The effects of cocaine on the brain

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Cocaine, coke or coke is one of the most addictive drugs. After the fleeting feeling of euphoria, confidence and omnipotence, it causes a fair amount of damage.

How does cocaine react on the brain? And what are the effects of this drug in the short and long term?

The origins of cocaine

Cocaine comes from the distillation of the leaves of the coca bush, a shrub planted on the lands of Colombia, Peru or Bolivia.

This fine white powder was historically used for its psychotropic and anesthetic effects. The goal was to anesthetize the central nervous system to resist fatigue and hunger.

What happens in the brain when you take cocaine?

To better understand the effects of cocaine on the brain, a little anatomy. The area where two neurons meet is called a synapse. Thanks to a chemical messenger called the neurotransmitter, a signal passes from one neuron to another.

Normally, once the neurotransmitter has sent its signal, it is absorbed by the first neuron to be recycled outside the synapse and stops stimulating the neurons.

When cocaine is used, this drug blocks the reabsorption of certain feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

It is these hormones that play an important role in how one feels desire, excitement, motivation, joy, pleasure…

With this blockage, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine accumulate and their concentration increases in the synapse, therefore, their natural effect is amplified.

An excess of dopamine generates euphoria, an excess of serotonin increases the feeling of confidence and power and an excess of norepinephrine amplifies the energy typical of taking cocaine.

Over-stimulated structures lead to the reward circuitry and generate addiction.

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What are the effects of cocaine?

The effects of cocaine depend on a number of factors:

  • The quality of cocaine according to whether it is pure or not enough. In one gram of cocaine purchased, there is only 20 to 30% pure cocaine.
  • The route or types of consumption: cocaine can be consumed in different ways. It can be snorted in the form of lines of white powder called rails, traces, beams… It can be injected into the veins or smoked in a cigarette.

The effects of cocaine are felt depending on the route or types of consumption.

  • When cocaine is snorted, its effects are obtained in 3 minutes and last 30 min.
  • When cocaine is injected, it acts on the nervous system between 30 and 45 seconds, and its effects last between 10 and 20 minutes. The rush of euphoria from this process is called rush.
  • When cocaine is smoked, it acts on the nervous system within seconds, and its effects last 5 to 10 minutes.
  • The dose consumed: the more you consume, the more the effects are pronounced and last over time. From one individual to another the effects of cocaine are different.

Cocaine acts on the nervous system, affects the brain and causes:

  • Anesthesia of the nose and throat if snorted
  • A feeling of euphoria
  • A feeling of strength, invincibility and intellectual and physical power. The feeling of omnipotence promotes violence and sexual assault. There is also a tendency to make reckless purchases among some cocaine users.
  • Pain tolerance
  • a feeling of satiety
  • insomnia
  • Greater tolerance to alcohol
  • A distortion of the perception of reality
  • An uninhibited attitude, more displayed, sometimes too enterprising.
  • An awakening of the senses: Cocaine increases insight and creativity. We feel more alert and we become more talkative.
  • Focusing attention and increasing interest.
  • An increase in sexual arousal.
  • Hyperactivity.

This euphoric phase, of confidence and omnipotence, is followed by a rather brutal phase called the descent marked by the cessation of the effects of cocaine.

So what is downhill?

Once the effects of cocaine have passed, the euphoria gives way to a pronounced and unpleasant downhill phase. The latter results in a feeling of fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, sadness, dejection, anxiety and sometimes paranoia.

When it comes to regular high-dose consumption, the state of the cocaine addict is marked by intense anxiety attacks, accentuated panic attacks, paranoid delusions and sensory, visual and olfactory hallucinations. This state is also accompanied by aggressiveness and megalomania.

In some cases, the cocaine addict can plunge into a period of depression.

This phase can last between 2 and 5 days.

This descent or this crash pushes the cocaine addicts to consume more cocaine to overcome this unpleasant phase which triggers a vicious behavioral cycle.

Apart from seeking the pleasurable effects of cocaine, this circle can also lead to addiction.

The effects of cocaine on the brain

Functional effects of cocaine on the brain

Cocaine use has effects on neuropsychological functioning. This drug mainly affects the prefrontal and temporal parts of the brain which are important for attention, memory and executive functions.

Cognitive systems that are affected by cocaine are memory, self-control and decision-making abilities.

Cocaine addicts become more impulsive as they find it difficult to inhibit their reactions. They also become less flexible to change.

The metabolic effects of cocaine on the brain

Cocaine causes brain atrophy.

Cocaine use causes cell damage due to oxidative stress in nerve cells

It causes rapid and irreversible neuronal loss (chronic cocaine addicts lose twice as many nerve cells during aging compared to people who do not use cocaine). It is responsible for the rapid loss of gray matter (chronic cocaine addicts lose approximately 3.08 ml of their gray matter volume per year)

Cocaine causes a rapid decrease in the volume of the brain and considerably accelerates its premature aging.

Cocaine can cause a stroke (cerebrovascular accident). It can cause a heart attack even at a young age.

At the body level, it is responsible for the contraction of blood vessels. In the absence of normal blood circulation, the cells are destroyed. It increases the risk of seizures

To get out of a cocaine addiction, consult a health professional. He will be able to guide you in the process to follow. Good luck !

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