Addiction Drug Use Cocaine What Does a Cocaine High Feel Like? By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 28, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Psychological Effects Physical Effects When Good Turns to Bad The cocaine high, also known as cocaine intoxication, is one of the most widely recognized cocaine effects among cocaine users. The high is often the main reason for taking cocaine as it emulates feelings of euphoria, self-confidence or grandiosity, and energy. This is true for people who are experimenting with cocaine use, are occasional cocaine users, binge cocaine users, and people in the early stages of cocaine addiction. But social cocaine use is also quite common. The cocaine high involves psychological changes, which are changes to how the person thinks and feels emotionally, as well as 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 effects of cocaine are different for each person. So although aspects of cocaine intoxication are common among cocaine users, they may experience some, but not all, of these cocaine effects. Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018. Psychological Effects 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 or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. If you know someone who uses cocaine, understanding how the cocaine high feels may help you to approach and communicate effectively with that person. Here is an overview of the psychological 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 than they usually do about themselves, 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 to feel better, with each time the effect being increasingly short-lived. Sociability Another tempting cocaine effect is that during 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, and anxiety to the point of paranoia. It can even result in seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren't really there, which is known as perceptual disturbances or hallucinations. Physical Effects 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. When Good Turns to Bad 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. Alcohol use also can exacerbate the effects of the cocaine high. What's more, increased alcohol use is associated with increased cocaine use and cocaine intoxication in users. When people take cocaine over a longer period, they can experience the opposite effects during the cocaine high. They can experience a blunting of the emotions, sadness, and withdrawal from other people. This can be particularly frustrating for cocaine users who take cocaine to self-medicate to give themselves more confidence, to socialize, and to feel happier. Self Medication and Addictive Behavior A Word From Verywell 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. Many cocaine users are reluctant to stop because it 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, investigate ways to help them. What to Know About Quitting An Addiction 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Nestler EJ. The neurobiology of cocaine addiction. Sci Pract Perspect. 2005;3(1):4-10. Porrino LJ, Smith HR, Nader MA, Beveridge TJ. The effects of cocaine: a shifting target over the course of addiction. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2007;31(8):1593-600. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.08.040 Additional Reading Reid, M., Flammino, Ph.D., F., Howard, BS, H., Nilsen, MD, D., and Prichep, Ph.D., L. "Cocaine cue versus cocaine dosing in humans: Evidence for distinct neurophysiological response profiles." Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1:155-164. 2008. Santos, S., Brugal, M. T., Barrio, G., Castellano, Y., Domingo-Salvany, A., Espelt, A., & ... De La Fuente, L. (2012). Assessing the effect of patterns of cocaine and alcohol use on the risk of adverse acute cocaine intoxication. Drug & Alcohol Review, 31(4), 439-446. By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. 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