Cocaine and the Brain: Drug Addicts Don’t Care About Your Feelings

If you’re angry with a drug addict, there’s a good chance he won’t be able to tell. Looks like there’s another side effect to substance use: the inability to read other people’s emotions. A study found that moderate to heavy drug abusers couldn’t properly register faces with negative expressions.

Most drugs affect the emotional-focused parts of the brain, which impact not only people’s owns emotion, but their perception of others emotions. While the drug users were still able to recognize positive and neutral emotions like happiness and surprise at similar rates to drug-free people, they had trouble spotting negative reactions including rage, grief, fright, and disgust.

The research found that pretty much any combination of substances could have this effect, although people’s cocaine use was the most indicative of how poorly they would perceive emotions.

Unfortunately, even if addicts haven’t used substances recently, the inability to read emotions lingers and may be irreparable. Still, it is important to know this fact as it can aid in drug treatment. Emotion-based rehabilitation may be fruitless, and it explains why a drug user’s loved ones’ signs of frustration and disapproval are overlooked. Finding a way to bridge this emotional gap could be a key tool in overcoming addiction.



  • Wow – isn’t this enlightening! For those of us who have struggled in a relationship with an addict, we’ve certainly seen the signs of this. From our viewpoint — it just appears that the addict is choosing to ignore our frustration or anger. This just adds more proof to the fact that arguments don’t work when it comes to helping the addict in your life. Thank you for sharing this information! -Lisa Espich, author of “Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams”

  • Gee, what a revelation! Addicts don’t care if they make people upset. Sure hope they didn’t spend too much damn money figuring THAT out. It’s part and parcel of a Disease built around self-obsession. And there’s not thing one anyone can do unless the addict WANTS to change. BTW. I’m a recovering addict with over 2 yrs clean and it can be done one day at a time.

  • My ex left me for another drug user. They used /using coke together, and additionally both smoke hash and weed. When I was all mourning, anger and completely broken emotionally, the only thing she told me was: we don’t care about you. Those people are not human. They are monsters.

  • And this research is another evidence to the statement that the addiction is a mental illness, and only professional therapy can help. Otherwise, there is no way out of this. It’s terrible.

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