Cocaine, Young Males & Depression

In 2017, 6213 people committed suicide in the UK and alarmingly, the suicide rate in Scotland for young males has been rising year upon year. Furthermore, death by drug overdose in Scotland has exponentially increased throughout the past 5 years. And whilst more and more people die from suicide or from abusing drugs, little is being done to help those who are suffering. We need better mental health services, which can be achieved by facing the tragic reality of this current situation and having a real, honest conversation about what is going on. Cocaine is often used by young males with mental health issues as a form of self-medicating. And with the huge prevalence of cocaine use and depression coinciding, it’s important to open up a dialogue as to why that might be.

There has been a relationship established between how quickly a drug takes effect and how addictive it is. This is why injecting and smoking are more addictive than taking the same drug in a tablet form, as the drug is more rapidly able to enter the blood stream, whilst a tablet may take around 30 minutes to disintegrate and then get into the circulation. This may explain why meth and heroin can completely engulf a person’s life after a few times of trying it. These addictions can be hard to hide as they are all-consuming and the potency of these drugs make the side effects hard to conceal. However, cocaine is commonly abused without any suspensions of the close family or friends of the addict. This may be because those with cocaine problems can appear to be functioning normally, or it is common to have a “social addiction”. Similar to a social smoker, some people only use cocaine on a night out.

“Social cocaine users”

1 in 5 people who only take cocaine in social situations will go on to develop a full-blown addiction. With every night out, the person may increase the amount of cocaine they are taking and they may begin to go out more often in order to fulfil their cravings, but to continue doing it “socially”. It is hypothesised that you can be predisposed to addiction, genetically or environmentally, which may explain why some fall into addiction and others manage to avoid it. However, the neurochemical changes in your brain that drugs cause are very real and this isn’t a question of who has less will power. In fact, the first time you take a drug your brain will make connections with the pleasurable feeling you’re experiencing and your environment. Drug addicts can actually experience a release of dopamine (the brain’s pleasure chemical) from just looking at drug paraphernalia.

Read about treating addiction: Addiction: Treatment & Stigma

Using cocaine on a night out is especially dangerous, as when cocaine is taken alongside alcohol it is converted into a toxic compound called cocaethylene, which is much more powerful and lethal. This combination results in an incredible increased risk of death: a fraction of the amount of cocaine that is usually fatal in a sober person can kill a drunk person. Additionally, as cocaine sharpens your mind it can make you feel more sober than you actually are which increases the chance of alcohol poisoning and accidental-death. Furthermore, violence and aggression are greatly encouraged by this deadly cocktail. And since, as previously explained, that your brain establishes connections between the environment you are in and the high you experience, when you are on a night out you will feel a much stronger craving.

Who does Cocaine?

You would be surprised at how many people do cocaine; it is unbelievably common. I know men with young families, professionals and people who swore they would never touch it beg for more. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Everyone’s brains are wired the same, if you start abusing drugs you will most likely become addicted – and this is not due to your socioeconomic status, your age or your race – this is due to how the brain works. It is not unusual to experiment with drugs, neither is it to become obsessed with how good something can make you feel. In the midst of a mental health crisis, with more young males than ever in Scotland committing suicide, it is understandable that people turn to drugs. If you are feeling so emotionally numb or depressed you may become desperate enough to use cocaine to boost your mood. And it’ll work…for a while. The comedown will inevitably appear and you will have to make the choice between more or fighting those horrific feelings. For those who cannot face up to their mental health struggle, drugs can seem a miraculous, albeit, short-lived option.

Read: Why I’m open about my depression


A cocaine addiction can actually trigger depression; the come downs experienced can cause a lot of distress. As it is an expensive habit, you may get into financial issues or even trouble with the law. Legal issues can put an immense strain on a family and can leave the person feeling guilty and worthless.

Mental health services are over-stretched and under-staffed, meaning the six month waiting list for some treatment can render seeking help a waste of time. Men are already less likely to seek help for a health issue and with the stigma attached to men suffering from depression, it is unsurprising that so many men refuse to see their doctor. But suffering from a mental health condition does not emasculate you, or make you weak, it just makes you unwell – and you can get better. As I am open about my own struggles with depression, a lot of people confide in me and it is heartbreaking that for many guys, I am the only person they feel that they can talk to. No girls, that I have spoken with, have harboured such reservations about letting their friends know what they are going through and I believe this is due to the expectation that guys are “tough”. However, bravery is not the absence of fear; it is the facing up to fear which is courageous. If you are a guy, then let your friends know that you are not judgemental and that you will support your friends if they are suffering. Having the confirmation that you will not be ostracised or ridiculed for bearing emotion makes opening up a lot easier – especially for guys.

To conclude, I hope that this has helped to inform some people the devastating impact that cocaine use can have. Addiction and mental health issues are terrifying struggles, but when you decide to confront them, and see your doctor, you begin your journey to recovery. If you are worried about someone then have a conversation, in my opinion, it is always better to be careful than perhaps one day wonder ‘what if’. There are fabulous campaigns trying to remove the shame associated with males expressing emotion and hopefully they will be of great benefit. 

Support Men’s Mental Health

Cocaine anonymous number – 0800 612 0225

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