A Single Line Of Cocaine Can Cause Permanent Changes To The Brain

by Sean Levinson

Just one line of cocaine is all it takes for a recovering addict's brain to become significantly more vulnerable to a relapse.

A team led by the University of East Anglia's Dr. Peter McCormick conducted a recent experiment on rats to determine what causes recovering cocaine addicts to begin using again, Daily Mail reports.

Dr. McCormick wrote,

Although our study is in rodents, the same receptors have been shown to impact human stress and drug addiction.

According to Medical Daily, the researchers discovered that cocaine use disrupts the communication between two proteins in the brain involved with reward and stress.

This makes it much easier for a user or former user to become so overwhelmed by a stressful situation that cocaine appears to be the only solution.

Such situations include any mentally taxing activity or even seeing someone use cocaine on television.

Dr. McCormick declared,

We discovered that one single shot of cocaine can completely change the brain architecture and 'set up' an addict for stress induced relapse.

The researchers talk about this effect on recovering addicts but say nothing about the effects on someone using cocaine for the very first time.

Additional experimentation found that repairing the link between these two molecules restores a user's self-control and reduces the likelihood of relapsing under stress.

Researchers suggested a medication given to recovering addicts should serve this function.

Dr. McCormick added,

We identify a potential mechanism for protection against such relapse. This research lays the groundwork for the development of such approaches.

This study was originally published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Citations: Cocaine causes profound changes in brain that makes addicts more likely to relapse (Daily Mail), Cocaine Use Causes Profound Changes In The Brain That Make Relapse More Likely (Medical Daily)