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Cocaine is highly addictive due in part to the way it changes the way your brain releases the chemical dopamine.

The highs caused by the substance are quick and intense and people can be drawn into using the drug frequently to try to maintain the feeling.

The lows after cocaine use, which often include anxiety, low mood and paranoia, mean people can fall into a cycle of using the drug to try to keep those feelings at bay.

People often need help to stop taking cocaine.

If you are struggling... Contact Delamere

How cocaine works

Cocaine acts on the part of the brain that regulates pleasure and motivation – the limbic system.

It creates a short term build up of the ‘happy hormone’ dopamine, which causes a short term feeling of euphoria.

Man with mental disease

What does cocaine do to the brain?

Cocaine is known to affect brain cells.

Some of the effects on the brain and body are very short lived, while other aspects leave a longer-lasting mark. Initially impacts on the brain cells may last a few weeks but with repeated exposure to cocaine they are understood to last for months or years and may be irreversible.*

It is thought these changes to the brain are part of what leads to cocaine addiction.

Cocaine use can have other long term impacts on users and can be fatal.

*Source: Us National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ‘The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction’.

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