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.
How Does Cocaine Work?
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.
Psychological Symptoms of Cocaine Use
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 tried 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:
- Emotional swings
- Lethargy and introversion
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms and Mood Swings
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.
Key Points: How Cocaine Affects Mood
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
MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019. DailyMed. “COCAINE HYDROCHLORIDE- Cocaine Hydrochloride Solution.” 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019. Jufer, R A. “Elimination of Cocaine and Metabolites in Plasma, Saliva, and Urine Following Repeated Oral Administration to Human Volunteers.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2000. Accessed May 13, 2019. Nestler, Eric J. “The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction.” Science & Practice Perspectives, 2005. Accessed May 13, 2019. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Does Cocaine Produce Its Effects?” 2018. Accessed May 13, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019.
DailyMed. “COCAINE HYDROCHLORIDE- Cocaine Hydrochloride Solution.” 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019.
Jufer, R A. “Elimination of Cocaine and Metabolites in Plasma, Saliva, and Urine Following Repeated Oral Administration to Human Volunteers.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2000. Accessed May 13, 2019.
Nestler, Eric J. “The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction.” Science & Practice Perspectives, 2005. Accessed May 13, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Does Cocaine Produce Its Effects?” 2018. Accessed May 13, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.