Cocaine is a powerful, highly-addictive stimulant. It is an illegal drug responsible for numerous addictions every year. No amount of cocaine use is safe. Even a few uses of cocaine or crack cocaine can damage the brain. Cocaine abuse and addiction can also damage the body physically as well. Cocaine recovery and the brain may feel like a complicated topic. But supporting a loved one who is struggling with cocaine addiction should be informed by how cocaine abuse affects the brain.
How Does Cocaine Abuse Affect the Brain?
Brain damage after cocaine use is largely related to how it affects the chemical processes in the brain. Taking cocaine causes the brain to release enormous amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that regulates pleasure and positive emotions. The role it plays in mood and mental health is essential.
Cocaine overrides the brain’s natural release mechanisms and blocks dopamine from being reabsorbed. This tricks the brain into needing cocaine to continue producing dopamine. Ultimately, this can result in severe mental health disorders such as depression. Cocaine withdrawal typically involves mood swings and mental health challenges. In some people, the brain cannot regain equilibrium, and people are left with a mental health disorder. Cocaine abuse can also lead to experiencing:
The chance of developing psychosis or even schizophrenia is increased among people who binge cocaine.
Physical Brain Damage After Cocaine Use
Another way cocaine abuse affects the brain is by targeting its physical structure. Repeated, prolonged use can damage veins and arteries throughout the body’s entire cardiovascular system. That becomes most dangerous where veins and arteries feed the brain. Deterioration in the lining of veins and arteries can cause chronic headaches or migraines due to restricted blood flow to the brain.
Damage to the cardiovascular system also leaves people more predisposed to experiencing blood clots. Research also points to cocaine interrupting the normal functioning of brain neurons, either weakening them or killing them off entirely.
The physical impacts of cocaine abuse on the brain show up most prevalently during aging. Gray matter naturally decays as we grow older. However, studies analyzing gray matter decay among cocaine users found their rate of decay was more than double the natural rate. Losing gray matters can lead to cognitive issues later in life, such as memory problems or even degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Cocaine Recovery and the Brain
Cocaine recovery can be a difficult process. One of the biggest dangers is developing a mental health disorder as the brain struggles to function without the presence of cocaine. It could even necessitate dedicated mental health treatment if lingering problems are severe enough. Thankfully, full brain functioning will return over time in all but the most severe cases. How quickly recovery happens depends on factors such as how long a drug was taken, the dosage at which a drug was taken, and consistent engagement in treatment.
It also matters how detox is conducted. Medical supervision and support are highly recommended due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms that many people experience when going off cocaine. Following detox, treatment and long-term recovery from cocaine addiction are best completed at a dedicated addiction treatment facility. Brain damage after cocaine use is a real possibility. The sooner intervention is pursued, the better chance you or a loved one has to avoid permanent brain damage or the development of a mental health disorder.
Do not hesitate to reach out to start your recovery. Call Midwest Detox Center at 833.647.0392 to start dismantling the hold addiction has over your life.