Is Cocaine a Stimulant or Depressant?

Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance which has devastating consequences for the lives of addicts and their families. The abuse of cocaine can cause serious mental and physical health problems and social issues like poverty or criminality. One of the most frequently asked questions people have about cocaine is: Is it a stimulant or depressant?


What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug, which is the highest category of drugs, due to the risk of addiction and harm.

Derived from the leaves of two coca that are found within South America, cocaine was initially used as an analgesic and an anesthetic, used to treat pain, but today it is now used to get a euphoric, recreational high.


Cocaine is typically sold as a fine white powder, but the color of cocaine can differ based on the method of production and the substance it’s mixed with. Sometimes, cocaine is in crystal form and is referred to by the name crack.

Again is concaine a stimulant or depressant? In order to answer that question, we must know the distinction between depressants and stimulants.

What are Stimulants?

The stimulant drugs increase the speed of messages that travel through the brain to the body. They also boost the breathing and pulse rate, raise blood pressure, decrease appetite, and dilate the pupils.

Many stimulants produce a feeling of euphoria, with some people experiencing a greater sense of alertness, energy and confidence.


Someone who is taking stimulants is likely to become hyper, talkative or suffer from insomnia.

If used for a long time or consumed in large amounts, results could include panic, anxiety headaches, seizures, stomach anxiety, paranoia and cramps.

Long-term usage of stimulants could cause a variety of mental and physical health ailments. 

What Substances are Stimulants?

Methamphetamine MDMA Khat, methamphetamine, nicotine and many others.

What are Depressants?

Depressant medications reduce the functionality of the brain. They usually reduce anxiety; they don’t always make someone feel depressed but can actually reduce coordination and affect judgement and concentration.

Depressant drugs often induce feelings of being calm and relaxed or aiding in sleeping.

Other effects that can be experienced in a short time span include dizziness, weak coordination and balance, and slow reactions. When taken in large amounts, depressants can induce nausea, drowsiness and loss of consciousness.

The long-term use of depressants may result in a wide range of mental and physical ailments. 

What Drugs are Depressants?

Alcohol or cannabis, benzodiazepines, heroin and various opioids.

What are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogenic drugs alter perceptions of reality; they alter how people perceive or experience a circumstance. For instance, a person might see things that don’t actually exist, or an ordinary sense of perception may be exaggerated (such as the perception of colours).

Hallucinogens’ effects are hard to determine and are strongly affected by the person’s mood and the environment in which they are used.

The effects of hallucinogens can be varied, but they usually create a feeling of a sense of calm. Other symptoms that are short-term include nausea, an increase in speed of heartbeat, nervousness, confusion and emotional swings.

In the long run, hallucinogens could result in a wide range of mental and physical health issues. 

What Drugs are Hallucinogens?

LSD and the chemical ketamine are hallucinogens that have chemical bases, and magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and peyote cactus, which are both plants, are hallucinogens.

Cannabis and ecstasy also possess hallucinogenic properties.

There isn’t a safe level of use of drugs or alcohol, and using any substance always comes with a risk. Combining drugs or “poly-drug use” raises the danger and is extremely risky. The consequences of mixing drugs are not predictable, and individuals are susceptible to overdose and even death.

What is the Difference Between Stimulants and Depressants?

Stimulants are substances that boost the level of alertness, concentration and energy. They can also improve mood and ease fatigue. Some examples of stimulants are amphetamines and cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamine, nicotine, and caffeine.

Depressants are medications that reduce the activity of the nervous system’s central part, thereby reducing the activity of the brain. They induce a sense of tranquillity or sedation. They are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Examples of depressants are alcohol, barbiturates and the benzodiazepines (Valium) and opioids (heroin) and GHB/GBL (date rape drug).

Again, this raises the question: Is cocaine a stimulant or a depressant?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug but, in some cases, can be a depressant.

Cocaine as a stimulant

Cocaine functions as a stimulant to the central nervous system (CNS). When consumed, it boosts energy levels and alertness while reducing appetite and fatigue. It also increases blood pressure and heart rate because of its effects on sympathetic nerves.

The user might be able to feel confident as well as pleasure, power and invincibility after taking cocaine, which could cause risky behaviors such as driving while under the influence or taking part in sexual activity that is not protected.

Cocaine as a depressant

While it is primarily classified as a stimulant, cocaine may cause negative effects on the brain when taken in higher doses or over a long period of time due to its capability to lower serotonin levels in the brain. This may cause symptoms of depression like low moods or low motivation.

How do People use Cocaine?

People inhale cocaine powder through their noses or rub it on their gums. Some people dissolve the powder and then inject the powder into their bloodstream. Certain people inject a mix of heroin and cocaine, also known as Speedball. 

Another way to use can be to inhale cocaine, which is processed into crystals of rock (also known as “freebase cocaine”). Crystals are heated and produce some vapours, which are inhaled into the lungs; this form of cocaine used is known as Crack, which refers to the sound produced by the rock when it is heated. Many people are also able to smoke Crack by spraying it onto tobacco or marijuana and smoking it like smoking cigarettes.

Coca users typically consume it in large doses, and they take the drug in succession over a short period of time and at increasing doses to maintain their high.

How does Cocaine Affect The Brain?

Cocaine boosts the levels of dopamine, a natural chemical that is found within brain circuits that are involved in movements and rewards.

Dopamine is normally recycled back to the cell, which releases it, shutting down the communication between nerve cells, but cocaine stops dopamine from recycling and causes large quantities to accumulate within the space between nerve cells, which stops regular communication. The influx of dopamine into the reward circuit in the brain enhances the use of drugs. When a person continues to use drugs, the reward circuit can become less responsive to the substance, and this is why people are more likely to take larger and more frequent doses to get the same effect and to obtain relief from withdrawal.

