Effects Of Cocaine On The Brain

How does cocaine use affect the brain? Cocaine use is risky, as it can lead to significant brain damage and countless medical conditions. Most brain damage can be reversed over time. Inpatient and outpatient programs are great options for recovery from cocaine addiction.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Effects Of Cocaine On The Brain

There are plenty of well-known effects of the illegal, addictive drug cocaine. Though the substance is popular for its euphoric effects, it can alter many bodily systems.

Specifically, cocaine can affect many of the functions in your brain which can lead to short-term and long-term changes to the organ.

How Cocaine Affects The Brain

The use of cocaine causes changes to your brain and your mental health. This is dependent on the amount of the drug you use and how frequently you use it.

Physical Changes In The Brain

There are several ways the structure of your brain can change when using cocaine frequently or in high doses.

When you abuse cocaine, you can damage the arteries and veins in your entire body. When this damage occurs in the brain, it can result in harmful medical conditions.

Specifically, this damage can lead from something as simple as chronic headaches to conditions as serious as a stroke or aneurysm.

Another physical change in the brain from cocaine is the effects on dopamine, an important neurotransmitter. When you use cocaine, the drug blocks dopamine receptors, leaving a high amount of dopamine in the brain.

This is why people feel euphoria when using cocaine. Over time, your brain can adapt to high levels of dopamine.

In turn, naturally occurring dopamine is unlikely to have the same effect on your brain, causing you to continue cocaine drug use.

Brain Aging

Along with the physical changes to the brain mentioned above, studies have shown that the effects of cocaine use can also cause you to lose gray matter faster.

Gray matter is the outermost layer of the brain, containing the majority of brain cells, and serves a multitude of important functions.

As you age, you slowly lose gray matter, which is why certain mental functions declining is associated with aging.

Cocaine use causes you to lose gray matter at a much quicker rate, which can lead to faster, premature aging, and an increased risk of dementia.

Diminished Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC)

Another way abusing cocaine can affect the brain is by diminishing the functionality of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

The OFC is a region in the frontal lobes of the brain. The main function of this cortex is decision-making, so it’s vital for daily life.

Research has found that long-term cocaine use can decrease the function of the OFC which leads to poor decision making, decreased self-insight, and a lack of ability to adapt to negative consequences.

Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine Abuse On The Brain

On top of the physical brain changes that can come with cocaine abuse, there are also long-term effects on the function of the brain.

Cocaine-Induced Headaches

Cocaine can cause chronic headaches. This is because the veins and arteries in your brain can become constricted, which restricts blood flow and affects blood pressure.

With less blood going to your brain, you may experience pain in the form of headaches more frequently than usual.

Cocaine-Induced Psychosis

Another functional change in the brain from cocaine use is cocaine-induced psychosis. At a basic level, psychosis is a mental condition that changes how your brain processes information.

Psychosis can cause many concerning behaviors like hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and incoherency. People experiencing psychosis are typically unaware of it.

Research has shown that abusing cocaine can lead to psychosis over time. This may be due to a build up in the levels of neurotransmitters and certain chemicals in your brain.

Cocaine-Induced Seizures

Lastly, cocaine drug use can cause you to experience seizures. Seizures are a brain condition caused by an unexpected electrical disturbance.

Seizures are typically associated with periods of convulsing, but can also affect your behavior. People often lose consciousness when seizing.

Cocaine can cause seizures for two reasons. First, the brain sometimes seizes when introduced to a toxin like cocaine or the agents it’s mixed with.

Additionally, when the veins and arteries are constricted due to cocaine, the brain gets less blood, which can cause seizures.

Can The Brain Recover From Cocaine Use?

Luckily, most brain damage done from cocaine use can be reversed over time if you stop using cocaine.

For example, headaches, seizures, and psychosis are likely to stop once you refrain from cocaine abuse.

As far as the way cocaine changes your brain’s physical structure, it’s a different story. The good news is gray matter can slowly grow back and OFC function can return.

On the other hand, if you suffer from a stroke or aneurysm due to the physical changes in the brain, you may be affected or disabled permanently.

Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction

In order for your brain to recover from cocaine abuse, it is vital that you stop abusing cocaine and overcome your addiction.

Located in Massachusetts, Bedrock Recovery Center is a top-rated treatment facility built to help people recover from substance abuse through detoxification assistance, inpatient services, and medication-assisted treatment.

Find Treatment For Cocaine Abuse At Bedrock Recovery Center

Cocaine addiction is a medical condition that can afflict anyone. If you or a loved one are trying to stop using cocaine, call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center now to learn about our intensive treatment plans that can help.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664785/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-some-ways-cocaine-changes-brain
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-matters/drugs-and-brain

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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