Cocaine Addiction Facts Cocaine abuse and addiction continues to be a problem that plagues our nation. In 1997, for example, an estimated 1.5 million Americans age 12 and older were chronic cocaine users. Although this is an improvement over the 1985 estimate of 5.7 million users, we still have a substantial distance to go in reducing the use of this addictive stimulant. Science is helping. For example, we now know more about where and how cocaine acts in the brain, including how the drug produces its pleasurable effects and why it is so addictive.
Through the use of sophisticated technology, scientists can actually see the dynamic changes that occur in the brain as an individual takes the drug. They can observe the different brain changes that occur as a person experiences the "rush," the "high," and, finally, the craving of cocaine. They can also identify parts of the brain that become active when a cocaine addict sees or hears environmental stimuli that trigger the craving for cocaine. Because these types of studies pinpoint specific brain regions, they are critical to identifying targets for developing medications to treat cocaine addiction.
One of NIDA's most important goals is to translate what scientists learn from research, in order to help the public better understand drug abuse and addiction, and to develop more effective strategies for their prevention and treatment. We hope that this compilation of scientific information on cocaine will help to inform readers about the harmful effects of cocaine abuse, and that it will assist in prevention and treatment efforts.
Cocaine use during pregnancy effects the infants brain Babies born to mothers who abuse cocaine during pregnancy often are delivered
prematurely, have low birth weights, smaller head circumferences, and tend to be
shorter. However, the full consequences of prenatal cocaine exposure on children
are still unclear and are difficult to study.
In a series of recently published studies, a team of NIDA-supported researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, led by Dr. Michael S. Lidow, examined the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in rhesus monkeys. The researchers found that such exposure interferes with the production of nerve cells and leads to a significant increase in cell death in the developing cerebral cortex. They also found that, as a result of these actions of cocaine, the number and density of nerve cells (neurons) in the cerebral cortex of monkeys born from cocaine-exposed mothers is reduced, their positioning is abnormal, and the cortex lacks its usual layered structure.
"The results of these studies provide important information on the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on the developing brain," says NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner. "Particularly noteworthy is the finding that a mother's use of cocaine during pregnancy can lead to long-lasting abnormalities in her infant's cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that is largely responsible for our higher brain functions, including visual perception, social behavior, and learning, memory and attention."
Cocaine in the preschools INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA --
A 4-year-old boy brought crack cocaine worth about $10,000 to his preschool class Monday.
Indianapolis police Sgt. Roger Tuchek said the boy took rocks of crack cocaine out of his backpack and showed them to other children in his Head Start class, saying the drugs were flour. Teachers realized it was cocaine and called authorities.
Nicotine Craving may lead to increased use of Cocaine Researchers supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have found that craving for nicotine appears to be linked to increased craving for illicit drugs among drug abusers who also smoke tobacco. In addition, scientists say, patients in drug treatment programs may be less likely to successfully stay off drugs if they are cigarette smokers. These are the findings from two studies published this month in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction may lead to strokes In 1977, a 43-year-old man came to an emergency room in New York City after having injected cocaine into a muscle in his left arm. Between 1 and 2 hours after the injection, he had begun having trouble speaking and was weak in his right arm and leg. After performing a brain scan, doctors at the hospital determined that the man had had a stroke on the left side of the brain. Although the man also abused other drugs, the fact that the stroke had occurred shortly after he had injected cocaine suggested that cocaine had contributed to the stroke. This case was one of the earliest verified reports of a stroke associated with cocaine use. In their report, the doctors concluded, "If, in fact, cocaine played a causal role [in the stroke], we anticipate that more strokes will be seen among the many abusers of this agent in American cities."
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