Short-Term Impacts

Short-term health effects of cocaine are:

  • extreme happiness and vitality
  • mental alertness
  • hypersensitivity to sound, sight and even touch
  • irritability
  • paranoia – a complete and unreasonable distrust of other people

Some people report that cocaine aids them in performing basic mental and physical tasks faster, whereas some experience the opposite. The use of large amounts of cocaine may cause unexpected, violent, unpredictable behavior.

The effects of cocaine are evident quickly and fade away in a matter of minutes or an hour. The length of time the effects last and the intensity of them will depend upon the mode of use. The effects of smoking or injecting cocaine produce an immediate and more powerful, but it is less long-lasting in comparison to smoking. 

What are other negative health effects of using cocaine?

Other effects on health that come with cocaine usage are:

  • Blood vessels are constricted..
  • pupils dilate
  • nausea
  • increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • irregular heartbeat or a rapid pace
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • insanity

Long-Term Impacts

The long-term health effects of cocaine are dependent on the method of use and include the following:

  • Snorting: loss of smell, nosebleeds frequently, and difficulties in swallowing
  • Smoking: asthma, cough, respiratory distress, increased risk of getting infections such as pneumonia
  • Consuming by mouth: severe intestinal decay due to the reduced flow of blood
  • Needle injections: increased risk of developing HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne infections and soft tissue or skin infections and vein collapse or scarring

But, even those in non-needle cocaine use put themselves at risk for HIV since cocaine can impair judgement, which could lead to sexual hazards with HIV-infected people.

Other effects that come with cocaine use include being malnourished, as cocaine can reduce appetite. It also causes movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, which can develop after years of usage. In addition, people report irritability and restlessness from cocaine binges, and some also experience severe paranoia, in which they lose touch with reality and have auditory hallucinations, hearing noises that aren’t real.

Do people overdose on cocaine?

Yes, one can get overdosed on cocaine. A person overdoses when they consume a certain amount of a substance to cause dangerous adverse effects that can be life-threatening or even death. A person can overdose intentionally or accidentally.

One of the most frequent and severe health risks of an overdose include irregular heart rhythms and heart attacks, seizures and strokes. Other signs of an overdose of cocaine include breathing difficulties and elevated blood pressure, an excessive blood temperature, hallucinations and anxiety or extreme agitation.

How can a Cocaine Overdose be Treated?

There isn’t a specific drug that will reverse the effects of a cocaine overdose. Treatment requires the use of supportive care and is dependent on the symptoms, for example, since the overdose of cocaine is often accompanied by stroke, heart attack or seizure. First, medical personnel and emergency room doctors seek to manage the overdose by treating the symptoms in the hope of:

  • Restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
  • The blood supply of oxygen-rich to the affected area in the brain (stroke)
  • Stopping seizures

How does Cocaine use Cause Addiction?

Similar to other drugs, the repeated use of cocaine may result in long-lasting changes to the reward circuit in the brain and other brain structures, which can cause dependence. The reward circuit gradually adjusts to the increased dopamine that the drug produces, decreasing its sensitivity to it. This is why people are able to take more intense and frequent doses to experience the same effects that they experienced initially and to end withdrawal.

The withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • fatigue
  • an increase in appetite
  • Sleepless nights and nightmares
  • slow thinking

How can people get treatment for cocaine addiction?

Behavioral therapy can be utilized in the treatment of addiction to cocaine. Examples include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy
  • Contingency management or motivational incentives providing rewards to patients who remain substance-free.
  • Therapeutic communities: drug-free residences in which people in recovery from substance use help each other to understand and change their behaviors.
  • Community-based recovery groups

There aren’t FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of addiction disorders caused by cocaine; NIDA supports a robust drug development pipeline in this particular area.

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What are the signs of withdrawal from cocaine?

During the process of detoxification, it is likely that users will suffer withdrawal symptoms. They are generally unpleasant, but sometimes they are extreme and may be harmful. In this event, it is recommended to consult an expert medical professional and seek treatment for detox.

While you can detox in your home as an outpatient, it’s recommended that you detox in a rehab centre under the protection and guidance of qualified medical experts.

The withdrawal symptoms from cocaine are:

  • Muscles hurt
  • Tremors
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • It is difficult to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Vivid dreams
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Intense cravings

The symptoms typically last between one and two weeks. They can be an indicator that cocaine is leaving your system, which means the possibility of recovery is near.


Recovery from the addiction to cocaine can be a difficult and complicated process, but it can also be a pathway toward a better and more positive future. To overcome addiction, you must be committed to perseverance, determination, and an effective support system. In this process, people are confronted with physical, psychological and social challenges, but with the proper treatment along with counselling and the assistance of family and friends, recovery is not just feasible but also very achievable.

Support groups, like Narcotics Anonymous, can provide an atmosphere of belonging and support during the process of recovery.

It is essential to realize that relapses do happen, but they shouldn’t be considered as failures instead as an opportunity to gain knowledge and reinforce the determination to recover. The process continues, and sustaining a drug-free lifestyle requires constant determination and constant monitoring.

The benefits of recovering from addiction to cocaine are incalculable. People can recover the health of their bodies, repair damaged relationships, and find a feeling of purpose and happiness in the world. When they decide to seek help and begin on this path, people can not only be free from the addiction to cocaine but also live a life that is filled with optimism, determination and the promise of an even brighter future.

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