It is believed that using cocaine recreationally isn’t harmful at all because this drug doesn’t cause addiction. However, what many people don’t know is that it can cause permanent damage to the brain.

According to a recent study which involved mice, a single dose of cocaine can alter certain areas of the brain. (Note that mice brains have the very same receptors as the human brain).

Namely, the scientists studied the frontal lobe of the mice’s brain (the area responsible for memory and making decisions) when cocaine was given to mice. After only one dose, researchers discovered growth of new dendritic spines which rewired the brain to crave for cocaine.

The assistant professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley explained that repeated drug use dominates the part of the brain responsible for attention and making decisions. And the most shocking thing according to her is that these neurological alterations appear just after one use.

Before being exposed to cocaine, the mice were supposed to explore two rooms with different scent and design and then choose the room they prefer. Afterwards, they were given cocaine and put in the room they didn’t like. They continued to select the room they previously didn’t like, looking for more cocaine.

The researchers revealed that even though the brain was rewired by the exposure to cocaine, it can return to its normal condition. This means that there is a possibility for recovery.

In addition, Dr. Peter McCormick who is a professor at the School of Pharmacy said that this drug obstructs the interaction between receptors which results in increased risk of relapse when facing stressful situations.

In other words, even the sporadic use of cocaine can cause addiction issues later in life. This is a serious problem, especially in the U.S. since the country struggles with serious opioid crisis.

Here are the long-term effects of using cocaine that affect the brain:

• Cognitive deficits
• Accelerated brain aging
• Blood vessel damage
• Dopamine deficiency

• Emotional dysfunction (anxiety, aggression, anger, apathy, paranoia, depression, psychosis, stress response)
• Reduction of the gray matter
• Headaches
• Stroke risk

Long term physical effects of using cocaine:

• Coughing
• Decrease of the bone density
• Chest pain
• Hypertension
• Heart diseases

• Malnutrition
• Reproductive damage
• Weight loss
• Organ damage
• Tooth decay

References:

  1. http://metro.co.uk
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com
  3. http://mentalhealthdaily.com