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What Does Cocaine Do To The Brain

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What Does Cocaine Do To Your Body

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

Cocaine is a drug thats derived from a naturally occurring plant. While it has some medical uses, its mostly used as a recreational drug that delivers a potent, stimulating high. The drug can cause some intense psychological symptoms when its used for recreation, but it can also have an impact on your body.

As a recreational drug, cocaine can be snorted or rubbed into the gums. It may also be converted to its freebase form called crack cocaine, which can be smoked. While different routes of administration offer some different effects, each method delivers a potent, short-lived high. Illicit cocaine can also have unpredictable additives, including inert fillers and potent active chemicals. High doses of cocaine can cause an overdose that has toxic effects on the body. Overdose can be deadly, but when its not, it can cause some lasting consequences.

The opioid crisis has drawn media attention in the past few years, and for a good reason. However, cocaine continues to be a problem all over the United States. In some areas, its a bigger problem than opioids. But how does cocaine affect your body, and what are its long-term effects? Learn more about cocaines effects on multiple aspects of your body.

Why Do People Use Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a crystalized form of cocaine. A user will use crack cocaine by heating up the crystals and smoking the fumes that are given off from the heat. Crack cocaine is a more pure form of cocaine, meaning that it is not cut with other projects, making it more potent. This means that by smoking crack cocaine, more of the drugs chemical compounds are taken in to the body, causing more damaging effects than snorting cocaine itself, since it has a lower purity level. Crack cocaine is also a faster, more effective way of having the drug enter the bloodstream, making the user feel the effects faster and more intensely. Typically, it will take about eight seconds for the user to feel the high that comes from crack cocaine, as opposed to the 10 minutes it takes a high from snorted cocaine to reach its full effect.

What The Research Says

Encountering new ideas, interesting concepts, new friends and unusual challenges can all have a profound effect on the brain. Research has shown that cocaine can alter the brain in similar ways. For example, a study published in the journal Nature Neurosciencesuggests that cocaine can cause brain cells to generate more dendritic spines . The researchers suggest that this change could make people exposed to cocaine more apt to learn to love the drug, and they might be more likely to transition to addiction rapidly as a result.

While this study seems to suggest that cocaine causes people to learn the habits of addiction quite quickly, a second study suggests that those habits are hard to leave behind, due to the damage cocaine can cause. In this study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found that the portions of the brain dealing with cognitive flexibility and memory are damaged due to addiction, and that damage can take weeks or months to resolve. This means that people with

cocaine addictions often persist in those habits, even when theyre trying to get better.

Many of the studies outlined above were conducted on animals, and of course, studies on mice and monkeys dont always translate perfectly to humans. Still, the more experts learn about the way specific drugs affect the brain and the body, the more effectively they can treat addiction.

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Mental Health And Mood Disorders

Abusing cocaine can have serious effects on an individuals mental health. Cocaine has a direct impact on dopamine, one of the feel good neurotransmitters in the brain. This chemical is responsible for the feelings of euphoria and happiness as well as the high that cocaine causes.

Abusing cocaine can cause the brain to stop making dopamine on its own. This, in turn, results in the brain relying on the drug to create dopamine. As a result, when a person is not using cocaine, he or she can often feel depressed, lethargic, and unmotivated.

Those who abuse cocaine on a regular basis can often experience serious depression when not taking the drug. Using cocaine for a long period of time can also throw off the equilibrium of the brain and result in long-term depression that requires treatment.

Other mental health and mood symptoms that can arise as a result of cocaine abuse include:

  • psychosis
  • violence and/or aggression

Communicable Diseases And Infections

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Other common problems among cocaine abusers is intravenous injection and unprotected sex where communicable diseases including HIV, AIDs, hepatitis, STDs, and infections are spread from one person to another. Herpes, staff infections, and bacterial infections can be externally noticed while blood-borne diseases are harder to detect. Since cocaine abusers often suffer from poor health conditions in one way or another, their immune systems tend to be comprised in ways that make overcoming infections more difficult.

Call toll free anytime for help finding treatment for cocaine addiction.

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Help For Substance Use Disorder In Washington State

At Lakeside-Milam, we understand how quickly a cocaine addiction can develop. If you need help to overcome a substance use disorder, we are here for you every step of the way. Our qualified counselors offer the full continuum of care, and our outpatient addiction and mental health services are available all across the state of Washington.

To learn more about our cocaine addiction treatment program, contact our admissions office.

