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Cocaine & the Brain




                 Figure 1a                                                                    Figure 1b

                 coke1         coke 2 

Figure 1a   indicates the changes in brain activity through use of cocaine. As is clearly demonstrated, the effects are quite extraordinary; the more use and abuse, the greater the damage. Much of the damage noted is irreversible or at the very best, only partially able to be restored. Figure 1b is the ‘usual’ method of cocaine use; by ‘snorting’ . Many of those who ‘snort’  cocaine run the risk of destroying the ‘septum’ (the cartilage between the nostrils).   



Cocaine blocks the ‘reuptake’ of Dopamine, leaving the neurotransmitters in the synapse for longer periods of time. This has the effect of perpetuating the transmission along the nerve pathway. The effect is ‘euphoria’  or the perception of ‘happiness’. Unfortunately continued use of Cocaine will lead to the body removing some of the receptors from the ‘post-synaptic’ neuron because the neurotransmitters have stayed in the synapse ‘too long’. After the effects of the drug have worn off, the individual is likely to feel depressed and unhappy, dull & unable to utilize cognitive (thinking) functioning as they should. Because excessive amounts of ‘Dopamine’ build up in the synapses through Cocaine use & abuse, the initial enhancement or amplification of the ‘pleasure signal’ results changes that require higher & more frequent ‘hits’ to achieve the initial ‘high’.  Eventually a tolerance can develop where repeated use does little for the user except for the negative & damaging effects. One of the serious problems that can arise from such a tolerance (or from complete naivety or stupidity) is that of ‘poly-drug’ use. This is the partaking of two or more psychoactive substances simultaneously. A good example of this is that of Alcohol plus Cocaine. Whilst enhancing the ‘euphoric’ effect of the cocaine, the human liver metabolizes the two (2) substances into another called ‘cocaethylene’. The likelihood of ‘sudden death’ from this substance is much greater than Cocaine itself. Cocaine can be ‘snorted’ through the nasal passages (the more standard method) , injected or ingested. Binge Cocaine use can lead to irritability, anxiety & restlessness and often the manifestation of psychotic symptoms such as paranoid delusions &/or auditory hallucinations


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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Senior Psychologist/Director
ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
1728 Broadway, Suite 1
Hewlett, NY 11557







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