What does cocaine do to the brain?

Cocaine is an illegal and powerfully addictive stimulant drug.  It is made from the leaves of the coca plant originally found in South America.  It looks like a fine white powder or small opaque yellowish crystals (‘rocks’).

Cocaine is often mixed with other substances like talcum powder, cornstarch or other stimulants like amphetamines or opioids.

Cocaine is usually snorted through the nose through a straw, or in the case of crack cocaine (‘rocks”) it is heated and the vapours are inhaled.

Use of cocaine gives a short lived intense ‘high’ as it is absorbed by the blood and travels to the brain.  This is caused by the cocaine preventing dopamine from being recycled causing large amounts to build up in the space between nerve cells.  This flood of dopamine in the pleasure centre of the brain is what gives the pleasurable feeling.  However, very quickly the reward circuit of the brain adapts to the excess of dopamine and the brain develops tolerance to the drug.  This means more cocaine is needed to achieve the same high.

What are the short-term effects of cocaine

  • Intense euphoria for a short space of time
  • Increased energy levels
  • Mental alertness for a short space of time
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoid feelings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Erratic behaviour

In some cases:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Sudden death

Long term effects of cocaine use:

  • Tolerance
  • Cravings
  • High blood pressure
  • Permanent damage to brain, heart and lungs
  • Destruction of nose tissues and septum
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Sleeping problems
  • Apathy and anhedonia
  • Risky behaviour
  • Agitation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis

At Ixande, detox can be followed by our Addiction Treatment Programme where therapeutic methods are used to help you identify your dependency, tackle your symptoms, address underlying triggers, improve your self-confidence and help you to manage your anxiety. The therapy you receive will be entirely tailored to you, as we help you to get your life back on track in a safe and non-judgemental space.

Cape Town rehab. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine dependency please call us on +27 21 7617348 or email us on info@ixande.co.za

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