Is Cocaine a Stimulant?

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Is cocaine a stimulant drug? In short — yes. Cocaine is a stimulant that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurochemical responsible for reward and motivation that induces feelings of euphoria and reward. Cocaine use can also increase heart rate, energy, and alertness. Unfortunately, it also has many unwanted and harmful side effects and a high potential for misuse. Using cocaine for its stimulating effects is ill-advised, as repeated use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and long-term, possibly permanent health complications.

If you suspect you have a cocaine use disorder, you are encouraged to seek a professional evaluation and treatment to help you get started on your recovery. At Guardian Recovery, we are committed to ensuring those struggling with addiction receive the tools, support, and resources they need to get sober, prevent relapse, and sustain long-lasting abstinence. Reach out to us today to learn more about our comprehensive programs and multiple levels of care.

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Common Types of Stimulant Drugs

Stimulants are a class of substances that increase alertness, attention, energy levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. In addition to cocaine, there are many other legal, illicit, and prescription stimulants.

Other Common Stimulant Drugs Include:

  • Amphetamines — This class of drugs includes prescription medications for ADHD and other conditions, such as Adderall and Ritalin, and illicit drugs like methamphetamine.
  • Prescription stimulants — Other non-amphetamine medications often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta).
  • MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly) — A synthetic drug sometimes referred to as a “club drug” commonly used for its stimulating and mood-altering effects.
  • Caffeine — A legal, naturally occurring stimulant found in many common beverages and foods, including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.

Nicotine — A legal, highly addictive stimulant commonly found in tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars.

How Do Stimulants Affect the Body?

Stimulants can affect the body in several ways, some of which may be considered desirable and others negative. (1)

Stimulants Effects on the Body Include: 

  • Elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
  • Increased alertness and focus.
  • Feelings of euphoria, confidence, and well-being.
  • Appetite suppression and weight loss.
  • Increased physical activity, such as restlessness and fidgeting.

Which Form of Cocaine Causes the Strongest Stimulating Effects?

The most stimulating forms of cocaine tend to be those that are highly pure. Any contaminants or cutting agents in cocaine will decrease purity. In addition, depressants such as heroin or fentanyl may offset or interact with some of cocaine’s stimulating effects, possibly to a dangerous degree.

Factors That Can Affect Cocaine Purity Include:

  • Chemicals used in production or subsequently added.
  • Cutting agents added that resemble cocaine, such as baking powder, to expand the product and thereby increase profits.
  • Impurities can be introduced if cocaine is not stored or handled properly, such as by exposure to light, heat, or moisture.
  • In some cases, the purity of cocaine may depend on the market and the availability of the pure drug. As a result, the quality may decrease when demand is high and supplies are low.

Cocaine Hydrochloride

The method used to produce the United States’ most popular form of cocaine is by converting coca leaves into a powder through several chemical processes. (2) Some of the chemicals used to create the final product are hydrochloric acid and potassium salt (sodium). Purity levels can be affected by the factors mentioned above, and the intensity of the effects will be based on this.

Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is made by converting powdered cocaine into a rock-like form called “crack” that can be smoked. This process increases the drug’s potency, intensity, and addictive potential. (3) Moreover, the smoke produced from crack cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream more rapidly than when snorted, leading to a more intense and immediate high.

Freebase Cocaine

Freebase cocaine is created by separating cocaine from hydrochloride using chemicals such as ammonia and ether. The final product’s name is derived from this process, or essentially “freeing the base.” Freebasing is relatively uncommon because crack is often equally as potent and doesn’t require ether, which is highly flammable and can cause fires and explosions. (4) However, like crack, it’s usually smoked, meaning its stimulating effects may be exaggerated compared to snorted cocaine.

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How Is Cocaine Different From Depressants?

As noted, stimulants increase alertness, attention, energy, and physical activity. Effects also include elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, often contributing to euphoria and confidence.

Conversely, depressants slow activity in the body and cause relaxation, calmness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment. They can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature and reduce physical activity. Their effects are effectively the opposite of stimulants and include alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. (5)

Can You Overdose on Stimulants Like Cocaine?

Using cocaine or other stimulants excessively can result in an overdose and severe and potentially life-threatening effects. Symptoms can include chest pain, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and seizures. In severe cases, overdose can lead to coma and death. If you suspect you or another person is experiencing an overdose, this is a medical emergency, and you are urged to call 911 immediately.

Treatment for Cocaine & Stimulant Misuse & Addiction

Cocaine misuse treatment typically involves a combination of medical detox, behavioral therapies, and holistic approaches to help an individual quit using and maintain long-lasting abstinence. This can be achieved through the following clinical services:

  • Medical detox is the process of allowing the body to safely and comfortably eliminate toxic substances, such as illicit drugs, in a controlled environment under the supervision of licensed health professionals.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to cocaine use and develop more positive and realistic ways of thinking.
  • Motivational interviewing helps the individual explore and resolve ambivalence about overcoming their cocaine use.
  • Life skills training focuses on helping individuals develop practical skills and competencies needed for daily living. This approach aims to provide individuals in recovery with the tools and abilities they need to function effectively in their lives and achieve their goals.
  • Aftercare planning occurs during treatment, and clients work closely with a team of professionals, including individual therapists, health professionals, and case managers. This team collaborates to help clients develop detailed, strategic plans for ongoing care support following formal treatment.

It’s important to mention that cocaine addiction treatment is highly individualized, and components may vary depending on the severity of dependence and other personal factors. A comprehensive approach that addresses the individual’s physical, psychological, and social needs is typically the most effective.

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Although addiction is considered a chronic brain disease, it can be effectively treated like many other health conditions. Contact Guardian Recovery today for a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. In addition, you can speak with a Treatment Advisor to learn more about our straightforward admissions process and full continuum of care.


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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.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


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.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

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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