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How Does Cocaine Affect The Brain

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Immediate Action In The Brain

How do drugs affect the brain? – Sara Garofalo

When someone snorts or injects cocaine, or smokes the crystallized form of the drug known as crack cocaine, the drug goes quickly to the brain. There it stimulates a buildup of a large amount of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that signals a sense of pleasure. This flood of dopamine is what causes the feeling of euphoria that users experience.

Cocaine affects all areas of the brain that have dopamine, but the limbic system is most impacted. The limbic system is involved in emotions and memories, and the strong effect of cocaine here helps to explain why the drug causes people to experience pleasure and lose control overusing the drug. The association of cocaine-created pleasure with memories helps stimulate addiction. The user is reminded of where the pleasure came from, cocaine, and is led to use it again to re-experience the euphoria.

Long Term Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine Use

Addiction is the number one most likely and most severe side effect of crack cocaine use. Crack cocaine is both physically and psychologically addictive, meaning that both the body and mind will develop a dependence on the drug. This dependence will prevent the user from properly functioning and going to great measures to seek out the drug. The addiction will cause a preoccupation with getting high, which causes a user to lose touch with his or her other priorities, like family, career goals, and everyday responsibilities.

Warning signs that a user is beginning to slip into a deep addiction include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Shift in personality
  • Hypersensitivity to the topic of drug use or expressions of concern

Long term use of crack cocaine will also result is mental health issues. Among the most severe is permanent brain damage that causes:

  • Changes in personality
  • Severe and unpredictable mood swings
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Permanently depleted levels of dopamine, which causes a diminished desire for food, sex, exercise, and general health and quality of life-related needs.
  • Development of mental health disorders, like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.

Long term use of crack cocaine can also cause psychosis. Psychosis is a break from reality. When a person is psychotic, he or she will experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia

How Does Cocaine And Crack Affect Dopamine In The Brain

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that during the neural communication process, a neuron releases dopamine into the synapse so that it can bind to dopamine receptors on surrounding neurons.

Normally, dopamine is then recycled back into the transmitting neuron by a specialized protein called the dopamine transporter, the agency writes.

The presence of cocaine or crack changes this natural process. When someone uses either of these drugs, it attaches itself to the dopamine transporter and blocks the dopamine from coming back in. This break in the recycling process creates a buildup of dopamine in the synapse. This process ensures users continue to feel the potent effects of cocaine or crack.

The use of extremely addictive drugs changes the brains reward system. As a result, users have intense cravings they cant ignore. The brain becomes demanding, and substance users make it a top priority to seek the drug out and will do just about anything to get it.

The body can only produce so much dopamine in a period, which means the more someone uses, the less of an effect the drug will have. Many people use larger amounts of the drug so that they can experience the initial effects of the substance.

A conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio found that there is data that show how the neurotransmitter dopamine changes when working to obtain cocaine.

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Hook The Brain On Unnatural Dopamine Levels

Cocaine acts as a stimulant, affecting your central nervous system by giving it a boost. This is why the drug can make you feel like you have endless amounts of energy. But the impact doesnt stop there.

Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical thats triggered in your brain to help you feel pleasure and satisfaction. For example, working out or eating a delicious dessert triggers a release of dopamine. Cocaine works in a similar fashion to give you that high that you feel. The key difference is cocaine floods your brain with unnatural levels of dopamine to make you experience the intense levels of pleasure you feel when taking the drug.

This might sound like a good thing at first, but your brain isnt designed to handle overwhelming amounts of dopamine. With how addictive cocaine is, your brain quickly becomes accustomed to these increased neurotransmitter levels and can no longer function on natural, healthy levels of dopamine.

Cocaine Affects Higher Brain Functions

How drugs affect the brain

The cocaine abusers were significantly less accurate than the controls. The scientists found that the demands of working memory required increased activation of two brain regions, the anterior cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex.

“Previous research that examined cognitive function in cocaine abusers identified decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex,” says Dr. Garavan. “But our study is the first to show that the difficulty cocaine users have with inhibiting their actions, particularly when high levels of reasoning and decision-making are required, relate directly to this reduced capacity for controlling activity in the ACC and prefrontal regions of the brain.”

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Effects Of Cocaine On Breathing

Cocaine addiction also impacts your respiratory system.

  • When cocaine constricts blood vessels and capillaries it hardens the walls of the lungs and other organs. This makes it more difficult to breathe.
  • Smoking crack cocaine can damage your lungs, make asthma worse, and cause other respiratory issues.
  • Studies on rats show cocaine can affect the olfactory system, which is responsible for your sense of smell.
  • Cocaine abuse can cause the lungs to swell, lead to ruptured lung arteries and air sacs, and reduce blood supply to the lungs.
  • Cocaine can produce spasms in the bronchial tubes, which can lead to respiratory failure.

How Does Cocaine Affect The Brain

Cells in the brain called neurons communicate with one another partially using molecules called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are released from one cell and enter an area called the synapseâa tiny gap between neurons. The neurotransmitter molecules then attach to the cell on the opposite side of the synapse, where they can have a number of different effects. After neurotransmitters are released into the synapse, they are taken back up into the releasing cell, where they can be either broken down or ârecycledâ and released again later.

