Monday, August 8, 2016

cocaine addiction treatment

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?

Understanding the way that cocaine affects the brain can help to understand the roots of addiction and the role of cocaine addiction treatment. Obviously, and addiction is caused by a variety of interrelated factors. But, this is definitely one of them.

The Brain’s Reward System

The brain has a reward pathway called the mesolimbic dopamine system. It is stimulated by supporting stimuli and it manages motivation and emotions. Normally, a chemical called dopamine is released and it binds to a dopamine receptor. This process passes a chemical message from neuron to neuron. Then, a transporter comes behind and removes the dopamine and stores it for future use.

The Brain on Cocaine

When people abuse drugs, those drugs disrupt this communication. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine causes the dopamine to the transporter and this means that it can’t remove the dopamine from the receptor. It, then, builds up and amplifies the signal of the dopamine. That is the cause of the euphoria.

Harvard researchers used imaging equipment to explore the sluggish, abnormal blood flow that cocaine causes in the brain. A small amount will constrict blood vessels in the brain, decreasing the flow. Scientists believe that this slowing contributes to long-term memory loss, attention deficits, learning problems, and even strokes.

Cocaine Changes the Brain

It isn’t just the immediate high that affects the brain’s reward center. Cocaine actually makes permanent changes, causing adaptations in neurons.

It also affects the way the brain responds to stress. There are overlaps between the reward system and the stress circuits of the brain, even though both function separately. Research shows that cocaine elevates stress hormones, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Further, users will seek the drug during times of stress and the more cocaine they take, the more stress will trigger this behavior.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment and the Brain

Clearly, there are permanent brain changes that cocaine addiction treatment can’t cure or fix. But, treatment can manage resulting health problems and train users to cope with brain changes effectively. Learning about the changes can help users to understand what is happening and to better respond to certain triggers and cues.