How Does Narcissism Relate to Cocaine Addiction?

Narcissism is a personality disorder marked by extreme confidence, self-regard and a lack of concern for others. Cocaine abuse can heighten feelings of power and invincibility, making it the ideal drug for an individual with narcissistic tendencies.

What Is Narcissism?

In psychology narcissism is used to describe both healthy self-love that is critical for psychological health, as well as excessive self-absorption that may constitute an unhealthy or unrealistic self-image. Sigmund Freud was the first to hypothesize that an extreme manifestation of healthy narcissism may become pathological, resulting in a personality disorder; the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Features of narcissistic personality disorder include the following:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance;
  • A feeling of being unique or special;
  • A preoccupation with receiving attention or recognition;
  • Fantasies involving unrealistic or unattainable goals;
  • A tendency to exaggerate one’s own talents or accomplishments;
  • A sense of entitlement;
  • A tendency to exploit others;
  • A lack of empathy.

Narcissists typically have difficulty with interpersonal relationships and are often estranged from family. They are often resistant to treatment, as they believe there is nothing wrong with them and are suspicious of others’ attempts to change them. Narcissists also have a higher than average rate of substance abuse, with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine being their most common drugs of choice.

How Narcissism Impacts Cocaine Addiction and Recovery

People whose drug of choice is a stimulant like cocaine often differ from other types of drug addicts. Alcohol, other sedatives like Valium, opiates like heroin and opioids like OxyContin are all central nervous system depressants that tend to produce a state of numbed relaxation and are very attractive to persons who are seeking escape or relief from pain. Cocaine, by contrast, stimulates the nervous system, resulting in increased energy, excitement and difficulty sleeping. It has been hypothesized that these effects are very attractive to narcissistic individuals. As far back as 1986 pioneering cocaine addiction treatment specialist (and recovering cocaine addict) Cardwell C. Nuckols stressed the importance of recognizing the narcissistic tendencies of the average cocaine addict when devising treatment strategies. According to Nuckols, cocaine addicts tend to feel special, that they are in “the fast lane” and are in complete control. This state of self-delusion can make the cocaine addicted narcissist especially resistant to treatment. In fact, a recent study entitled “Narcissism, Perfectionism and Self-Termination from Treatment in Outpatient Cocaine Users” (McCown, Carlson, 2004) concluded that high levels of treatment dropout by narcissistic cocaine users are related to the patients’ perfectionism.

Lack of family and social support is also related to treatment dropout. As mentioned above, narcissistic individuals are often estranged from their family members, who are most likely unfamiliar with NPD and may simply think that the individuals are selfish and uncaring. Thus, family members may be disinterested in the treatment of their narcissistic, cocaine-addicted relative. Since family support is often critical to recovery, this tendency increases the chance that cocaine addicted narcissists will not complete treatment either for narcissism or cocaine addiction.

Treatment Can Be Effective

Despite this gloomy prognosis, with proper treatment and support a narcissistic cocaine addict can overcome his or her addiction and come to terms with narcissism. If you would like help finding treatment for cocaine addiction or NPD, or if you have any questions about NPD, cocaine, addiction, treatment and recovery, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline today.

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