Cocaine Addiction And Withdrawal Symptoms

Using any psychoactive substance over time can eventually result in a dependence. The body gets used to a certain level of cocaine in the system. This adaptation is the reason that someone becomes reliant on the drug. That same action causes tolerance because the body expects a specific amount of the drug, it struggles to function with less than the required dose.

This does not even take psychological associations into account. The low mood caused by the reduction of dopamine receptors can prompt repeated use at stronger dosages. Additionally, cocaine becomes a coping mechanism someone may turn to this drug in an effort to combat stress, enjoy a party, or boost their energy. Eventually they rely on drugs to navigate most situations in life.

Cocaine is a fast-acting substance. The high from snorting the drug in its powder form only lasts for between 15 and 30 minutes on average. If a person smokes crystalline cocaine , their high will probably only last for about five to 15 minutes. This means that a person must continue to use again and again to sustain the intense, short-lived high they seek, which increases the potential for abuse, addiction, and even overdose.

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Cocaine Increases Levels Of Dopamine

The effects of cocaine are felt within minutes, as the drug enters the bloodstream and quickly reaches the brain. Depending on the method of use, the effects may last from 5 to 30 minutes. The result is increased activity in the brain, including increased levels of dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger that sends signals to the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body, affecting motor function and triggering heightened feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Although signals to increase pleasure can be triggered naturally, cocaine causes a much higher intensity of euphoria, prompting users to want to repeat the experience.

Cocaine also causes dysfunction in how dopamine cycles through the body, allowing it to accumulate between the cells, resulting in increasingly higher doses needed to achieve the desired effect . Both increased intensity and tolerance contribute to cocaine addiction. At the most severe level of addiction, users lose the ability to feel pleasure, and are taking cocaine just to feel normal.

Effects Of Cocaine Use

Your Brain on Crack Cocaine

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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Physical Changes To Your Brain

Cocaine can actually cause physical harm to your brain, including damage to the brains veins and arteries. This limits the blood flow to your brain and causes chronic headaches or migraines.

Cocaine can also trigger more serious issues like blood clots and seizures. After being used for a long period of time, cocaine increases your risk of your brain developing a seizure disorder. And unlike headaches, this will take long-term treatment to fix.

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.

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Cocaine Throws Your Brain Off Balance

The first way cocaine affects your brain is by affecting the production of neurotransmitters, the brains chemical messengers. Neurotransmitters carry, boost, and balance signals between cells in our body. Dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, signals our emotional responses, especially pleasure. Normally, the brain releases dopamine when we exercise, meditate, get a massage, have sex, eat good food, and listen to music we enjoy. When we do those things, small doses of dopamine travel through our brain cells and send messages of joy, amusement, and satisfaction.

But when you use cocaine, dopamine floods your brain. Theres so much of the chemical floating around that it doesnt have anywhere to go. This surge of dopamine is what makes you feel high and euphoric. But your brain quickly becomes accustomed to these abnormal levels of dopamine. High levels of dopamine build up and over-activate receiving cells in the brain. When this happens, normal levels of dopamine arent enough to produce the same pleasurable effects. Cocaine also throws off the brains balance by suppressing other neurotransmitters, including:

  • Norepinephrine, which may lead to memory loss
  • Serotonin, which can cause obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior

Cocaines Effect On The Brain Over Time

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The sense of pleasure that cocaine creates incites reward-seeking behaviors. A person remembers that the euphoria came from cocaine, that sense of pleasure acts like a reward for its use, and it promotes behaviors in that person to seek out the drug again. Over time and with continued use of the drug, the brain begins to adapt to the high levels of dopamine by becoming less sensitive to it. In order to get the same high again, the user needs to take more and more cocaine. Tolerance, an important sign of addiction, begins to develop because of the way the brain adapts to cocaine.

Researchers have even found that there are more long-lasting effects of cocaine use on the brain. Cocaine use may even change genetics in brain cells, which may contribute to addiction. A specific protein that seems to be involved in addictive behaviors is altered by cocaine use and builds up to higher levels than normal. The most lasting effect, though, appears to be the growth of nerve cells in the limbic system. Why or how this happens is not well understood, but it is thought to play a major role in the long-term effects of drug use and addiction.

