Study Shows Another Way Cocaine Affects the Brain

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neurosciencejournalOne of the best self-preservation abilities of people is when they learn from their mistakes. However, a new study shows that this ability may be the exact thing that cocaine affects the most. Cocaine users have a hard time learning from their mistakes due to the damage that cocaine inflicts upon the brain. By altering the brain circuits, a cocaine addict will display behavior that gets repeated over and over again and most of the time the behavior is detrimental in some way to the person’s survival.

The brain is divided into sections. Certain sections are responsible for different components of thinking and functioning. The midbrain is the area where a person is able to predict rewards and consider errors in judgment. The neurons in this section of the brain take in more dopamine when a person experiences an outcome that was better than initially anticipated and less dopamine when something does not go according to plan. People experience these varying degrees of dopamine intake daily when something good happens that was unforeseen or when things do not turn out how one originally expected they might.

“The brain learns from it – whether you should go ahead with this experience the next time or you should stay away from it,” explained Muhammad Parvaz, a neuroscientist and lead researcher on this study.

Scientists took this datum and connected it to cocaine abuse. They wondered if cocaine users thought differently than those who were not addicted. In order to answer this question, they took one group of nonusers and one group of admitted cocaine addicts and hooked them up to EEG machines. The participants were then asked to play a computerized game that asked them to take risks and then explain if they thought their choice was the correct choice. Researchers noted that when things did not go as expected for the group addicted to cocaine they did not have the same reaction as those who did not use cocaine, meaning they did not learn from their mistakes.

This study highlights one reason why many addicts, especially those addicted to cocaine, continue to go back to the drug. Cocaine is an extremely powerful drug that brings about an almost instantaneous feeling of euphoria once ingested, however the feeling does not last long and many addicts spend their life hunting for more of the drug. Not having the ability to learn from their mistakes, cocaine addicts continue on this path, oftentimes until someone or something intervenes.

If you know of someone in need of an intervention for cocaine abuse, contact us today for help.

Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

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