined space, many individuals suffer from panic attacks in such situations. Symptoms associated with panic attacks include:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant of the nervous system that results in a state of hyperarousal involving increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Cocaine use also affects various cognitive processes and may make an individual more vulnerable to anxiety disorders like claustrophobia, or may worsen the symptoms of a claustrophobic individual.

Can Cocaine Cause Claustrophobia?

Although there are no studies that investigated the causal role of cocaine in claustrophobia, cocaine abuse is associated with panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cocaine produces its effects by increasing the activity of neurotransmitter systems involving dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. The activation of these neurotransmitter systems is responsible for feelings of anxiety or a panic attack. The ability of cocaine to cause anxiety and induce panic attacks may make an individual susceptible to claustrophobia.

Although the causes of claustrophobia are not well understood, traumatic events in the past may be responsible for the phobia. In the case of claustrophobia, individuals may have negative associations with confined spaces before the onset of the disorder. Chronic cocaine use may contribute to the persistence of such negative associations.

Animal studies show that chronic cocaine use can result in cognitive deficits in learning and memory processes related to fearful stimuli. Cocaine use can result in deficits in the extinction of fearful responses, meaning that cocaine users continue to respond to a previously threatening stimulus with a fearful response even after the stimulus becomes non-threatening. Cocaine withdrawal is marked by an increase in stress and this increase may also result in impaired responsiveness to non-threatening stimuli. In the specific case of claustrophobia, cocaine use may result in an inability to dissociate negative emotional associations formed with a confined space, despite being aware of a lack of danger.

Does Cocaine Affect Claustrophobic Symptoms?

As mentioned, acute intake of cocaine in high doses as well as abstinence from drug use can produce anxiety. Individuals suffering from claustrophobia experience various symptoms, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure that are caused by heightened anxiety. Thus, anxiety induced by cocaine intake may worsen these symptoms in claustrophobic individuals.

If you or a loved one live with a cocaine addiction contact The Recovery Village to speak to a representative about how addiction treatment can help. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Related Topic: Treatment for claustrophobia

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Deep Shukla
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Deep Shukla, PhD, MS
Dr. Deep Shukla graduated with a PhD in Neuroscience from Georgia State University in December 2018. Read more

National Health Services. “Claustrophobia.” May 2019. Accessed May 25, 2019

Tipps ME, Raybuck JD, Lattal KM. “Substance abuse, memory, and post-trauma[…]stress disorder”. Neurobiology of learning and memory. July 2014. Accessed May 25, 2019

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.