Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that alters brain chemistry both during periods of use and after prolonged dependency. As a result, cocaine dependent individuals often receive a reputation for being highly aggressive, tending towards angry outbursts, short fuses, and irrational behavior. Over time, these effects can lead cocaine dependent individuals to confuse such symptoms with natural personality and identity, creating a sense of powerlessness.
The Relationship Between Cocaine Dependency and Aggression
Unfortunately, this often leads dependent people to return to cocaine use to recover a sense of power and contentedness, with 2.5 percent of the adult population in the United States admitting to recent cocaine use. Furthermore, cocaine can lead dependent individuals to choices they otherwise would not make–as evidenced by the large percentage of arrestees that test positive for cocaine use each year. By understanding the ways that cocaine interacts with the brain’s natural chemistry, we can better appreciate how it incites aggressive behavior in dependent individuals.
Cocaine’s Effect on the Brain
Cocaine stops nerve cells from up taking dopamine, thebody’s chemical messenger that creates feelings of calm and happiness. As aresult, the cocaine dependent person experiences a period of euphoria and powerduring a cocaine high. However, this depletion of dopamine in the brain leadsto a crash once cocaine exits the system. Chemically dependent people then findthemselves at a deficiency of contentedness, creating feelings of aggression,irritation and heightened anxiety.
Cocaine Dependency and Aggression
Cocaine can produce violent and erratic behavior, especiallywhen used in large quantities. Cocaine increases hypertension within the body,raising blood pressure and accelerating heart rate, leading to charged anddefensive reactions. Additionally, after prolonged use, chemically dependentpeople can enter a psychotic state, leading to intense paranoia, hallucinationsand manic behavior.
Because cocaine throws the body into a hyper-aroused state, cocaine dependent individuals will concurrently use other drugs and alcohol to counter these effects. The combination of drugs increases cocaine’s erratic effects in the individual, while simultaneously decreasing inhibitions. The sum effect is that the dependent individual is prone to larger behavioral outbursts in response to smaller stimuli, leading to a “hair-trigger” temper.