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Cocaine Use Engages The Brain’s ‘Reward Center’ But At A Major Cost

on Saturday, 07 June 2014. Posted in Breaking News, Cocaine

Cocaine Use Engages The Brain’s ‘Reward Center’ But At A Major Cost

Cocaine is one of the most dangerous and addictive narcotics that a person can be addicted to. Some findings have shown that a person may become addicted to cocaine as quickly as within one use. The peak effects of cocaine make a user feel feelings of euphoria, perceived confidence, and an inflated sense of self, among others.

All drugs access a user’s reward receptors, but cocaine may have a specific, unique, and highly dangerous impact on a person’s reward center.

Cocaine And Imbalance Within the Brain

Studies have shown that cocaine use may have a profound impact on the way in which the brain operates because of the chemical changes that cocaine use can create in the brain. There are two main types of neurons in the brain’s reward center, D1 neurons and D2 neurons.

These two types of neurons have an effect on the degree to which the brain and body feel a reward from cocaine use. What is perhaps unique about cocaine and these two types of neurons is that cocaine increases pleasure in the D1 neurons while it decreases reward levels in D2 neurons. 

Cocaine Next to Heroin in Terms of Risk and Possibility for Dependence

In a study done in 2007, Doctor David Nutt of the University of London, ranked a number of drugs according to the physical damage that they caused as well as the risk they carried for potential dependency.

In this ranking, only heroin was deemed more dangerous or more addictive than cocaine. Many addiction specialists and neuroscientists have since concurred that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the nature of cocaine and its impact on the brain does make it a very dangerous and addictive drug.

Built In Highs and Lows

The reason that cocaine may be so addictive is that when a person uses cocaine, their brain’s reward system releases a chemical called dopamine into synapses in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is responsible for feelings of happiness or pleasure. In normal circumstances, once a synapse has used dopamine, it is sent back out to be reused by the brain.

When the brain is under the influence of cocaine, however, dopamine is not distributed normally, and the very strong feelings of euphoria that come with cocaine use are then followed with severe feelings that are very different than pleasure: sadness, anger, and a general sense of feeling low.

This period of withdraw seek occurs very shortly after the high and often leads a user to continually seek more and more cocaine. This has the dangerous impact of both continuing to disrupt normal function of the brain’s reward centers and increasing a user’s tolerance.

A Very Dangerous Drug

Many healthcare and substance abuse professionals have advocated for programs and other steps designed to curtail the use of cocaine, particularly among young people. Cocaine is associated with thousands of deaths and as many as half a million deaths each year. Cocaine use has a profoundly negative impact on many of the body’s vital organs, including the brain and heart.

Because of its highly addictive nature, cocaine use can be particularly dangerous for young people, who may face serious and lasting dependency issues if they are exposed to the drug. Some studies indicate that six percent off all people under the age of seventeen have experimented with the drug.

It may be true that the peak effects of this drug are very pleasurable to users, but these effects are very short lived and carry with them consequences that are as dangerous as they are unpleasant. Cocaine is a substance that should be avoided at all costs. 

photo credit: Nightlife Of Revelry via photopin cc

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