How Cocaine Affects the Brain
We’ve all heard of a drag race.
Car pulls up to the line. Running normally. Driver in full control. Calm.
When it’s go-time, the driver slams on the gas. Within a split second, the engine is thrust into overdrive.
Will the driver lose control of the car? Will he crash into a wall? Will he fly off the track? Or, will he possibly lose his life?
Will he get lucky enough to race another day?
Your cocaine addiction is as unpredictable as that. Once cocaine enters your body – regardless of the ingestion method – all bets are off. Cocaine’s effects in the brain are immediate; risky; threatening.
That euphoric high you feel is actually nothing more than a substance wreaking havoc on one of the most vital components of your existence: your brain.
How cocaine affects the brain is vital to understand if you’re serious about ridding your life of addiction. Take the time to learn cocaine’s effects in the brain and how there is life-changing support when you’re ready to get clean for good.
Cocaine’s Effects in the Brain
Before a minute is even up, cocaine has made its way into your brain and started to disconnect, reroute and overall derail your brain’s fundamental rhythm.
Here’s a breakdown of how cocaine affects the brain:
Cocaine’s main target is the ventral tegmental area (VTA) – a midbrain structure made up of dopamine, GABA, and glutamate neurons.
Cocaine specifically interferes with the dopamine neurotransmitter:
- Dopamine helps control the motivational component of the brain’s reward and pleasure system.
- Dopamine is vital in the brain’s communication functionality, as it sends signals to other nerve cells.
- For clear, correct communication signals, dopamine depends on the receptors it attaches to.
- If the dopamine chemical attaches to the feel-good receptor in the brain, the desired effects of cocaine are likely experienced.
- When the dopamine chemical enacts neurons that trigger feelings of anxiety, panic and impulsivity, the undesired effects of cocaine are likely experienced.
When the brain is drug-free, dopamine is re-absorbed by the dopamine transporter.
Cocaine blocks the transporter, and, therefore, increases the amount of free dopamine within the brain.
Cocaine also effects serotonin – the important neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood – and norepinephrine levels.
Norepinephrine raises alertness, increases attention and enhances memory. It also helps control the fight or flight response. Cocaine can not only trigger this, but it can also alarmingly increase anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure.
It’s clear to see that cocaine has a dominating presence and can deliver some well-known short-term effects that are not only dangerous, but also not based in reality.
Short-Term Cocaine Effects on the Brain
As a powerful stimulant, cocaine can produce highly sought after short-term effects, such as:
- Immense happiness
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Elevated energy levels
Because of how cocaine affects the brain, as noted above, a series of reactions happen that mimic times when you actually accomplish something or are rewarded. Cocaine essentially tricks the brain into thinking real success is being experienced and earned.
Additionally, since cocaine increases norepinephrine levels – the area of the brain that helps forms memories – the brain literally lights up during a cocaine high and notes the experience as a happy memory. This is why the people you do cocaine with are often paramount triggers because they are associated and engrained with your false positive memory as happy, beneficial, and pleasurable associations.
To not be ignored, cocaine can also commonly cause undesired short-term effects, such as:
- Panic and paranoia
- Increased heart functions
- Much more
Whether an individual will experience the desired or undesired effects of cocaine cannot be predicted, as every individual will react to and experience cocaine in a slightly different way.
How a Cocaine Addiction Forms
Cocaine highs are short – usually only 15-30 minutes or less in length. If an individual has a positive experience, they’ll usually want the high to continue and, thus, take another – or multiple – hits.
Repeated use, however, only leads to a risky and vicious cycle, leaving the brain wanting more. This is where addiction starts. By constantly consuming cocaine, the body’s tolerance levels rise quickly, requiring you to take higher doses to get the same, desired high. At this point, a dangerous, full-blown addiction has begun.
Life-Saving Cocaine Addiction Treatment at Covenant Hills
At first, your brain may feel almighty and energetic, causing you to believe the lies cocaine is whispering. But no cocaine use or addiction is ever worth it.
If you’re in the throes of addiction, we understand that it can be a lonely, scary, hopeless place. It can feel like there is no way out; relapse is inevitable. But at Covenant Hills, we can confidently say that there is hope and you can put your cocaine addiction behind you forever.
It’s about your whole-body health at Covenant Hills, where we help you get your life back on track by focusing on your mind, body, and spirit through our faith-based cocaine addiction treatment program. With the help of one of the most experienced and acclaimed cocaine treatment teams in the country, you can achieve sobriety and return to the person you were made to be.
Learn about our faith-based, cocaine treatment programs, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.