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How Cocaine Destroys the Brain


Sober Recovery Expert Author

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Cocaine is a stimulant and appetite suppressant often glamorized as a go-to party drug. It is used and abused throughout various industries and portrayed nonchalantly in films and other media forms, so it’s no wonder many people don’t realize exactly how dangerous and ugly cocaine really is. The drug kicks in soon after ingested and the effects of the substance can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. Once it does, users often feel alert, energized and euphoric.

But the side effects from cocaine aren’t all appealing. Once the comedown begins, many users report feeling substantial nervousness and anxiety. Users in this state can feel paranoid and even experience tremors or other types of convulsions. Sudden cardiac death is a risk with excessive cocaine use and it’s not a risk that should be taken lightly. An investigation that took a close look at the incidence of sudden cardiac death in Spain found that 3% of all cases were related to cocaine use.

The media doesn't glamorize this information much.

But one of the nastiest aspects of cocaine is how the drug attacks and destroys the human brain. Users aren’t typically considering the damage they’re doing to their brain when using, but the damage is unavoidable with repeated use.

A Closer Look

The brains of cocaine users look and function differently than those of nonusers. People who use cocaine have sluggish blood flow throughout their brains. This reduction in blood flow and function in the brain can result in memory loss, problems with learning and attention, and, in extreme cases, strokes.

Long-term use of cocaine can rewire the brain on a fundamental level. Researchers have observed changes in the brain’s reward and pleasure systems, among other systems, in long-term users. Changes in these parts of the brain encourage addiction, which can be a harrowing experience that can negatively impact a user’s life in all areas.

Recent research suggests that cocaine use can actually result in the destruction of brain cells in these important areas of the brain, even to the point of inhibiting a user’s ability to feel “high” from the drug. This often leads to a user increasing their dosage and consequently increasing the riskiness of their cocaine habit. Using cocaine even just once can alter a user’s decision-making skills neurologically.

Cocaine use can also affect the emotional and psychological stability of users. Those who use cocaine might experience cocaine-related anxiety, paranoia, restlessness, and psychosis.

Get Help

If you’re addicted to cocaine and would like to stop using, there is a way and there is help. While withdrawal symptoms might seem daunting, a licensed professional who has experience in overseeing drug detoxification can help to ensure you have as smooth of a transition into sobriety as possible. If you like to quit using cocaine, there’s no better time than now.

You can speak with your doctor, therapist or the experts at a drug detoxification and recovery center to learn more about quitting cocaine. Once you are clean, there are support groups that will help you find accountability and camaraderie in your sobriety.

If you or someone you know is seeking help, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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