The Link Between Cocaine and ADHD, Dangers of Self-Medicating and Dual Diagnosis Treatment

There is some evidence of a connection between cocaine addiction and ADHD. People with ADHD are at a potentially higher risk of addiction and high-risk behaviors in general. Read more about treatment options for Cocaine addiction.

Is There a Connection Between Cocaine and ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition characterized by distraction, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The high quality of restlessness and impulsivity are risk factors for developing a substance use disorder later in life. Many individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) are diagnosed with ADHD when they are admitted for addiction treatment. Never having been diagnosed or treated for the condition before, their treatment for addiction tends to have greater success as treating ADHD significantly influences recovery from cocaine addiction.

Why do individuals suffering from ADHD more likely to turn to drugs? It is likely that alcohol, drugs, and other substances provide fast relief from the symptoms of ADHD, calming the mind and reducing racing thoughts. For instance, cocaine and crack cocaine may increase attention in the short term. ADHD is a high-risk factor for cocaine dependence and addiction because of how cocaine affects neurological functions and behaviors that are symptomatic of ADHD.

What to Expect With Cocaine and ADHD

Pharmaceutical stimulants are frequently used for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while illegal stimulants like cocaine can be more harmful than addictive. One of the most prevalent mental illnesses affecting both children and adults is ADHD. The illness is thought to have been diagnosed in 6.1 million children in the US, or 9.4% of those between the ages of two and 17.

According to some studies, adult ADHD is believed to affect 2.8% of all adults or those diagnosed with it. For instance, it is considerably more challenging to identify ADHD in women because the symptoms differ from those in men. The numbers may perhaps be far higher. This could imply that both genders utilize the medication to self-medicate and address the signs and symptoms of their ADHD. This should never be done since it is very harmful.

Are Stimulant Drugs for ADHD Addictive?

Are stimulant drugs for ADHD addictive? People sometimes worry whether the stimulant drugs their children are taking to treat ADHD (such as Ritalin and Adderall) are themselves addictive. Stimulant medications raise levels of a chemical messenger called dopamine in the brain, which helps improve focus and attention – skills that people with ADHD often find difficult to master. Dopamine also affects emotion and the feeling of pleasure, creating a “high” that makes people want more. Because cocaine and other street drugs also raise dopamine levels, there has been concern that ADHD stimulants might be similarly addictive. Ritalin’s ability to increase energy and focus has even led some people to refer to it as the “poor man’s cocaine.”

How Does Cocaine Affect ADHD?

Cocaine is more intense than prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin. Plus, illicit cocaine and crack cocaine are inherently unpredictable. It is not recommended to take cocaine as it can result in harmful side effects when abused.

The medication has an impact on specific brain regions, including the following:

  • Both the hippocampus and the amygdala are involved in working memory.
  • Subcallosal and orbitofrontal cortices, which are involved in volition
  • The crucial executive control regions of the prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin reuptake are inhibited, causing more of these “pleasure chemicals” to circulate in the blood. A “cocaine high” is characterized by a rush of exhilaration and euphoria that lasts for only a few minutes. The high is followed by a comedown that can be uncomfortable, including anxiety, insomnia, and paranoia.

Cocaine abuse may increase the risk of worsening ADHD. ADHD is common in individuals who seek treatment for substance use issues. People who complete an addiction treatment often need to be treated for ADHD at the same time. A 2018 study found that ADHD symptoms improved in people with cocaine abstinence and that there may be a relationship between ADHD and cocaine dependence. That could mean that cocaine abuse could make ADHD worse rather than treat it. 

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Cocaine Drug Facts


Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Although healthcare providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational cocaine use is illegal.

Street Names

  • Blow
  • Coca
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Snow
  • Speedball

How Do People Use Cocaine?

People snort cocaine powder through their noses or rub it into their gums. Others dissolve the powder and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a Speedball.

Short-Term Effects

  • Extreme happiness and energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia (extreme and unreasonable distrust of others)

Long-Term Effects

  • Snorting: loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing
  • Smoking: cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • Consuming by mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow
  • Needle injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases, skin or soft tissue infections, as well as scarring or collapsed veins

Cocaine Abuse Statistics

Among people aged 12 or older, 1.9% (or about 5.2 million people) reported using cocaine in 2020. Among people aged 12 or older, 0.5% (or about 1.3 million people) had a cocaine use disorder in 2020. In 2020, approximately 19,447 people died from an overdose involving cocaine.

5.2 million

Among people aged 12 or older, 1.9% (or about 5.2 million people) reported using cocaine in 2020.

Source: NIH

1.3 million

Among people aged 12 or older, 0.5% (or about 1.3 million people) had a cocaine use disorder in 2020.

Source: NIH


In 2020, approximately 19,447 people died from an overdose involving cocaine.

Source: NIH

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant substance made from the leaves of the coca plant. Dopamine’s effects are enhanced, giving the user heightened energy and stamina. The increased impact of dopamine also brings on the euphoric and pleasant experience of a cocaine “high.”

Cocaine is currently classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high risk of abuse. However, a doctor can provide it for medical procedures, including local anesthetic and some ear, eye, and throat operations.

One of the main problems with cocaine is that to boost profits, dealers frequently contaminate their products with things like talcum powder, cornstarch, flour, powder, or baking soda, especially if you’re using it to treat something like ADHD. Even worse, cocaine may be contaminated with harmful chemicals, such as amphetamine or fentanyl. If you are not accustomed to the effects of opioids, this could result in an instant overdose.

