Single Episode of Cocaine Use May Interfere With Negative Emotion Recognition

Even a single instance of cocaine use can have an impact on negative emotion recognition

New research that was recently presented in Amsterdam to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference reveals that even a single episode of cocaine use can have an impact on negative emotion recognition. The researchers followed 24 students from Germany and the Netherlands, and all the students were between 19 and 27 years old. The students all also shared light to moderate cocaine use. Each student was provided with either a placebo or 300 mg of oral cocaine. Between one and two hours after receiving either the drug or the placebo each student was given a series of tests that included biochemical tests and facial emotion recognition tests for basic motions that included happiness, sadness, fear, and even disgust. Students ho received the drug had more difficulty recognizing negative emotions, as well as increased cortisol levels and an increase in heart rate.

The research on cocaine and negative emotion recognition was very revealing. The researchers discovered that students who received the actual cocaine and who had a bigger cortisol response had the most difficulty recognizing negative emotions on the facial recognition tests. During cocaine intoxication students performed 10% worse on average at recognizing negative emotions from facial expressions when compared with students who received the placebo rather than the actual drug. Maastricht University in The Netherlands lead researcher Dr. Kim Kuypers said “This is the first study to look at the short-term effect of cocaine on emotions. It shows that a single dose of cocaine interferes with a person’s ability to recognize negative emotions, such as anger and sadness. This might hinder the ability to interact in social situations, but it may also help explain why cocaine users report higher levels of sociability when intoxicated — simply because they can’t recognize the negative emotions.”