Cocaine primarily affects a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which plays an important role in the brain’s reward and reinforcement systems. The drug prevents dopamine molecules from being taken back up into the cell. This allows dopamine to build up in the synapse and have a much stronger effect on surrounding cells than it normally would. This is how cocaine causes the intense happiness and energy that it is often associated with. According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, other short-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • Mental alertness

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Cocaine And Brain Aging

As a person grows older, their brain will naturally change and begin to lose gray matter. In a healthy brain, this is a decades-long process, and it does not appear until a person has reached older adulthood. Memory problems, changes in cognitive ability, and even dementia are linked to reduction of gray matter.

A recent study through the University of Cambridge examined the aging of the brain in people who abused cocaine and those who had no previous history of substance abuse. The group found that the average brain normally loses 1.69 milliliters of gray matter per year however, people who had abused cocaine in the past, or who were currently cocaine-dependent, doubled the rate of gray matter loss, for an average of 3.08 milliliters per year.

Another study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University, found that cocaine may cause brain cells to cannibalize themselves. The study describes cocaine triggering autophagy in neurons in mice, or the process of the cells eating themselves from the inside out. The cells threw out useful resources during metabolism, leading to a stress reaction of cannibalizing other internal cell structures. Mice whose mothers had been fed cocaine during pregnancy, but who were not cocaine-dependent themselves, also showed this phenomenon.

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Cocaine And The Brain

2-Minute Neuroscience: Effects of Cocaine

This illicit substance can be extremely damaging to a persons health including their body, heart, mental health, and brain. Cocaine affects the brain in many different ways and our luxury rehab in West Palm is here to explain exactly what is going in your head after your brain is exposed to cocaine.

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What Are The Signs Of Addiction

Whether a person uses cocaine or crack, the use of either drug is hard to stop once a person develops an addiction to it. If you or someone you know has been using cocaine or crack, you may notice if the following has happened:

  • Higher drug tolerance. When the body is used to a drug, it usually takes higher amounts of it for the body to experience stronger effects
  • Preoccupation with finding, using crack, cocaine
  • Using illegal methods to obtain crack, cocaine, such as stealing
  • Withdrawal symptoms that follow when effects wear off when use stops

Short Term Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine

The most immediate effect of using crack cocaine is the crash. A crash is a term used to refer to the extreme low that is experienced after coming off of the high from crack cocaine. When a person experiences a crash, their mood depresses to the point in which serious effects are felt, like:

  • Depressed mood
  • Severe anxiety
  • And ultimately, cravings for more crack cocaine

This is the result of the depleted levels of dopamine in the brain. The low levels of dopamine take between 12-36 hours to replenish, causes the users mood to remain in a depressed state, due to a lack of the ability to feel that feel-good sensation that comes from dopamine. The crash causes the user to crave more crack cocaine as a means to re-stabilize his or her mood. This pattern of highs and crashes is likely to result in addiction.

A crash can also cause a user to experience delusional parasitosis. Delusional parasitosis is when a user feels as though his or her skin is crawling with bugs. This feeling and belief causes a great deal of distress for the user, and results in excessive scratching and skin picking. This extreme reaction can cause the user to fall into psychosis, or a break from reality.

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Cocaine Research Reportwhat Are Some Ways That Cocaine Changes The Brain

Use of cocaine, like other drugs of abuse, induces long-term changes in the brain. Animal studies show that cocaine exposure can cause significant neuroadaptations in neurons that release the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.9,10 Animals chronically exposed to cocaine demonstrate profound changes in glutamate neurotransmissionincluding how much is released and the level of receptor proteinsin the reward pathway, particularly the nucleus accumbens. The glutamate system may be an opportune target for anti-addiction medication development, with the goal of reversing the cocaine-induced neuroadaptations that contribute to the drive to use the drug.9

Chronic cocaine exposure affects many other areas of the brain too. For example, animal research indicates that cocaine diminishes functioning in the orbitofrontal cortex , which appears to underlie the poor decision-making, inability to adapt to negative consequences of drug use, and lack of self-insight shown by people addicted to cocaine.12 A study using optogenetic technology, which uses light to activate specific, genetically-modified neurons, found that stimulating the OFC restores adaptive learning in animals. This intriguing result suggests that strengthening OFC activity may be a good therapeutic approach to improve insight and awareness of the consequences of drug use among people addicted to cocaine.13

How Is Cocaine Taken


Cocaine can be smoked, rubbed onto the gums, snorted, injected, or added to food and drink, depending on the form. Cocaine powder is white and is usually snorted. ‘Crack’ is cocaine made into small ‘rocks’ and usually smoked in a pipe, foil or bottle. Cocaine powder and crack can be mixed into a liquid for injecting.

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How Cocaine Affects The Body

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug derived from the coca plant found in South American countries such as Peru and Columbia and trafficked into the United States whereby Americans remain the highest consumers. Cocaine speeds up brain activity and stimulates the central nervous system increasing energy, restlessness, anxiety, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, temperature, and a myriad of other conditions. Its power to produce euphoria and interfere with chemical processes in the brain can lead to debilitating physical and psychological disorders that reduce the quality of life in people long after the last dose of cocaine is consumed.