Cocaine puts too much strain on your system, overstimulating your body. Your body works at an increased rate, which can cause side effects, including:

  • Alertness
  • Excitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • abnormal heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • Unexpected cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Death
Coke and ADHD should be avoided as they can result in harmful side effects when abused.
Coke and ADHD should be avoided as they can result in harmful side effects when abused.
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Cocaine Effects on ADHD

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the reward system and the source of pleasure, is impacted by cocaine. A neuron usually produces dopamine in the synapse, connecting to dopamine receptors on an adjacent neuron during everyday communication. The procedure transmits the signal from one neuron to another by acting as a chemical messenger. Dopamine is taken out of the synapses by a particular protein called the transporter to be recycled and used again.

Cocaine and other addictive substances prevent people from communicating normally. It can be challenging to use it to treat ADHD because of this. Cocaine prevents the removal of dopamine from synapses by binding to dopamine receptors. Despite having a similar mechanism of action to Adderall, a medication used to treat ADHD, Adderall is rarely abused. Typically, cocaine is abused in binges, which depletes your brain’s supply of dopamine and causes long-term issues.

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Cocaine ADHD connection is evident because of how unpredictable prolonged cocaine use can be, it is better to skip using cocaine if you have ADHD.
Cocaine ADHD connection is evident because of how unpredictable prolonged cocaine use can be, it is better to skip using cocaine if you have ADHD.

Can Cocaine For ADHD Work?

Cocaine use disorder and other substance use disorders may be more common in people with ADHD. According to a study, 23% of young adults with substance use disorders also had ADHD. Some people say, “cocaine makes me tired ADHD.” Those people get tired because once the “high” of cocaine wears off, the user will experience a “crash” and feel tired after a while.

In a different study involving 6,872 adults between the ages of 20 and 39, those with ADHD and coke were considerably more likely than those without the disease to have a substance use disorder.

Regarding cocaine, remarkably, some studies suggest that adults with ADHD use the drug at a rate of roughly 26%, with 1 in 10 developing cocaine use disorder. In contrast, 1.9% of adults aged 12 and older in the general population will have used the substance during their previous year.

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Risks of Abusing Cocaine

Cocaine abuse increases your likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. Cocaine is severely addictive. The short-lived high followed by the uncomfortable comedown encourages users to take several doses in a row, which is called a binge. A cocaine binge increases your risk of developing a chemical dependence and addiction to cocaine, especially after long-term use. 

Dependence on cocaine happens when the brain gets used to cocaine’s effects over time. The brain chemistry will adapt to cocaine and its effects on your dopamine levels. The brain may produce fewer dopamine receptors or alter the brain chemistry in other ways to balance the brain chemistry. When a person stops using cocaine or cuts back, they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can cause depression, agitation, restlessness, fatigue, sleep problems, and lethargy. If a person has ADHD, cocaine withdrawal can make the symptoms worse, and the person might find concentration and focus more difficult. 

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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

First and foremost, if you think a loved one is abusing cocaine, you should research the substances and their associated addiction to understand better what your loved one needs.  Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved ones with options to battle the effects of cocaine addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, show your support throughout the entire treatment process.

In addition, prolonged drug use can have severe physical and psychological effects on you, so it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Inpatient drug rehab offers intensive care that can help you promptly get through the early stages of cocaine withdrawal

Cocaine Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated cocaine detox withdrawal but doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior contributing to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete the cocaine detox.

Cravings are very common during drug detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can give medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Cocaine Addiction Rehab

There isn’t one treatment approach or style that will suit everyone. Treatment should speak to the needs of the individual. Inpatient rehab and addiction treatment aren’t just about drug use. the goal is to help the patient stop using cocaine and other substances, but drug rehab should also focus on the whole person’s needs.

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. When someone or their family is considering different treatment facilities, they should account for the complexity of addiction and the needs of the individual. The objective of attending an inpatient rehab center for addiction treatment is to stop using the drug and re-learn how to live a productive life without it.

Following a full medical detox, most people benefit from inpatient rehab. Inpatient drug rehab can last anywhere from 28 days to several months. Patients stay overnight in the rehab facility and participate in intensive treatment programs and therapy. Once someone completes rehab, their addiction treatment team will create an aftercare plan, which may include continuing therapy and participation in a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous.


Many rehab programs will also have early morning classes or programs. Group sessions occur during inpatient rehab, as do individual therapy sessions. Family therapy may be part of inpatient rehab when it’s feasible. Alternative forms of therapy may be introduced during inpatient rehab, like a holistic therapy program, yoga for addiction recovery, or an addiction treatment massage therapy.

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves changing both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Solution-focused therapy is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. Traumatic experiences can often result in mental health disorders and substance abuse. Dual-diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. This strategy treats both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend mainly on the treatment for both diseases done by the same team or provider.

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through our opioid addiction treatment program medically. So, reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Cocaine Rehab Near Me

Cocaine addiction is a condition that can cause major health problems, such as an overdose. We Level Up NJ rehab treatment & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition and clarify issues like withdrawal symptoms. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

Suffering from a combination of  ADHD cocaine addiction? Contact We Level Up NJ so you can get treated right away!
Suffering from a combination of ADHD cocaine addiction? Contact We Level Up NJ so you can get treated right away!
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2 Most Common FAQs Regarding The Link Between Cocaine and ADHD

  1. What does cocaine feel like with ADHD?

    While not recommended, its effects in people with ADHD, cocaine may have a calming effect, as it increases dopaminergic transmission, which is dysfunctional in ADHD.

  1. What does cocaine with ADHD feel like?

    Cocaine may help calm ADHD sufferers because it improves dopaminergic transmission, which is malfunctioning in the disorder. Although, it is still not recommended as it can worsen side effects.