Learn about the different ways that cocaine can affect a person’s mood and what to do if you or a loved one develop a cocaine addiction.
Yes, cocaine can cause mood swings as a side effect of the drug’s use. Cocaine has symptoms that are physical, mental, emotional and financial — all of which can influence a person’s mood. Cocaine impacts a person’s life in a variety of short- and long-term ways.
Article at a Glance:
Cocaine is known to give people energy, but it can also result in poor quality moods following use. Keep the following key points in mind regarding how cocaine affects a person’s mood:
Cocaine works by increasing neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in neurons (brain cells)
Cocaine makes a person feel very good at first
Over time, cocaine depletes those neurotransmitters
Long-term cocaine use has negative impacts on mood
How Does Cocaine Impact Your Mood
Cocaine increases levels of neurotransmitters that are sent between your brain cells (neurons). Neurotransmitters are chemical signals that neurons use to communicate with each other. Cocaine increases the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
When cocaine enters the body through the nose, it is rapidly absorbed by the small blood vessels of the sinuses. The drug then travels through the bloodstream to various parts of the body, including the brain. When cocaine is taken up by neurons, it increases the levels of neurotransmitters by stopping them from breaking down. This process is what leads to the euphoric effects of cocaine.
Emotional Effects of Cocaine
The mood-altering effects of cocaine are usually more obvious than the physical and mental symptoms. During short-term use, cocaine causes an elevated mood and euphoria, so a common sign of someone trying cocaine for the first time is an unexplained increase in mood and talkativeness. This shift is caused by the unnatural increase of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Over time, these neurotransmitters run out and the brain cannot produce them fast enough to maintain a normal mood. This absence causes a drop in mood as the brain tries to correct to its normal mood state. It may take a few days to a few weeks to start seeing these symptoms.
Initially, you may notice:
- Bursts of elevated mood and euphoria
- High energy levels
- Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- Loss of appetite
- Short attention span
Later, you might notice:
Mood Swings After Cocaine Use
Cocaine can cause mood swings when someone is using the drug and when they are withdrawing. A person using cocaine may experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not present in their system. The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Agitation and restless behavior
- Depressed mood
- A general feeling of discomfort
- Increased appetite
- Slowing of activity
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
Cocaine’s half-life is about one hour. The brief half-life means that the body detoxes in about five hours. After this withdrawal symptoms usually begin. Cocaine can show withdrawal symptoms after only a few uses. Many of these symptoms, like fatigue and unpleasant dreams, can affect a person’s mood long for days after drug use.
Does Cocaine Affect Mood Permanently?
Cocaine abstinence returns the balance of neurotransmitters to normal and mood swings can vanish. Abstinence is hard for some people because the symptoms of withdrawal can be very intense. Sometimes people continue taking cocaine just to avoid withdrawal symptoms. A structured treatment program can help remove the temptation of continued use of cocaine just to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Does Cocaine Produce Its Effects?” 2018. Accessed May 13, 2019.
Morton, W. Alexander. “Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms.” Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 1999. Accessed August 20, 2020.
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