Cocaine Use And Depression: Can Cocaine Use Cause Depression?

Cocaine use can result in depression for those who abuse cocaine, but especially in individuals who struggle with mental illness in their daily life.

Cocaine Use And Depression Can Cocaine Use Cause Depression?

Cocaine Use And Depression

The effects of cocaine seem to be the opposite of most symptoms of depression. Where depression leads to lethargy, feelings of emptiness, and sadness, cocaine abuse results in increased energy, boosts of mood, euphoria, and higher levels of confidence.

Cocaine effects are short-lived, and in many cases, the ‘high’ diminishes in less than an hour. This can lead to repeated use over a short period of time, putting the person on the fast track into addiction. Cocaine addiction changes brain chemistry, which can also compound the depression symptoms.

Can Cocaine Abuse Cause Depression?

Euphoria and high energy levels are commonly associated with cocaine abuse. Many people do not understand what the aftermath of cocaine high looks or feels like. Depression is pretty common after a cocaine binge, and how cocaine affects the brain is to blame.

When cocaine stimulates the brain, it also activates a part of the brain that controls the ‘fight-or-flight’ response (sympathetic nervous system). This area of the brain cannot remain activated for long periods of time and usually leads to a person crashing afterward.

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In addition to activating the fight-or-flight area of the brain, cocaine also causes a surge of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels. This is what causes the intense feeling of euphoria and pleasure.

When cocaine wears off, the brain needs time to recover from the depletion of these neurotransmitters. Until the normal balance is restored, people generally feel worse than they did before they used cocaine, experiencing feelings of sadness and symptoms of depression.

Long term or large amounts of cocaine use can result in permanent changes in the brain. This indicates cocaine dependence, a sign of addiction. These permanent changes may also result in long term symptoms of depression that would benefit from treatment, as well as withdrawal.

Depression, Cocaine, And Withdrawal

Cocaine dependence does not manifest the same way as alcohol or opioid dependence. There are not the same physical withdrawal symptoms with cocaine. Instead, the psychological withdrawal symptoms tend to be present, and are just as powerful in many cases.

People dependent on cocaine sometimes continue to abuse cocaine to avoid negative symptoms that emerge when they stop abusing cocaine.

These withdrawal symptoms include:

  • hunger
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • anger
  • concentration problems
  • depression

One theory of why cocaine withdrawal results in depression is linked to the way cocaine causes damage to the pleasure center of the brain. One study reported a drop of up to 20 percent in neurons in this area of the brain. Long term cocaine abuse essentially causes neurons to malfunction and not produce enough dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This damage causes depression symptoms to emerge.

A research study from 2016 found that cocaine causes specific cells in the brain to consume themselves. Under healthy circumstances, autophagy is essentially how the brain removes damaged or unhealthy cells. However, when cocaine is added to the brain, this process occurs without regard for the function of the cells being destroyed.

Changes to the brain can result in a number of unwanted side effects, including depression, paranoia, psychosis, and movement disorders. However, when a person stops abusing cocaine, the brain begins to heal and many functions return to normal.

Cocaine Addiction And Depression Treatment: Co-Occurring Disorders

When two disorders occur at the same time, such as depression and a cocaine use disorder, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or comorbid disorder. It is important to find a treatment facility that offers both substance abuse treatment and treatment for depression.

While it may seem overwhelming to a person struggling with addiction and a mental health diagnosis, many of the treatment methods are similar for both. A highly effective form of therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used by drug rehab facilities and counselors.

Additionally, there are medications that treat depression that may help a person who also has been battling a cocaine addiction. Antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) both help increase levels of neurotransmitters that are depleted during cocaine abuse.

Seeking help from a substance abuse treatment program can provide access to trained professionals who can help navigate the path to sobriety. An accredited treatment program uses evidence and outcome-based methods to develop a treatment plan that is unique to each resident receiving treatment.

Checking with facilities to see if they offer services that treat co-occurring diagnoses can help you or your loved one start off on the right foot when searching for substance abuse treatment for cocaine addiction and mental health services for depression.

American Journal of Psychiatry - https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.160.1.47

Autophagy - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15548627.2016.1183844

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181074/

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