Why Does Cocaine Become So Addictive?

Up to 1.5 million people in the United States use cocaine in any given month. Because this drug is life-threatening, a great deal of research has been conducted to help us understand why cocaine is so addictive, and why people continually choose to try this dangerous drug. By taking a closer look at exactly how cocaine works, we are able to understand how this drug may lead to a serious substance use disorder.

Effects of Cocaine on the Brain

cocaine's effect on the brainOne of the ways that cocaine produces addiction in people is by creating targeted changes in specific parts of the brain. The ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain is particularly stimulated by cocaine. This portion of the brain is naturally stimulated by many things, such as food, drink, shelter, social activities, and sex. When cocaine stimulates the VTA area of the brain, however, the effect is much more sudden and intense than natural activities– and the feeling is addictive. Furthermore, the brain quickly adapts to this rush of chemicals—and the person who uses cocaine will require more and more of the drug to maintain these pleasant effects.

In a normal brain, a chemical called dopamine is released by neurons which then bind to receptors in the brain called dopamine receptors. The dopamine is then recycled through the use of a special protein called a dopamine transporter. However, if there is cocaine in the body, it this normal pleasure process is completely disrupted and excess dopamine builds up in the brain, which contributes to the enhanced pleasurable effects.

Research on Cocaine Addiction and Substance Use Disorder

When a pleasurable event occurs, the brain naturally produces a large quantity of dopamine. However, when you use drugs like cocaine, the process that makes this happen is thrown off course and blocked.

The buildup of dopamine that occurs between the synapses when cocaine is abused causes the neurons in the brain to be continually stimulated, which most likely causes the euphoric state that cocaine addicts find so pleasurable. This euphoric state and the constant bombardment of the brain tissue with dopamine is one reason why the drug is so physically and psychologically addictive.

Looking to the Future of Cocaine Treatment

When you use cocaine for even short periods of time, you may quickly build up a tolerance to this stimulant drug.

This means that you must take higher and higher doses of the drug in order to the same pleasure you experienced with the first use.

Research shows that when you go through periods of not taking cocaine, the memories of the euphoric high experienced while on the drug can cause strong cocaine cravings and may even lead to relapse even after periods of abstinence.

Rehab at The Canyon

At The Canyon, we are driven to help you develop a positive, healthy relationship with yourself using a series of traditional and nontraditional treatments and therapies. Through your own unique cocaine addiction treatment program, you will be given the opportunity to reconnect with your personal dreams and desires. Isn’t it about time you developed an authentic relationship with your own life?

At The Canyon, your successful recovery from cocaine addiction is our goal, and we’re here to do everything possible to help you achieve it. Give us a call today.