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Effects Of Cocaine On The Digestive System

Another physical effect of cocaine abuse is its effect on the guts good bacteria as well as the way it recedes the stomachs natural barrier to acidity. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns of these additional risks on the digestive system:

  • Damage to bowel tissues
  • Reduced blood flow to the gut
  • Acid reflux

Why Does Cocaine Affect The Brain Specifically

Cocaine brain damage is caused mostly by how cocaine hijacks the dopamine transmission process and by neuron autophagy, which we discuss below. While other body systems can also be affected by cocaine , its the effect on nerve cells that makes cocaine so dangerous. Cocaine also increases stress hormones in the brain, like cortisol, that can create the feelings of paranoia so famous in cocaine users.

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How To Recognize Cocaine

Cocaine is mostly sold on the street illegally as a fine white powder. It is often mixed with other substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, or sugar to dilute its purity. Sometimes it is mixed with amphetamine or heroin in what is known as a “speedball.” Cocaine is also sold on the street in a freebase form known as crack cocaine. Cocaine looks like white powder or rocks. It is often stored loose in baggies or packed into tight bricks.

Getting Help For Substance Abuse

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Cocaine is a hazardous substance, and many people become addicted. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else you know, help is available. Taking the first step towards recovery is always accepting that you have a problem and need help. With quality substance abuse treatment, you can find a future without drugs.

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Addiction Treatment Can Help Restore Your Brains Health

Here at StoneRidge Centers, we believe in combining brain science with compassionate care and clinical support. We know how harmful addiction to cocaine and other substances can be to the brain. At the same time, we know that evidence-based treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy can help restore your brains health.

We want to help you get there. Reach out to us today at 855-593-2231 if you or a loved one is struggling with substance use.

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How Does Cocaine Affect Your Bowels

Cocaine can increase blood pressure and reduce blood flow in certain parts of your body, especially your gastrointestinal tract. Cocaine can cause ulcers and tears in the intestines that lead to serious damage and medical problems. In some cases, chronic cocaine use can lead to life-threatening bowel issues.

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How Does Cocaine Kill Brain Cells

This seems amazingly self-evident, but when the question is asked, does cocaine kill brain cells? and can cocaine kill you? The answer to both questions is emphatically yes.

In recent years, it has been determined that its not just the interference with dopamine uptake mechanisms in neurons that destroys brain cells. Another mechanism is at work neuron autophagy.

Autophagy is a cellular process that normally cleans debris within cells. Membrane-enclosed vacuoles exist to help gather up debris. These bags then fuse with enzyme rich lysosomes. Lysosomes contain acids that disintegrate cellular debris and allow cells to safely function.

Cocaine hijacks this process. When affected by cocaine, the vacuoles go crazy, and devour not only debris, but also consume mitochondria and other import cell machinery. Imagine a vacuum cleaner that starts to devour your carpet, furniture, and power chords. This is how cocaine makes brain cells kill themselves. And aside from a few instances, brain cells usually dont regenerate themselves – cocaine brain damage is usually irreversible. The answer to the question of can you die from cocaine is self evident.

What Does Cocaine Do To Your Brain

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Cocaine affects your brain immediately. One of the first things you will experience is an intense feeling of intoxication, which is the main reason most people will take the drug. However, repeatedly chasing this pleasure is what leads cocaine users to become addicted. There are many dangers to using cocaine that arent as obvious as the perceived benefit of its initial rush. Its crucial to know the impact it can have on different brain areas, some of which can result in irreversible damage, serious health complications and even death.

Read more below about what cocaine does to the brain and how that can affect you psychologically, emotionally and physically.

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Positron Emission Tomography Imaging Analysis

Figure 3 illustrates the metabolic activity in mice non-exposed compared with mice exposed to cocaine. Representative 18F-FDG PET images were selected for each group . According to the intensity of the colormap selected , the presence or absence of abnormal radiotracer accumulation was analyzed. The size and intensity of the uptake region, especially when the accumulation was focal, was also associated. The evaluation of the PET data showed no significant differences between the groups for any of the analyzed brain structures, which are typically affected by cocaine . Additionally, PET analysis of the entire brain showed no statistically significant alterations between groups .

Figure 3. PET imaging study. Changes in metabolic activity in animals non-exposed and exposed to a single dose of cocaine . The atlas-derived volumes of interest of the main areas commonly affected by cocaine are shown superimposed on transverse, coronal, and sagittal image slices of mice brain from both representative 18F-FDG PET studies and CT derived from Digimouse 3D atlas. VOIs: prefrontal cortex , striatum , hippocampus , thalamus , and amygdala .

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