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.

Key Points: Cocaine and Claustrophobia

Keep the following key points in mind when considering cocaine and claustrophobia:

  • 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

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.

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