The Effects of Cocaine on the Brain
Crack cocaine and cocaine are capable of causing brain damage, even when they have only been used a handful of times.
Damages to your brain structure can trigger an addiction – this disease affects the brain’s dopamine systems and reward circuits. Cocaine abuse can lead to a multitude of long-term damage.
Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant and it is very, very addictive. Its effect on the brain’s neurochemistry is immediate which means that even taking it once can lead to an addiction in many users.
The drug works by preventing dopamine from being reabsorbed. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with excitement and pleasure, and when it lingers in the brain it causes intense euphoria and feelings of pleasure.
Once the effects of cocaine begin to ease and dopamine resumes being absorbed back into the brain, the brain is too exhausted by the process to create more dopamine without help.
This triggers withdrawal symptoms, like depression, mood swings and exhaustion. In order to ease these negative feelings, someone may take more cocaine without delay in a process called reinforcement.
Mental Effects on the Brain
Both powdered and freebase (better known as crack) cocaine are capable of causing long-term damage to mental health. This will manifest itself in the form of emotional disturbances and mood.
As cocaine directly interferes with the amount of dopamine being reabsorbed by the brain’s neurons, one of the most noticeable symptoms of a cocaine comedown is the onset of severe depression.
If the brain doesn’t reach original equilibrium, then a person who is struggling with cocaine abuse for a sustained period of time may experience permanent depression that will require continuous mental health treatment.
Other extremely serious long-term consequences caused by cocaine abuse include paranoia, restlessness, psychosis, and auditory hallucinations. Those who have increased susceptibility to developing schizophrenia or psychosis are more likely to succumb to these conditions if they binge cocaine in either freebase or powdered form.
Cocaine causes an increase in stress hormones, such as cortisol, that are secreted by the brain. In turn, this causes a permanent increase in blood pressure. This damages the body’s cardiovascular system.
Even if someone suffering with a drug addiction does not develop paranoia or psychosis, they may develop issues with aggression or violence, panic disorders or anxiety.
Physical Effects of Cocaine Abuse
One of the most severe long-term effects of cocaine abuse is the damage that is caused to the body’s cardiovascular system. This will inevitably cause damage to several other organ systems, which does include the brain.
If the linings of the arteries and veins are damaged, then this will lead to chronic, debilitating headaches caused by blood flow to the brain being restricted. Because this damage is also capable of causing blood clots, this can result in a stroke.
Cocaine is also capable of causing seizures, whether that be during chronic cocaine abuse or during bingeing and can cause a seizure disorder to develop. If that happens, long-term treatment will be required.
Those who suffer from a cocaine addiction will also have reduced levels of glucose metabolism in many areas of their brain – this suggests that the brain’s neurons will either underperform or begin to die off.
Brain Aging and Cocaine
When a person ages, their brain naturally changes and it will begin to shed grey matter. For a healthy brain, this is a long process, over the course of decades.
The fact does not manifest itself until someone has hit older adulthood. Changes in cognitive ability, dementia and memory problems have been linked to a reduction of grey matter.
The University of Cambridge completed a recent study that observed the aging of the brain in those who had taken part in cocaine abuse in comparison with people who did not have any previous substance abuse.
The study determined that the average brain loses 1.69 millilitres of grey matter annually. However, brains of those who have a prior record of cocaine abuse, or were suffering from a cocaine addiction during the study, had double the rate of grey matter loss at 3.08 millilitres a year.
In the result of a further study, which was conducted by John Hopkins University, it was established that cocaine can cause brain cells to cannibalise themselves.
In the course of this study, it was determined that cocaine triggered autophagy in neurons in the brains of mice – this is better described as the process of the brain cells eating themselves.
The cells emitted useful resources during metabolism, which in turn led to a stress reaction of other internal cell structures being cannibalised
Some mice were pregnant when this study took place, and their offspring, whilst not dependent on cocaine, also experienced this cannibalising effect.
How Cassiobury Court can help
Cocaine addiction is very difficult to overcome, as it is one of the most addictive substances. But with professional help, it is like any other drug addiction which means it can be beaten.
If you are struggling with cocaine abuse, or believe you have already developed a cocaine addiction, then we can help you to take back control of your life through drug detoxification and rehabilitation.
If you are worried about a friend or a loved one, who is displaying the tell-tale signs of cocaine abuse, then we also offer a friend and family referral scheme in order to help people who need it the most.
If you have concerns about your health or someone you care about, questions about the effects of drugs on the brain or want advice about how to remove the blight of cocaine from your life, why not contact Cassiobury Court today? We have helped thousands of people across Great Britain to overcome a cocaine addiction.