Is Cocaine a Hallucinogen?

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Cocaine is a powerful drug associated with severe and dangerous effects on the body and mind. Some of the dangers of cocaine use include physical and mental health issues, dependence, addiction, and overdose. Despite cocaine’s many risks, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2019, an estimated 2.1 million individuals in the United States reported use. (1) Cocaine is not a hallucinogen, however, and instead is misused for its stimulating effects.

If you suspect you or someone you love has a cocaine use disorder, you are urged to seek a formal diagnosis and treatment. Guardian Recovery offers integrated treatment programs featuring a wide array of evidence-based therapies and services designed to meet each individual’s unique needs. If you are motivated to break free from drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today and learn how we can help.

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What Are Hallucinogenic Drugs?

Hallucinogenic drugs (hallucinogens) are a class of psychoactive substances often consumed recreationally to induce altered perceptions, thoughts, and experiences. (2) These drugs derive their name from their ability to cause hallucinations, and each type has its own unique and characteristic effects on the user.

Common Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs Include:

  • Visual hallucinations, or seeing things others do not, or having distorted perceptions of real objects.
  • Auditory hallucinations, or hearing things others do not.
  • Tactile hallucinations, or feeling unreal sensations of touch, such as bugs crawling on or under the skin.
  • Altered perspective.
  • Altered sense of time and space.
  • Distorted sense of self.
  • Depersonalization, or feeling a lack of sense of self.
  • Derealization, or feeling like real things and experiences are unreal or dreamlike.
  • Changes in mood and emotion, such as euphoria or anxiety.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Changes in body temperature.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.

Not every hallucinogen will result in all these effects, which vary in number and intensity based on individual factors.

Examples of Hallucinogenic Drugs

There are several types of hallucinogens, most of which are illicit or only legal for medical use, including the following:

  • DMT (dimethyltryptamine): DMT is a psychoactive chemical that occurs naturally in the human body and is thought to play a role in dreaming. As a recreational drug, DMT is a potent hallucinogen that has historically been used in spiritual and religious ceremonies.
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide): LSD, or acid, is a synthesized hallucinogen taken recreationally to induce vivid visual and auditory hallucinations and changes in mood and emotions.
  • Ketamine: Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic drug that can induce changes in mood, feelings of unreality, and distorted perceptions.
  • Mescaline: Mescaline is a hallucinogen found naturally in the peyote cactus with hallucinatory effects comparable to LSD.
  • PCP (Phencyclidine): PCP is another dissociative anesthetic that can produce hallucinations, altered perception of time, feelings of unreality, delusions of grandeur, paranoia, and violent aggression.
  • Psilocybin: Psilocybin (magic mushrooms or shrooms) is a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in certain mushroom species. Its hallucinatory effects are comparable to LSD, albeit generally milder.

Anticholinergics: Anticholinergics are a broad class of medications used to treat various conditions. Due to their effects on brain chemicals, large doses can produce hallucinatory effects.

Delusions & Paranoia From Cocaine Use

Although cocaine is not classified as a hallucinogen, misuse can lead to visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations, which can be frightening, as well as dissociation, paranoia, and delusions (false beliefs). In fact, paranoia is a relatively common side effect of cocaine misuse that can present as irrational fear, unfounded mistrust, and persistent suspicions.

Cocaine-induced paranoia can range from mild to intense and last long after the drug leaves the body. A person experiencing paranoia and delusions may believe they are being watched or followed, or they may think that acquaintances or friends are trying to harm them or get them in trouble.

Cocaine-Induced Psychosis

Chronic misuse of high doses of cocaine can lead to psychosis, which is characterized by profound and debilitating hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Cocaine-induced psychosis can continue to persist even when cocaine is absent. (3) Likewise, the psychological damage it can cause may require psychiatric treatment. Individuals suffering from cocaine-induced psychosis can be unpredictable, easily agitated, aggressive, and sometimes violent.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs and symptoms of cocaine psychosis, seek professional help as soon as possible.

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Other Psychological & Behavioral Effects of Cocaine

Excessive cocaine misuse can cause many other adverse psychiatric effects. (4) Some effects of cocaine are viewed as positive by users, but many other effects are undesirable, damaging, or dangerous.

Short-Term Psychiatric Effects of Cocaine Include:

  • Elevated mood.
  • Improved energy and motivation.
  • Increased sociability and talkativeness.
  • Heightened focus and alertness.
  • Feelings of confidence or power.
  • Increased libido.
  • Aggression, irritability, and agitation.

Long-Term Psychiatric Effects of Cocaine Include:

  • Development of dependence and addiction.
  • New or worsened anxiety and depression.
  • New or worsened bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • Low moods or extreme sadness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Paranoia.
  • Delusions.
  • Increased impulsivity and risk-taking.
  • Reduced problem-solving ability.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Aggression and violent tendencies.
  • Emotional instability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Weight loss.

The overall severity of long-term psychiatric effects will depend on the duration, frequency, and intensity of cocaine misuse as well as other factors unique to the individual.

Can Hallucinogens Be Used For Cocaine & Drug Dependence Treatment?

Overcoming addiction requires significant self-reflection, self-control, and cognitive flexibility. For this reason, therapies involving the controlled use of hallucinogens, namely psilocybin, have recently become the target of research as potential treatments for substance misuse and addiction.

One systematic review of related studies hypothesized that because psilocybin can affect a person’s 5-HT receptors, it may improve their ability to process stress and emotions and overcome addiction. The review further reports that psilocybin appears to have “beneficial effects on negative emotional states and stress.” In particular, individuals who used psilocybin exhibited “increased control over emotional processes and relief of negative thinking and persistent negative emotions.” Moreover, researchers believe “psilocybin may improve cognitive inflexibility and compulsivity.” (5)

Given psilocybin’s low risk of dependence and toxicity and minimal side effects, it appears to be a promising new avenue of addiction treatment research. However, it is essential to note that this research is still in its early stages, and more is required to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of hallucinogens as a treatment for addiction to cocaine and other drugs.

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Although cocaine use has been associated with some symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, after chronic use, it is technically classified as a stimulant, not a hallucinogen. Regardless, cocaine misuse is dangerous and can lead to severe physical and mental health effects and financial and legal issues. The longer cocaine misuse continues, the more likely a user will face these and other problems as a result.

At Guardian Recovery, we are committed to treating each individual with the customized, holistic care they need to recover, prevent relapse, and foster long-lasting sobriety. Reach out today to speak to a Treatment Advisor and receive a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check. Contact us to learn more about our streamlined admission process and how to get started on your personal path to recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/6734-hallucinogens-lsd-peyote-psilocybin-and-pcp
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/cocaine-induced-psychosis
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181074/
  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14737175.2016.1220834

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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