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Effects Of Cocaine On Body And Brain

Each time cocaine is used it causes a rapid spike in energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, body temperature, and, often, anxiety. Users may also experience tremors, nausea, dilated pupils, and restlessness. Many users believe that cocaine increases their mental clarity, helping them to perform both physical and mental tasks more quickly. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, short-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • extreme happiness and energy
  • hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • irritability
  • paranoiaextreme and unreasonable distrust of others

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Subjects And Housing Conditions

Male Balb-c mice, with a mean age of 6 weeks and an average weight between 20 and 30 g, were used in this study. The Multidisciplinary Research Laboratory of the University of São Francisco, Bragança Paulista , in collaboration with both the Biophysics and Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Institutes of the Faculty of Medicine of University of Coimbra , developed the research. All experiments were conducted following the European Union directives for the care of laboratory animals and the iCBR Vivarium guidelines. The project is under the ORBEA 17/2015 and the DGAV authorization.

How Does Cocaine Abuse Affect The Brain

Cocaine and the Brain, The Holman Archives Video, Radiology Department

Brain damage after cocaine use is largely related to how it affects the chemical processes in the brain. Taking cocaine causes the brain to release enormous amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that regulates pleasure and positive emotions. The role it plays in mood and mental health is essential.

Cocaine overrides the brains natural release mechanisms and blocks dopamine from being reabsorbed. This tricks the brain into needing cocaine to continue producing dopamine. Ultimately, this can result in severe mental health disorders such as depression. Cocaine withdrawal typically involves mood swings and mental health challenges. In some people, the brain cannot regain equilibrium, and people are left with a mental health disorder. Cocaine abuse can also lead to experiencing:

  • Hallucinations

The chance of developing psychosis or even schizophrenia is increased among people who binge cocaine.

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What Is A High On Crack Cocaine Like

The high of crack cocaine can create several different kinds of pleasurable effects. It creates a high that stimulates a withstanding euphoric sensation. This sensation is felt almost immediately, and provides the user with a boost of energy, a false sense of high self-esteem and self-confidence, a grandiose sense of wellbeing that prevents the user from being able to properly perceive danger, and severely lowered inhibitions. Crack cocaine will create hyper-alertness, which will cause the user to become paranoid, aggressive, and exhibit erratic behavior.

What Is Cocaine & The Effects On Mental Health

Cocaine ‘speeds up’ the brain, which helps you stay alert and awake, and sometimes provides an ‘energy burst’. It is also a pain reliever. It is illegal to possess or use cocaine in Australia. If you are caught with even a small amount you can be arrested and it could lead to a criminal record.

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Putting Knowledge Into Action

With this research in hand, experts might provide cocaine addicts with therapies that can:

  • Educate them about the changes in their brains
  • Motivate them to stay in treatment
  • Help to boost self-control
  • Soothe cravings for drugs

Advanced monitoring might also be part of the treatment program, since people with cocaine addictions might have a reduced capacity to control their cravings and their behavior.

Effects Of Cocaine Use

How Does Crack Cocaine Affect the Brain?

The effects of cocaine depend on the strength of the dose, the blend of chemicals, the physiology of the person and their state of mind at the time of taking the drug. The cocaine rush only lasts for a short time, around 1530 minutes after inhalation.Generally, some of the immediate effects of cocaine include:

  • feelings of euphoria, exhilaration and confidence
  • accelerated heart rate
  • the urge to have sex.

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What Is Crack Cocaine

Each time a drug is ingested into the body, there will be a chemical reaction in the brain. Whether it is smoked, snorted, injected or ingested, it will affect the chemical composition of your brain, which result in serious, withstanding consequences. Crack cocaine is an example of one of the many substances that will cause both short term and long term effects on the brain. Crack cocaine will cause symptoms and side effects that will severely alter the users quality of life. Often those chemical changes are permanent, and even after quitting for good, the damage done to the brain is irreversible.

Cocaine Abuse Statistics You Should Know

In addition to understanding the damage cocaine can have on your brain, you should also know that:

  • Cocaine is the second most addictive drug in the world.
  • In 2018, more than 4 out of 5 people aged 12 or older were at risk for harm after using cocaine on a weekly basis.
  • 5.5 million people used cocaine in 2018.¹
  • In the same year, more than 750,000 people aged 12 or older used crack, a concentrated form of cocaine.¹
  • 112,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old used cocaine in 2018.¹
  • Cocaine can reduce the amount of grey matter in your brain. Grey matter helps regulate how your senses perceive outside information, make decisions, speak, retain memories, and process information. If you abuse cocaine regularly, you can lose grey matter twice as fast as someone who doesnt abuse cocaine.
  • Cocaine may age your brain prematurely. Studies have shown that some cocaine users in their 30s and 40s have more brain changes than people older than 60 years old.
  • Cocaine can cause chronic nosebleeds, a loss of smell, and kidney failure.
  • Some signs and symptoms of cocaine use may include dilated pupils, runny nose, nosebleeds, tremors, weight loss, and burn marks on the hands, nose, or lips.

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