What Cocaine Addiction Does to Your Brain

cocaine addictionResearch studies have time and time again shown the negative effects of cocaine. Whether it is  curiosity for first-time users, a fruitless effort to again experience the effects of their first hit, or an established drug dependence for those who have already succumbed to cocaine addiction, cocaine is one of the most prevalently used drugs in America.

To get a better picture of what really happens behind the scenes, let’s have a look at the brain to see the ill effects that cocaine addiction can bring to the user.

Cocaine Addiction “Pleasure” is a Symptom of Danger

A research group at the University of Michigan conducted a study that examined the health of the neurons of healthy individuals compared to those of subjects suffering from cocaine addiction. These particular nerve cells are involved in the release of a chemical called dopamine, which is a pleasure-signaling component that highly affects cocaine. In the healthy individuals, the dopamine levels and the amount of VMAT2, a protein component, were relatively higher compared to the depleted levels found in cocaine users.

Cocaine Addiction and Your Brain’s Pathways

A US research study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered that the more frequently and prolonged a user is exposed to cocaine, the more it causes irreparable damage to the pleasure circuits of the brain. The study finds that this is one of the potential reasons for drug dependence; at the same time, this can be seen as a major contribution to the treatment of those with cocaine addiction.

The study, which exposed mice to cocaine, showed that repeated usage represses a particular gene (gene 9A), which is involved in the reward circuit. More precisely, the gene 9A is responsible for turning genes on and off.

In cases of cocaine addiction, with the altered switching on and off of genes caused by the drug, the individual experiences a preference for cocaine, making drug dependence a next step.

Addiction: The Brain on Cocaine

cocaine addicitionDuring a cocaine high, supposedly positive feelings can make the user feel as though nothing bad is actually happening in the brain. But in reality, there is a big trade off for that relatively brief period under cocaine’s devastating influence; unfortunately, on the human brain in particular.

In general, as the effects of cocaine take place, a surge of blood pressure is induced. This will cause extra activity within the brain and the blood vessels. There can also be microscopic injuries to the vessels, which, in the long term, can damage them permanently. Many individuals who fall prey to cocaine addiction have suffered a heart attack at a relatively young age.

Cocaine Addiction and Curbing the Craving

Scientific research is pursuing potential means of using the knowledge gamed so far regarding cocaine addiction to present new treatment possibilities. There is evidence that the damaging effects of cocaine can be reversed by manipulating the behavior of or inducing treatment to the gene 9A, making this a progressive step in battling cocaine addiction.

Obviously, the best method of prevention for avoiding cocaine’s damage to the brain is to not begin using the drug at all. If you are already past that point, however, take comfort and inspiration in the fact that there is definitely skilled help available.

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