Cocaine is made from coca plant’s leaves, a plant largely cultivated in the soils of South America. To make cocaine, coca leaves are mixed with a variety of chemicals such as kerosene, cement, sulfuric acid, and caustic soda. These chemicals are boiled together in order to produce “coca paste,” the cocaine’s solid form.
Cocaine & Its Components Target Neurotransmitters
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, which has the ability to cause loads of activity in your brain and central nervous system (CNS). The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is the part of your brain that cocaine acts upon. Cocaine meddles with your brain’s neurotransmitters specifically with dopamine activity, serotonin level, and quantity of norepinephrine.
Cocaine affects your brain through the neurotransmitters. They are used as communication channels by neurons with dopamine being both an excitatory and an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Dopamine may either boost the rate of electrical impulses in the neuron, or decrease their speed.
Dopamine neurotransmitter is re-absorbed through the transporter from the neuron that made it. Unfortunately, cocaine blocks the dopamine transporter. Dopamine then begins to build up as a result of the blockage.
- Dopamine’s action is dependent on the receptors they meet. If they encounter “feel good” chemicals in the reward conduit, pleasurable feelings will be felt. On the other hand, the feeling of panic or anxiety is produced when dopamine is triggered by neurons causing impulsive behaviors.
- Cocaine can obstruct 60 to 77 percent of the neurotransmitter’s transporters in the CNS. In order to maintain a “high,” all of the 47 transporter sites need to be blocked.
- The level of serotonin in your brain can also be modified by cocaine. Serotonin is the one responsible for maintaining your mood balance. Irritability and mood swings, especially in women, can, therefore, be observed in cocaine users.
- Cocaine also boosts the quantity of norepinephrine. This is a hormone and neurotransmitter that holds your body’s flight-or-fight response.
Cocaine Addiction & Treatment Options
How can cocaine addiction be treated? Unfortunately, the United States Food and Drug Administration have not agreed on any available effective medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, researchers continue to explore various neurobiological aspects.
Previous studies mainly concentrated on dopamine. Scientists, however, have found that cocaine consumption triggers brain activity modifications linked with other neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Currently, researchers are testing drugs that can work effectively at the receptors of dopamine D3. It is a dopamine receptor subtype that is rich in the brain’s centers for emotions and rewards.
In another research, tests are done to certain compounds (i.e., N-acetylcysteine), which bring back the equilibrium between excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) neurotransmission. These neurotransmitters are unstable due to long-term cocaine abuse.
There are other behavioral treatment options available for serious cocaine addiction. These treatments are important to totally get rid of actions causing the addictive habit of cocaine use. They can be done either at in-patient (treatment facility) and outpatient (at home) setting.
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