Exercise addiction is a behavioral addiction that is not recognized as much as it should be. Cocaine addiction is a common co-occurring disorder.

Article at a Glance:

Exercise addiction is a behavioral addiction

Exercise addiction is harder to recognize than a substance addiction

Athletes who use cocaine to fuel performance can become addicted

Cocaine reduces athletic performance long-term

Healthy exercise programs have been shown to ease the stress of cocaine withdrawal

Cocaine and Exercise Addiction

Exercise is one of the healthiest activities that a person can do. However, like anything, there is a point when it becomes unhealthy if overdone. An addiction to a non-substance high, like exercise, is called behavioral addiction.

If cocaine and exercise together fuel an exercise addiction or vice versa, it might indicate co-occurring disorders that need rehab treatment.

Exercise addiction is not officially recognized in the DSM-V as an addiction (it fits non-specifically into a general behavioral addiction).

Three or more of these symptoms might indicate exercise addiction. While using cocaine, exercise addiction qualifies as a co-occurring disorder.

Prevalence of Cocaine Abuse and Exercise Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 1.5 million people use cocaine each month. Cocaine prevalence is about 0.6% of people ages 12 and older, and 1.4% of the 18 to 24-year-old age group. Cocaine accounts for about 40% of the nationwide emergency department visits that involve drug misuse or abuse.

The prevalence of exercise addiction is estimated to be about 3% in the general population, which is about twice the prevalence of cocaine abuse. Why is exercise addiction double the prevalence of cocaine abuse? How can we interpret this information?

Exercise addiction may go unnoticed most of the time because exercising is generally viewed as a positive activity. Unlike substance addictions, behavioral addictions are harder to spot because there is no obvious piece of evidence, like a bag of cocaine or drug paraphernalia.

Does Cocaine Affect Exercise Addiction?

Athletes may use substances to improve their performance, but data shows that cocaine reduces the amount of fuel available to cells. So cocaine might provide a small boost to performance at first, but it quickly drains a person’s energy level.

A person with co-occurring exercise and cocaine addiction may then find themselves bouncing back and force between exercise and cocaine to achieve highs that are no longer possible.

Does Cocaine Recovery Cause Exercise Addiction?

Most of the time, no, cocaine recovery does not cause exercise addiction. A healthy exercise program can help with the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal and recovery. However, if someone replaces cocaine addiction with exercise addiction, then the underlying addiction tendencies need to be addressed.

Withdrawal from cocaine creates a stress response, and people experiencing withdrawal symptoms try to stop these symptoms, sometimes by using more cocaine. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Depression or depressed mood
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Feeling of discomfort
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid or unpleasant dreams

There is evidence that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of withdrawal. But at this stage of recovery, it becomes important not to swap one addiction for another.

If you or a loved one have a co-occurring exercise addiction and cocaine addiction, it might be time to seek help. If you would like to learn more about co-occurring disorders and the options available, contact The Recovery Village.

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
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed May 17, 2019.

Freimuth, Marilyn. “Clarifying Exercise Addiction: Differ[…]ses of Addiction.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2011. Accessed May 17, 2019.

Hausenblas, Heather A. “How Much Is Too Much? The Development[…]Dependence Scale.” Psychology and Health, 2010. Accessed May 17, 2019.

NIDA. “What Is the Scope of Cocaine Use in the United States?” 2018. Accessed May 17, 2019.

Perrine SA. “Cocaine regulates protein kinase B an[…]ons of rat brain.”, 2008. Accessed May 17, 2019.

Robison, Lisa S. “Chronic Forced Exercise Inhibits Stre[…]Place Preference.” Behavioral Brain Research, 2018. Accessed May 17, 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.