The Surprising Reasons Aussies are Resorting to Cocaine Use

Australia remains a global leader of consumption when it comes to cocaine, with 2.9 million Aussies (14%)1 admitting to using the drug at least once, and lifetime usage increasing by 11% since 20192.

Yet, one person’s underlying drivers towards substance use is never the same as another, which is why treatment for addiction should always be tailored to the individual. Despite this, I’ve seen patterns between cocaine users throughout my two decades as a Consultant Psychiatrist working in both Australia and abroad.

Pinpointing underlying issues and triggers is a crucial part of the recovery process, so I’ve identified common environmental factors which can result in a person using cocaine regularly.

Self-medication of undiagnosed conditions

Some clients at The Banyans Healthcare have initially come to us because they’re struggling with cocaine use, but through further investigation we’ve discovered they have undiagnosed ADHD. As it turns out, they’re actually using cocaine to self-medicate underlying symptoms such as poor concentration, because the drug is a stimulant and can therefore assist with focus.

People with ADHD – whether diagnosed or undiagnosed – are actually 50% more likely to develop a drug or alcohol use disorder than those without the condition3. The legal medication that’s prescribed for ADHD is also a stimulant, but has been approved for treatment of the condition and is a much safer, and fit for purpose solution to address symptoms like poor concentration and distractibility.

The pressure to perform at work

Cocaine is often the substance of choice for Australian C-Level executives due to their large disposable incomes, high stakes jobs and long working hours alongside an intense social scene. Australians who work in these roles – particularly in industries where the pressure to achieve results is directly attached to the success of the business – may turn to cocaine to cope with these pressures. Again, because cocaine is a stimulant and has the ability to increase productivity and keep them awake for longer, senior business leaders may resort to cocaine use to maintain a high level of performance.

However, these perceived benefits are short-lived, unsustainable and potentially dangerous for long-term users. It’s not uncommon for us to see patients who have done this over time, only to end up crashing due to their body’s inability to keep up physically.

 Social status and a ‘low-risk’ perception

We know that cocaine and alcohol are unfortunately often present during business networking, with the drug forming a part of social networks in certain industries. Because of this, people can initially start using cocaine as a sort of ‘status symbol’. Additionally, there’s a perception that cocaine is a ‘low risk’ drug, because it’s more expensive to obtain and therefore carries a sense of glamour and elite exclusivity. There are also views that it is not as addictive as other drugs. Similar to alcohol, users may feel peer-pressured into partaking in the drug.

Social users of cocaine may refer to themselves as recreational users, but regular usage can easily turn into a dependency or addiction without realisation. In fact, the perception that cocaine is ‘not as bad’ or ‘less addictive’ than other illicit drugs is incorrect. There are very real and potentially fatal risks of cocaine use, including raised body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and using large amounts can lead to overheating, strokes and heart attacks. Even in minor doses, cocaine can cause anxiety, paranoia, agitation, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and aggressive behaviour.

Other lesser-known costs of cocaine use include:

  • Damage to the nose and respiratory system
  • Risk of blood clots/aneurysm
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression/psychosis

The above factors only cover a snapshot of scenarios that can spark a person’s battle with substance abuse. Addiction is a very real – and complex – experience to navigate, therefore it’s essential for Australians struggling to seek professional help so they can begin recovery and get their life back on track. Benefits of seeking professional addiction recovery include breaking the cycle of addiction, identifying underlying issues and building new habits. For more information, including resources on the signs and symptoms of addiction and supporting a loved one through recovery, head to

 About the Citations