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How Cocaine Effects The Brain

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The human brain is affected in many different ways by cocaine, and through new and improved research methods, scientists have found ways to look inside the brain and see the changes that take place when cocaine is present. This advanced view of the brain is exciting to scientists, as they’re eager to understand what happens to cells when they’re exposed to drugs. But this advanced understanding could also benefit people with addictions, as the knowledge could infuse the treatments provided and the therapies required, in order for people to get well.

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 Neuroscience suggests that cocaine can cause brain cells to generate more dendritic spines (the parts of cells that make connections to other cells). 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 they’re trying to get better.

This research builds on previous studies that suggest that cocaine impacts the brain centers that control motivation and motor function. This indicates that cocaine can have a serious adverse effect on the natural motivation/reward systems inside the brain. People who take cocaine might feel low and sad when they don’t have access to the drug, and they might not have the inherent willpower that could keep them away from a relapse. Their brain cells have been altered, even when they’re sober, and they might struggle to heal as a result.

Many of the studies outlined above were conducted on animals, and of course, studies on mice and monkeys don’t 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.

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.

Rehab at The Michael’s House

Overcoming a cocaine addiction is difficult, and it’s not uncommon for people to feel frustrated and unsure about the future. At Michael’s House in California, we’d like to help. We’re up to speed on the latest research, and we incorporate those theories into each therapy we provide. We also augment healing with the inclusion of non-traditional therapies that can soothe spiritual and emotional discomfort. Here in Palm Springs, you will begin your journey in recovery with a versatile, well-rounded and personalized cocaine addiction treatment plan designed for you by our medical professionals, counselors and staff. If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction, call us to find out more about how we can help.