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This Is The Reason It's So Easy For People To Get Addicted To Cocaine

We've all heard horror stories about cocaine addiction. But have you ever wondered what exactly makes this party drug so hard to resist?

Apparently, the way blow affects your brain is to blame.

Nicky Walton-Flynn, the founder of Addiction Therapy London, told Refinery29,

Cocaine is one of the most psychologically addictive drugs because of how it stimulates and increases levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the brain.

However, that's not the only reason it's so hard to kick a coke habit.

In a recent study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, researchers found that cocaine also puts the brain into a "priming effect," from which it never completely recovers.

For the experiment, scientists let lab rats self-administer cocaine for up to six hours a day to mimic cocaine addiction in humans.

After five days of giving the rats free range to the drug, the cocaine was removed and the rats were put on a drug hiatus that lasted for 14 or 60 days.

While the rats were detoxing from their drug binge, the researchers examined their dopamine transporters and found that they returned to their normal, pre-drug levels.

However, once the rats were reintroduced to cocaine, it only took a single dose to make their cocaine tolerance jump back to the same levels exhibited during their highest usage period.

The experiment's control group (rats who received no cocaine), did not display the same effect, which implies that the "priming effect" is responsible for the addictive behaviors displayed by the drug-using group.

The study's lead author, Dr. Sara R. Jones, stated,

Scientists have known for years that cocaine affects the dopamine system and dopamine transporters, so we designed our study to gain a better understanding of how tolerance to cocaine develops via the dopamine transporters. Even after 60 days of abstinence, which is roughly equivalent to four years in humans, it only took a single dose of cocaine to put the rats back to square one with regard to its dopamine system and tolerance levels, and increased the likelihood of binging again. It's that terrible cycle of addiction.

This "priming effect" could shed some light on why relapse is so common amongst recovering cocaine addicts. And hopefully the findings of this study will help scientists develop a better understanding of how to deal with drug addiction.

Citations: Here's why cocaine is so addictive, according to science (Metro UK)