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What Does Cocaine High Feel Like?

Warning: Cocaine High Feelings Aren't All Good

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Updated March 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Does Cocaine High Feel Like?

Effects of the cocaine high such as euphoria often attracts users.

Image © Adriana Poveda

The Cocaine High

The cocaine high, also known as cocaine intoxication, is one of the most widely recognized cocaine effects among cocaine users. For people who are experimenting with cocaine use, occasional cocaine users, binge cocaine users, and people in the early stages of cocaine addiction, the cocaine high is often the main reason for taking cocaine, although social cocaine use is also quite common.

The cocaine high involves psychological changes -- changes to how the person thinks and feels emotionally -- and physical changes. Some of these changes are caused by the effects of cocaine on the brain and nervous system, and some are due to personal feelings that the cocaine user brings to the experience. This is why, although there are similarities among cocaine users' experiences of the cocaine high, the effect cocaine has on each person is different. So although aspects of cocaine intoxication are common among cocaine users, they may experience some, but not all, of these cocaine effects.

Euphoria

The main cocaine high effect that cocaine users want to experience is a special kind of intense pleasure called euphoria. Cocaine stimulates the brain in the same way that a real accomplishment does, creating a rewarding feeling that is the main reason people who get addicted want to get high on cocaine again and again.

Self Confidence

While high on cocaine, users can have the illusion of feeling better about themselves than they usually do, to the point of feeling superior to other people -- this is sometimes called grandiosity. This effect of the cocaine high can have a particular appeal to people with low self esteem, or people who are in situations where a greater level of confidence is desirable, such as performers. Unfortunately, this false confidence is an effect of the drug, and not based on any real accomplishment, and grandiosity can be annoying to other people, leading to social problems. Once cocaine users come down from the cocaine high, they may feel even worse about themselves than they did before, setting themselves up for a cycle of using to try and feel better, with each time the effect being increasingly short-lived.

Sociability

Another tempting cocaine effect is that during a cocaine high, users may feel more energetic and sociable, which can make it attractive to people who have social anxieties, shyness, or who lack the energy to go out and do things, particularly if their lethargy stems from depression. When high on cocaine, they may become talkative and gregarious, but on the other hand, getting high on cocaine can sometimes lead to angry outbursts, restlessness, hyperactivity (difficulty with self-calming), anxiety to the point of paranoia, and even seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren't really there -- known as perceptual disturbances or hallucinations.

When Good Turns to Bad

When people take cocaine over a longer period of time, they can experience the opposite effects during the cocaine high -- a kind of blunting of the emotions, sadness, and withdrawing from other people. This can be particularly frustrating for cocaine users who take cocaine to self medicate in order to give themselves more confidence, to socialize and to feel happier.

Being high on cocaine also makes people feel different physically. Physical cocaine effects include a general feeling of stimulation. Cocaine can cause changes to heart rhythm or breathing, sweating, feelings of being very hot or cold, muscle weakness, or nausea. Although some of these physical symptoms of cocaine intoxication can be quite unpleasant, with repeated cocaine use, the brain can start to associate these physical symptoms with the pleasurable feelings of the cocaine high, so as people become addicted to cocaine, they may be surprisingly tolerant of these unpleasant cocaine effects.

If cocaine intoxication is taken to the extreme, the experience can be dangerous as well as unpleasant. In particular, there is a risk of heart problems, seizures, and even death. Because cocaine is illegal, there is no way to predict how strong it is going to be, which can lead to cocaine users sometimes taking more than they intended, and the cocaine high taking a turn for the worst. A stronger dose can also increase tolerance, so that next time more of the drug is needed, which is the physical side of the addiction.

Why You Should Know What Cocaine Does

If you're aware of the risks of cocaine use, you may be wondering why anyone would use such a dangerous drug. If you feel peer pressure to try cocaine, you may want to know what your friends aren't telling you about cocaine effects. If you know someone who uses cocaine, understanding how the cocaine high feels may help you to approach and communicate effectively with that person. Like any addictive substance, the cocaine high can make someone feel really good, giving them feelings of pleasure, confidence, and energy beyond what they normally experience -- but like any addictive substance, it can also have very unpleasant and even harmful short term and long term effects.

Avoiding Problems

Many cocaine users are reluctant to stop doing something that feels good, even when they know it's bad for them. The best way to stay out of that trap of addiction is to avoid drug use altogether. If someone you know has become addicted to cocaine, here are some ways to help them."

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision). American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Reboussin, B. and Anthony, J. "Is there Epidemiological Evidence to Support the Idea that a Cocaine Dependence Syndrome Emerges Soon after Onset of Cocaine Use?" Neuropsychopharmacology 31:2055-2064. 2006.

Reid,PhD, M., Flammino, PhD, F., Howard, BS, H., Nilsen, MD, D., and Prichep, PhD, L. "Cocaine cue versus cocaine dosing in humans: Evidence for distinct neurophysiological response profiles." Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1:155-164. 2008.

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