Ever wondered what makes cocaine so addictive?
Scientists studying the drug have discovered what exactly it does to the brain to make it so moreish.
Basically, using coke implements a ‘primer effect’ which the brain never fully recovers from.
To show this, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre replicated cocaine addiction in humans using lab rats, Gizmodo reports.
First, the team of scientists got the rodents addicted to cocaine by allowing them to consume up to 40 doses of coke every six hours for a period of five days.
Then, after the blow bender, researchers denied the rats access to the drug for 14 to 60 days and took tabs on their dopamine transporters during the detox, which eventually returned to pre-drug levels. They found that ‘they appeared normal, just like those in the control animals that had only received saline’.
But here’s where it gets interesting: Even after a full 60 days of being cocaine-free, if a formerly heavy coked-up rat tried the drug again, the dose ‘fully reinstated tolerance to cocaine’s effects’, suggesting that addiction, or at least cocaine addiction, has permanent effects.
Another group of rats who did not try coke the first time, didn’t show the same effects, showing that the ‘primer effect’ is likely to encourage temptation or a binge.
And it could explain why a lot of people who try to kick their coke habit often relapse.
Lead author to the study, Dr Sara R. Jones, said:
Scientists have known for years that cocaine affects the dopamine system and dopamine transporters, so we designed our study to gain a better understanding of how tolerance to cocaine develops via the dopamine transporters.
Even after 60 days of abstinence, which is roughly equivalent to four years in humans, it only took a single dose of cocaine to put the rats back to square one with regard to its’ dopamine system and tolerance levels, and increased the likelihood of binging again. It’s that terrible cycle of addiction.
Obviously, drug addiction is both terrible for your mental and physical health, but if you were curious, now you know exactly why coke is so moreish.