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Effects of Cocaine on the Brain

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  • Effects of Cocaine on the Brain

    Image of a brain showing the effects of cocaine

    Cocaine is a drug that can cause serious damage to an individual. This can include negative personal consequences such as financial strain or hurt relationships, or physical damage to one’s body, such as the brain. Keep reading to find out more about the effects of cocaine on the brain and how to get help now to stop any more damaging forward progression.

    Do you want to learn more about luxury drug addiction treatment? Call us today at 424.235.2009.

    Effects of Cocaine on the Brain: How Cocaine Works

    To understand how cocaine can be so damaging to the brain, it’s important to understand how cocaine works. Cocaine acts by binding to the dopamine transporter, blocking the removal of dopamine from the synapse. This triggers the reward system, which is usually triggered by things such as great food, a beautiful view, or your favorite sports team winning. Dopamine then accumulates in the synapse to produce an amplified signal to the receiving neurons. This is what causes the euphoria commonly experienced immediately after taking the drug.

    When this process is in overdrive for too long, such as with cocaine addiction, damage can occur. In addition, cocaine is typically snorted (although there are other damaging ways to administer it), which can cause physical damage to the brain.

    Changes in Mental Health Due to Cocaine Use

    Due to the interference with dopamine as mentioned above, one of the effects of cocaine on the brain includes changes in mental health. Once the euphoric high of cocaine has worn off, the user is left feeling an extreme comedown. This comedown mimics depression due to the lack of dopamine in the body.

    It takes time for an individual to re-stabilize their dopamine levels after a single use of cocaine, so if someone is using it regularly for the long term, it can cause permanent changes to the dopamine system which leaves them with permanent depression. This can require long-term mental health treatment, which isn’t always sought after. Instead, an individual who is addicted to cocaine may seek to self-medicate by taking more cocaine, and this can lead to a deadly overdose.

    Regular cocaine use can also trigger these mental health conditions:

    • Paranoia
    • Schizophrenia
    • Hallucinations
    • Psychosis

    Damage to the Brain with Cocaine Use

    Another one of the effects of cocaine on the brain includes physical damage to the actual brain itself. These include:

    Aging of the Brain

    The average brain normally loses 1.69 milliliters of gray matter per year; however, people who had abused cocaine in the past, or who were currently cocaine-dependent, doubled the rate of gray matter loss, for an average of 3.08 milliliters per year. This can lead to issues such as memory impairment.


    Due to the changes in the cardiovascular system and damage to the brain, individuals who are addicted to cocaine can develop seizures.

    Chronic Headaches

    Due to damage to the lining of the brain and arteries, blood flow to the brain came become restricted. This can lead to debilitating headaches.


    Blood clots can occur due to the same damage to the lining of the brain and arteries, which can cause a stroke.

    When to Get Help for Cocaine Dependence

    Many of the effects of cocaine on the brain can be life-long and debilitating. This makes it all the more important to get help immediately for cocaine addiction so that damages do not get any worse or even become deadly.

    The first step in getting help for the effects of cocaine on the brain involves getting sober with medicated-assisted detox. You’re able to get off of cocaine comfortably, without the harsh comedown or withdrawal symptoms. You will also receive around-the-clock medical care from our team of the best professionals in the industry. Once you have completed detox, you will begin therapy and treatment for any co-occurring disorders to get you on the best path toward a healthy, happy, long-term recovery.

    Cocaine addiction can be treated in a variety of ways, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). MAT can help reduce cocaine cravings by using medications that target chemical imbalances in the brain. CBT is a talking therapy designed to help individuals recognize unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to drug use and replace them with healthier coping strategies.

    We will then work with you on the best possible aftercare so that you are able to maintain your sobriety once you leave Seasons in Malibu. This will help you to be as healthy as possible, working toward reversing the effects of cocaine on the brain.

    Seasons in Malibu Can Help You

    Until very recently, addiction to drugs has been seen as a problem of willpower or morality, and those afflicted by it simply lacked the self-control to stay away from addictive drugs or use them responsibly. It is easy to dismiss addiction as a character defect and ignore it, but that characterization is useless when attempting to treat or rehabilitate a drug addict, not to mention wholly inaccurate.

    Ultimately, addictive drugs hijack the brain’s normal decision-making process, chemically forcing the afflicted individual to seek out and use more and more of the substance in order to attempt to satisfy an insatiable craving.

    It’s a priority for us that our life-changing drug and alcohol treatment be available to the people who need it. We are fully familiar with how much strength and courage it takes to pick up the phone and ask for help. Our counselors are invested in your well-being and are ready around the clock to guide you or a trusted friend or family member through the initial steps of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

    With Seasons in Malibu’s superior team of clinicians, we are able to succinctly pinpoint those areas of focus that will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach toward healing is collaborative, comprehensive, and committed. Call us today at 424.235.2009.