What Is Cocaine Psychosis?

By now you've likely heard the horrifying tale of the man who was shot by police while eating another man's face. What possessed Rudy Eugene to consume 75 per cent of a homeless man's face? Drugs, obviously. It's not totally clear which drugs Eugene was on, but police have speculated that the attack was prompted by cocaine psychosis. That sounds like a serious condition. But what exactly is it?

Cocaine psychosis is a temporary mental condition...

Cocaine psychosis is actually a subset of "stimulant psychosis", which can be caused by prescription amphetamines (finals week study drugs!), crystal methamphetamine and other uppers. Even caffeine has been known to cause stimulent psychosis.

...usually caused by taking excessive quantities of cocaine...

Cocaine psychosis is basically an overdose in your mind. The condition usually befalls unfortunate souls with a history of cocaine or crack abuse. Cocaine is one of the most addictive substances on earth, and as with other drugs, your body builds up a tolerance against it. Over time, addicts need to consume more and more cocaine to get high. Cocaine gives a boost to your sympathetic nervous system filling your body with good vibrations, but while in that supercharged state, things can get ugly.

...that makes the sufferer feel crazy and act erratically...

Though there are physical effects — seizures for example — which stem from ingesting too much cocaine, the most recognisable symptoms of cocaine psychosis, as the name implies, are psychological. These effects range from paranoia to delusional behaviour to outright hallucinations. Pretty similar to what you'd expect from someone who has taken too much LSD or any other hallucinogenic drug.

...but is different from the regular effects of cocaine...

Through TV and movies, and that annoyingly talkative guy who cornered you at a party, you're probably familiar with the usual effects of cocaine use. The drug causes increased energy levels, a feeling of euphoria, and occasionally "cocainomania" — a stimulant-induced megalomania. Usual cocaine use may alter your perception of yourself or of reality, but you do not lose a grip in the same ways as you do while in the throws of a psychotic episode.

...and can lead to violent behaviour...

And as we learnt from the episode in Florida, cocaine psychosis can turn violent. In fact, according to NIH, 55 per cent of people with "cocaine-induced psychiatric symptoms" exhibited cocaine-related violent behaviours. Granted much of this violence is performed in pursuit of crack, it's not a far off from the level of lunacy required to eat a fellow human being's face off.

Image: FXEGS Javier Espuny/Shutterstock

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