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Psychological Effects of Cocaine

As the sun sets in the small city of Espanola in New Mexico, parents stay worried as their kids come home completely drugged and in a sorry state. They look upon the government to help salvage them from this terrible situation of rampant drug abuse that has engulfed them like an evil spell. Espanola is a small city situated in Rio Arriba county’s rural and some few kilometers north of Santa Fe. With a small Hispanic population of about 10,000, the rate of drug use is so alarming that it has always ranked top in drug overdoses in the country. This could be attributed to the poverty level as most of the inhabitants rely only on Los Alamos National Lab to earn a living. The most surprising statistic according to the Forbes magazine is that Espanola accounts for 42.5 deaths related to drugs out of every 100,000 people a statistic that is very difficult to come across in the whole of the US according to the Federal statistics (Vardi, 2009).

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With such astounding statistics, the whole nation could be headed for a disaster. This is attributed to the ever-increasing rate of drug abuse. Among the most common drugs are heroin, Cocaine and Marijuana. To show the dangers that the country faces due to the increase in drug use, this paper will focus on cocaine and its psychological effects on the user. This will be achieved through research from existing literature on what experts have to say about the situation.

To start with, it is important to understand what cocaine is and its origins. Basing on Professor Christopher Holstege of the University of Virginia and the director in the Division of medical toxicology in the Virginia Department of Health’s background analysis of cocaine; this drug is an alkaloid with a natural occurrence derived from the leaves of a plant called Erythroxylon coca. Its origins are dated back to time when ancient Peruvians used the coca leaves during their religious ceremonies. The premier isolation of cocaine from coca was in 1859 with its first usage being as an anesthetic in 1884. Later in 1885, John Smyth Pemberton formulated a drink from the same which later came to be known as coca-cola. All use of cocaine in a non-prescriptive nature was later banned by the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. Eventually, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 sealed the fate of cocaine by making its possession illegal in the United States. This provided room only for the limited use in medication (Holstege et al, 2008).

Cocaine’s Effects on Mental Health

Psychiatry online (2009) identifies 10 psychiatric conditions induced by the use of cocaine. In their report, DSM-IV-TR, the effects of cocaine are identified as:

Cocaine intoxication

This condition can only be diagnosed if the patient has recently used cocaine and as a result has developed psychological changes which can be viewed as clinically significant. The changes are outlined to include euphoria, grandiosity, hyper-vigilance, impaired judgment, talkativeness, anxiety, and anger, changes in both sociability and occupational functions. In addition, the patient may also exhibit signs like disorientation, dystonias, seizures, dyskinesias and in extreme conditions a coma.

Cocaine withdrawal

This condition occurs when a person previously engaged in a prolonged use of cocaine or after a very heavy use decides to reduce or stop the tendency. The physiological changes that occur include sleepiness, the patient looks slowed down with a constant complaint of depressed mood. In addition, the patient also portrays suicidal tendencies. This condition further exhibits characteristics like frequent unpleasant dreams, insomnia or the other side of which is hypersomnia, an increase in appetite and the retardation or agitation of the psychomotor.

Cocaine intoxication delirium

This condition occurs in a patient whose cognitive symptoms are more advanced and in excess as compared to those exhibited in cocaine intoxication. In this condition, the patient shows signs of consciousness disturbance which leads to poor focusing ability of the patient. Consequently, the patient also exhibits poor sustenance ability of attention or changes in attention. His cognitive ability also experiences changes. All these impair the patient’s ability in terms of reception, processing, storage and recalling of information. The patient’s affect and mood are so variable with the patient looking confused and easily distractible. Finally, the patient shows instances of visual illusions. This is a result of misperception of the visual stimuli.

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Cocaine-induced psychotic disorders with delusions

This condition is present in patients who exhibit symptoms of the same nature as cocaine intoxication and withdrawal but which are advanced and excessive. Patients with psychosis conditions have a great problem in terms of distortions exhibited in their mental capacity, interaction ability, recognition of reality, communication and their affective response. A patient in this state holds strongly onto a certain belief despite all evidence of the contrary. For example, he can believe that he is the richest man in the world despite the fact that he owns nothing, not even a place to sleep. These beliefs impair their judgment making them suspicious of certain questions. In some cases, they show suicidal and homicidal tendencies.

Cocaine-induced psychotic disorders with hallucination

Just like the psychotic disorders with delusions, this condition is also exhibited with the same characteristics as those of cocaine intoxication and withdrawal but with a more excessive magnitude. In this condition, the patient has a strong perception of the presence of an object or event. The subjective perception may be in terms of auditory or tactile nature. For example, the patient may be convinced that he has someone next to him and they are engaged in a conversation when in real sense, he is the only occupant of the room. The most pronounced subjective influence is the patient’s internal stimuli which may lead to thought blocking. His affect and labile mood are reactive and he possesses suicidal and homicidal tendencies.

Cocaine-induced mood disorder

This condition leads to a recurrent disturbance in moods and is, in most cases, associated with an abuse of cocaine as an obligatory factor. The patient exhibits either depressive or manic moods and in some instances mixed moods between manic and depressive. Fatigue, weight changes, worthlessness feelings, apathy, guilt, loss of concentration, indecisiveness and development of thoughts of death are the symptoms associated with this disorder. In acute cases, there is complete loss of self-esteem, irritability, distractibility, goal-oriented activities, talkativeness and a great flight of ideas. His movements are sluggish with slowed responses. Although they exhibit impaired judgment, their orientation is completely intact.

Cocaine-induced anxiety disorder

This disorder is characterized by panic attacks, compulsions and obsessions. Furthermore, these symptoms are associated compulsorily with social and occupational malfunctions. In addition to this, the patient also exhibits extremely unpleasant apprehension feelings with a characteristic bodily feeling like chest tightness or heart pounding. They show concentration difficulties, restlessness, an anxious mood and a reactive affect. There are instances of suicidal ideation however, they possess an intact judgment and orientation.

Cocaine-induced sexual dysfunction

This sexual malfunction results in distress and interpersonal difficulties. The symptoms include impairment in the desire or arousal for sex, impaired arousal and pain during sex.

Cocaine-induced sleep disorder

The patient is characterized by recurrent disturbances during sleep. The patient has the following sleep conditions which are insomnia, parasomnia and hypersomnia or a combination of the three with each one coming at its own volition with none predominating. It also causes occupational and social malfunction.

Treatment of Cocaine Disorders

To deal with cocaine disorders, it calls for several consultations so as to come up with an appropriate solution for the conditions present. Among the most important people to consult are medical toxicologists, cardiologists, psychiatrists, poison control center personnel, neurologists, substance abuse clinicians or the personnel from the social service. This depends on the gravity and nature of the condition at hand. Under good consultations, with a combination of other medical personnel, the condition can be brought under control leading to a rehabilitated person.

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In conclusion, the role played by cocaine abuse in the destruction of a person is so great. The above mentioned are just the psychological effects but the consumption and abuse of cocaine have many other symptoms including physical ones. It is therefore important that stakeholders in the sector of drug abuse control put in more effort to ensure that not many youths continue falling into this ditch of drug abuse. This will be important for the individuals and the nation as a whole.


Cromie, William. (1998). “Researchers See How Cocaine Affects the Brain.” The Harvard University Gazzette. Web.

Holstege, Christopher, Holstege, L., and Charlton, N. (2008). “Cocaine Related Psychiatric Disorders.” emedicine. Web.

McHugh, Beth. (2007). “Cocaine: Side Effects and Long-term Effects.” Web.

Psychiatry On line. (2009). “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.” Web.

Vardi, Nathan. (2009). “The Drug Capitals of America.” Web.

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