How Does Cocaine Work
How does cocaine work? This question has received a great amount of research. Much research as been done to determine how cocaine produces its pleasurable effects and the reasons it is so addictive. Research shows that one mechanism is through cocaine's effects on structures deep in the user's brain.
First time users of cocaine will usually feel a great amount of excitement and joy. If they use cocaine a second time, they will probably not experience the same effect. The high that cocaine creates may not be as strong and may not make the user feel as good the second time around. This happens because the brain will make more neural transporters to mop up the dopamine. The new transporters work more quickly to mop up dopamine. The result is a shorter and less effective high from the drug.
How does cocaine work on the brain? Your brain produces a substance called dopamine when you feel happy. After a time, the dopamine decreases because "transporters" mop up the dopamine. The transporters move the dopamine back in the area of the brain where it is kept until your next happy event. Cocaine works by keeping the transporters from mopping up the dopamine. When the dopamine is allowed to stay free, you have a feeling of great happiness and well being.
Scientists have discovered specific regions within the brain that create great feelings of pleasure when stimulated. One neural system that appears to be most affected by cocaine originates in a region located deep within the brain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Nerve cells originating in the VTA extend to a region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain's key pleasure centers. In studies using animals, all types of pleasurable stimuli such as food, water, sex, drugs cause increased activity in the nucleus accumbens.
Researchers have discovered that, when a pleasurable event is occurring, it is accompanied by a large increase in the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons originating in the VTA.
How does cocaine work on the user's body? Cocaine decreases the size of the user's blood vessels. This makes their heart beat faster and raises their blood pressure. Less blood and oxygen is able to reach their organs. Cocaine also raises the user's body temperature. Snorting cocaine into their nose or rubbing cocaine on body areas makes the area constrict (get smaller). The areas may become damaged and scarred. The cartilage that separates the two sides of the user's nose may bleed or a hole may develop.