Cocaine’s Effect on the Brain and Your Ability to Make Decisions

Published On: September 25, 20144 min read802 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Drug abuse can have devastating effects on a person’s life. Maybe someone you knew had a seemingly normal upbringing, had plenty of advantages in life and somehow fell into an addiction. Substance abuse can happen to anyone, and it can totally change around a person’s life.

If you feel like a cocaine addiction has altered someone you used to know into someone you barely recognize, you’re not the only one who has noticed severe changes caused by cocaine. In fact, there’s plenty of science to explain why these drastic behavioral and mental adjustments have occurred.

In this article, we’ll discuss cocaine’s effect on the brain from a scientific standpoint, plus all of the behavioral and emotional changes you may notice when someone you love and care for is faced with a substance use disorder.

The effects of cocaine on the brain

There are plenty of long and short-term effects of cocaine and the substance impacts every organ of the body, either directly or indirectly. First, like all addictive drugs, repeated use of cocaine causes changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters. Pleasurable chemicals are released, so the body craves more of the substance. Meanwhile, a tolerance builds, leading to a dependence down the line (and not that far down the line).

In addition to major changes in this reward circuitry of the brain, there’s also a close connection between cocaine use and the body’s stress response capabilities, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In a cyclical fashion, when a body that is accustomed to cocaine use faces stress, the body will crave the substance more. In the long run, this likely causes more stress, resulting in a strong urge to use cocaine to deal with that stress.

Moreover, the area of the brain that is responsible for the decision-making process and rational thought is affected drastically by chronic cocaine abuse. The functioning of the orbitofrontal cortex, which regulates the decision-making process along with self-awareness and adaptive behavior, is damaged by cocaine use and could result in permanent issues.

Sure, chronic cocaine use is dangerous. What about recreational, occasional cocaine use? A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that even a single use of cocaine that produces little to no symptoms of drug use can cause structural damage to the brain. A substance strong enough to make a severe impact after a single low-dose use can surely cause intense damage when used in increasing quantities over time.

Effects of cocaine addiction

In addition to cocaine’s effects on the brain, cocaine addiction can do serious damage to the rest of a person’s life. Here are a few ways that cocaine can take a negative toll.

  1. Financial struggles

Cocaine addiction is costly. Not only is the drug itself expensive, but the secondary results of addictive behavior can empty your wallet, and quickly. Cocaine use can lead to missed work commitments and employment loss and insecurity, poor spending habits and expensive accidents.

2. Relationship strain

Drug use of any kind can cause real rifts in relationships. If you have a loved one who struggles with cocaine addiction, you likely know the effect this has on you and the people around you. Drug abuse can lead to lying, stealing, manipulating and apathy. These and other behaviors can burn bridges and make maintaining relationships feel like a fruitless chore.

3. Other physical issues

Cocaine’s effects on the brain are serious, but the drug also impacts other systems in the body. Side effects of cocaine use include heart attack, tremors, muscle twitches, paranoia, vertigo, stroke, seizures, heart arrhythmias and overdose according to the American Addiction Centers. Symptoms of cocaine addiction can be painful and lead to mental health issues, too.

4. Changes in behavior

When a person becomes entrenched in cocaine use and is unable to fight off urges to use, it had implications for behavior. Cocaine addiction has been shown to lead to violent behavior, an increase in risk-taking, erratic behavior and poor decision-making.

5. Legal issues

Cocaine is an illicit drug and while it’s surprisingly available, it’s still illegal to use. You can be arrested for using cocaine, being in possession of cocaine, driving under the influence of cocaine, or for selling cocaine. Any type of involvement with cocaine is a serious legal concern, and it can lead to long-term issues like finding a job or being eligible for different types of aid and resources.

Finding healing from cocaine addiction

While some of the effects of cocaine on the brain may linger, cocaine addiction is reversible. You or someone you know can find freedom from drugs for good with the right treatment, medication, support and lifestyle changes. Find the help and healing you need now with Freedom Detox.

Freedom Detox offers detox programs with comprehensive and personalized care. The treatment you need is only a phone call away. Call now.

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