Study Says Cocaine Users Lack Empathy And Social Skills

Study Says Cocaine Users Lack Empathy And Social Skills

By McCarton Ackerman 01/23/14

Researchers found that regular cocaine users were less engaged in social interactions, as well as less attuned to opposing mental and emotional perspectives.

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Although the effects of cocaine can include being overly talkative, new research from the University of Zurich suggests that regular cocaine users are less likely to enjoy social interaction. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also state that cocaine users may also lack empathy for others and that treatment for cocaine addiction should include social skills training.

The researchers split the sample pool into two groups, one of chronic cocaine users and the other of healthy control subjects. They found the regular drug users socialized less and were less engaged during these interactions, had difficulty detecting emotions from the voices of others, and had trouble understanding the mental perspective of others. "Cocaine users perceive social exchange as less positive and rewarding compared to people who do not use this stimulant," said Boris Quednow, head of the division of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacopsychology at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich.

Brain activity measurements among the cocaine users also showed less activation in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that plays an important part in the reward system. Unfortunately, this reduced social interaction can also fuel addiction because while they may lose supportive social contacts in the process, such as friends or family, cocaine addicts already view social interaction as less rewarding and likely won’t be persuaded to seek help.