It is almost impossible to use cocaine recreationally and not have it significantly affect your health, especially your physical health. It is one of the most addictive illicit drugs available, and even after the first use of this notorious stimulant, it can spike your blood pressure, cause malnutrition, and even cause death. It is often regarded as a drug for the rich.
Additionally, cocaine can cause severe paranoia and hallucinations, which are symptoms of psychosis. You may not die from cocaine psychosis, but you can engage in behaviors or perform acts that could have fatal consequences. Learn what to do if you are suffering from this form of psychosis.
Cocaine Psychosis: What Is It and How Does It Work?
The Merck Manual defines stimulant-induced psychosis as hallucinations and/or delusions caused directly or indirectly by a drug or its withdrawal in the absence of delirium, according to the Merck Manual. Cocaine psychosis is an overdose of the mind that occurs when someone abuses cocaine or crack, a freebase form of cocaine.
Symptoms of substance-induced psychosis, especially cocaine psychosis, are temporary. Although cocaine psychosis typically occurs with long-term use, crack psychosis can also occur. Psychosis encompasses a cluster of symptoms, such as:
- Hallucinations. This is hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there.
- Delusions. Different from hallucinations, delusions are false beliefs, especially those rooted in fears or suspicions of things that are not real.
- Disorganization. Scattered thoughts in the mind, speech problems, or strange behavior.
- Disordered thinking. Users make strange connections between unrelated thoughts and jump between unrelated topics.
- Catatonia. This is an inability to move normally; it may also cause immobility and a stupor.
- Difficulty concentrating. Struggling with your attention span or needing help to focus.
Cocaine Use Symptoms
There is a substantial increase in dopamine levels in the reward region of the brain after cocaine use, which reinforces drug-taking behavior. Cocaine causes the brain to produce a large amount of dopamine.
The primary method of ingesting cocaine is to snort it through the nose. Users can also rub it into their teeth and gums. Some people have also been known to dissolve the powder and inject it directly into their system.
In the crack-cocaine form, people smoke and inhale cocaine into their lungs. However, in regular cocaine form, people tend to binge on it, meaning they use cocaine repeatedly within a short period.
The signs of cocaine abuse include physical, psychological, and behavioral manifestations. Several symptoms and behaviors that could serve as warning signs include the following:
- A change in groups of friends
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- A runny nose or frequent sniffing
- A change in eating or sleeping patterns
- A change in behavior
- Acting withdrawn, depressed, tired
- Careless about personal appearance
- Frequently needing money to buy cocaine
The following symptoms and signs, per MedicineNet.com, can characterize cocaine abuse and addiction:
- Inability to meet work, school, or home commitments due to repeated cocaine use.
- Regularly using cocaine in hazardous situations and circumstances.
- Continuously using cocaine despite work, school, social, or interpersonal problems caused by its effects.
- Tolerance means experiencing significantly diminished effects from cocaine or needing to substantially increase your dose to achieve the same high or other desired results.
- Having withdrawal symptoms or taking cocaine, or a closely related substance, to prevent withdrawal.
- Using cocaine for a longer period or consuming more cocaine than intended.
- Being persistently drawn to cocaine or making unsuccessful attempts to reduce or manage your use.
- A substantial amount of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from cocaine.
- Cocaine reduces or stops your participation in significant social, recreational, work, or educational activities.
- Having cravings for cocaine or a strong desire to use it.
Overdose and Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
It is true that cocaine psychosis involves a host of harmful symptoms. In addition to those symptoms, cocaine is also capable of producing a number of ruinous long-term effects on the body.
Cocaine’s long-term effects, as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), include the following:
- Snorting. A loss of smell, frequent runny noses, nosebleeds, and difficulty swallowing.
- Smoking. Higher susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections due to coughing, asthma, and respiratory problems.
- Consuming by mouth. Reduced blood flow to the intestinal wall causes severe bowel decay or intestinal ischemia.
- Needle injection. Infections of the skin or soft tissues, scarring, or collapsed veins are associated with an increased risk of HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases.
Cocaine impairs judgment, which can lead to risky behaviors that can lead to sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and hepatitis. Cocaine use adversely affects malnutrition, Parkinson’s disease, and other movement disorders.
Additionally, cocaine increases blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke, both of which can be fatal for cocaine users.
In addition to physical symptoms, a cocaine overdose can also result in psychological symptoms, such as:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased sweating, body temperature, or heart rate
- Confusion, seizures, tremors
Is Cocaine Overdose Lethal?
Taking cocaine in a high dose may cause cardiotoxicity. It is possible that you will experience more cardiotoxicity if you overdose or take cocaine in high doses for a long time. Overdoses can leave lasting effects, even if you survive them.
The American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs published a 2009 review showing cocaine causes irreversible structural heart damage. Heart damage is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risks. Cocaine can cause sudden heart attacks and cardiac death. Consuming cocaine or experiencing an overdose significantly increases your risk of complications associated with your heart.
When cocaine is mixed with other drugs, especially stimulants or depressants, the risk of addiction increases. With the increased availability of fentanyl on illicit drug markets, mixing cocaine with other drugs has become even more dangerous.
Cocaethylene, a compound found in the liver when the organ breaks down cocaine and alcohol together, makes cocaine abuse particularly harmful.
Alcohol and cocaine break down in the liver. During metabolism, alcohol, and cocaine combine to form a chemical called cocaethylene when they are broken down. Cocaethylene has unpleasant effects on your body, including seizures, convulsions, panic attacks, and heart palpitations. Moreover, it may make you more likely to commit suicide.
Mixing alcohol and cocaine is more dangerous than taking cocaine alone due to cocaethylene.
How to Deal With Cocaine Psychosis and Addiction
Trying to quit cocaine is futile and dangerous, especially when you are in the throes of psychosis. It leaves you vulnerable to overdose and death, and it is highly addictive. In order to treat cocaine addiction and psychosis, a professional recovery program must provide a nuanced, multilevel response. Professional treatment for stimulant addictions begins with medical detox, which provides 24-hour monitored care for a week.
In this period, cocaine is removed from your system, and its withdrawal symptoms, including agitation, depression, fatigue, and other conditions, are medically treated. Cocaine psychosis patients may also benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, which addresses both substance abuse and co-occurring mental health problems.
Those who have used cocaine severely may also benefit from residential treatment, which is recommended. In a residential program, you will receive services recommended for cocaine addiction. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management and motivational interviewing are also available.
The benefit of residential treatment is that it allows you to live in a safe and structured therapeutic community that is optimal for your recovery.
It is also possible to receive evidence-based treatment through outpatient programs but part-time. One of outpatient care’s advantages is that it is possible to receive therapy and care while staying at home.
Continuing support through a 12-step program can help people recovering from cocaine addiction. This program can provide long-term support for you to maintain your recovery.