Cocaine more Addictive Than First Thought, Study Finds

New research reveals the dangers of taking cocaine even for a relatively short period of time. This research says cocaine use may develop into a full blown addiction even when it is consumed just once. This research says this is due to the fact cocaine triggers dopamine receptors in the brain that cause cravings for whatever stimulated those receptors in the first place.

Many people who use cocaine recreationally are thus fooling themselves when they say there is no risk of them becoming addicted to cocaine. They may reason this due to the fact that their use of the drug is infrequent. This research blows a hole in this reasoning and reveals the true risk people run when they chose to consume cocaine even on a ‘social’ and infrequent basis.

The report says that merely seeing someone consume cocaine (i.e. visual cues) are enough to stimulate these dopamine receptors that lead to cravings for the drug that fuel addiction.

These visual cues cause dopamine to be released from the dorsal striatum region of the brain. This region is deep inside the brain, and scientist believe that dopamine release in this region of the brain is responsible for the classical loss of control that’s linked to cocaine addiction.

Prof Marco Leyton, from the McGill University in Montreal, Canada said: “The study provides evidence that some of the characteristic brain signals in people who have developed addictions are also present much earlier than most of us would have imagined”.

To prove these visual cues exist, the scientists took PET scan images of a subject whilst the subject watched his or her friend consume cocaine in a laboratory setting. All the subjects had witnessed their friend consume cocaine in the past in social settings.

When the scientists examined these images, they witnessed that visual cues of watching a friend consume cocaine dues indeed cause the release of dopamine in the dorsal striatum region of the brain.

Prof Leyton said: “An accumulation of these brain triggers might bring people closer to the edge than they had realised”.

What are the significance do these findings have for policy makers and those in charge with promoting an anti-drug message? We feel it’s important for young people to be made aware of the risks associated with short-term cocaine use. This will help young people make a more informed choice when they are presented with an opportunity to consume the drug. We also feel it’s vital for people to be encouraged to seek out addiction treatment even if they have consumed cocaine as a one off.