Why Is Cocaine So Addictive?

why is cocaine so addictive

Cocaine is one of the most addictive and most dangerous drugs. It causes such immense psychological dependence by stimulating the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with activity and pleasure. Below is an extensive answer to a question, why is cocaine addictive? But first, it is important to clarify a myth surrounding this dependence.


Cocaine Addiction Myth

Among some cocaine users, it is believed that only specific people can become addicted to the drug. The proponents of this myth claim that those who ended up hooked on cocaine are people with low willpower and character deficiencies. This lie has been accepted by many even though there is undisputed evidence that all classes of people can be enslaved to cocaine. Recent scientific research brings in a different perspective that solves the puzzle created by the myth.


Why Is Cocaine Addictive?

Recent scientific research shows that cocaine affects three vital neurotransmitters, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Dopamine is a pleasure neurotransmitter. A pleasurable sensation such as a sweet smell, a warm hug or a smile from a beautiful girl triggers the release of dopamine. So does cocaine. Norepinephrine activates the “fight or flight” mode of the body by increasing blood glucose supply, heartbeat and blood flow. Serotonin, on the other hand, controls important body functions such as temperature regulation, wake cycles, and appetite.

Under normal circumstances, these neurotransmitters are absorbed back into the neuron once their work is done. Cocaine disrupts this absorption process. Therefore, they become accumulated in the brain. As a result, their effects are prolonged. Hence cocaine users have trouble sleeping, feel jittery, lose appetite, and feel euphoric.


Depletion of Neurotransmitters

The supply of neurotransmitters in the body is exhaustible. It is for this reason that the body reabsorbs them in the first place. Therefore, prolonged cocaine use leads to eventual depletion. The result is reduced body functionality. Users of cocaine are forced to take more of the drug than before to attain feelings of pleasure. The shortage of neurotransmitters makes it difficult for addicts to recover. Until the chemical balance is restored, lethargy, depression, and feeling of hopelessness are all cocaine addicts get.

Distorts Brain Reward System

Cocaine affects the operations of the brain another way. Also, it changes the working of D1 and D2 neurons. These neurons play an important role in the brain’s reward mechanism. When exposed to cocaine, the activity of the D1 neuron is heightened while that of D2 is diminished.


Cocaine Changes Gene Expression

The question of cocaine dependence should not be, is cocaine additive? But rather, how deep does it become rooted in a user? Research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse observed that cocaine disrupted histone methylation. This is an epigenetic process that determines gene expression. Cocaine represses the G9A enzyme leading to an increased preference for cocaine.


Role of Gender and Genes

Though it is not completely true that only a specific type of people can be cocaine addicts, gender and genes play a part too. In a study by the University of California, it was noticed that more female rats chose cocaine than male rats. They believed that female hormones might be a factor for this disparity.

A scientist from the University of Cambridge also realized that those with enlarged basal ganglia are more disposed to cocaine use than their counterparts. The basal ganglia are also vital in the brain’s reward system. In the research, all the 66 cocaine users whose brains were scanned had enlarged ganglia irrespective of the duration of drug use. Therefore, it was assumed that they might have had enlarged ganglia before beginning drug use.


Alcohol and Cocaine Addiction

Alcohol is the drug most abused together with cocaine. Taking cocaine with other drugs can have tragic results because of cocaine’s volatile nature. Mixing cocaine and alcohol has even worse effects on the user. The presence of both drugs increases the production cocaethylene by the liver. Cocaethylene increases the feeling of euphoria and increases the spiral pathway to addiction. It also increases the probability of sudden deaths.



Research on the question ‘is cocaine addictive’ has so far shown that cocaine dependence is a result of physiological disruptions. They show that cocaine affects both the functionality of the brain and the gene expression. Therefore, this drug possesses a high risk of addiction. Due to its effects on the body, it leads to lifestyle changes which worsen the dependence. Consequently, it becomes nearly impossible to rehabilitate from the strong chains of this drug. It is important to keep away from this drug. Once you get hooked, getting back to recovery may be too expensive for you to afford.


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