Using Cocaine Just Once Can Lead to Addiction, Study Says
Latest research suggests there may be a very fine line between recreational cocaine use and addiction.
A new study has found that cocaine could be even more addictive than previously thought.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada discovered that using cocaine even just once can leave us open to “brain triggers” that make us more susceptible to full-blown cocaine addiction.
Central to the study’s findings is the discovery that visual cues — such as watching a friend take cocaine — can be enough to trigger the release of dopamine in our brain, even if we are just recreational users.
Dopamine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain that causes us to seek pleasurable activities. Taking drugs, or even being around drugs, can trigger the release of the neurotransmitter, making us more likely to become dependent. What sets the McGill research apart from similar studies is the discovery that the dangers of forming a cocaine dependence occur much earlier than previously believed.
“The study provides evidence that some of the characteristic brain signals in people who have developed addictions are also present much earlier than most of us would have imagined,” said Prof Marco Leyton, an expert on drug use and addictions at McGill University.
The study exposed cocaine users to very specific cocaine-related cues while performing positron emission tomography (Pet) on their brains. The results showed increased cravings and dopamine release in the dorsal striatum area of the brain.
“An accumulation of these brain triggers might bring people closer to the edge than they had realised,” said Prof Leyton.
Recreational Use vs. Addiction: How to Tell the Difference
The McGill study suggests that the line between recreational cocaine use and full-on dependence may be much finer than we thought, for some users at least. The point at which recreation turns to addiction is different for everyone and it will often fall to you to spot any potential danger signs.
If you feel there might be an issue, it is important to honestly examine your cocaine use for the tell-tale characteristics of recreational drug use vs. addiction.
Recreational Cocaine Use Characteristics
- You can easily say ‘no’ when you are offered cocaine and/or others are using it around you.
- You do not find yourself thinking about cocaine during the days, weeks and months when you do not use it.
- You use cocaine for enjoyment, not as a crutch to boost your confidence, libido or sense of power.
- You never spend money on cocaine when you need the cash for other expenses such as rent, bills and food.
- You enjoy good relationships with friends, family and colleagues and you do not hang out exclusively with cocaine users.
Cocaine Addiction Characteristics
It can often be difficult to detect when recreational cocaine use has become, or is about to become, a problem. Tell-tale signs can include:
- Your personal relationships and/or professional life begin to suffer because of your cocaine use.
- You find yourself unable to refuse cocaine if offered or if you are in an environment where it is being used.
- You constantly think about your next opportunity to use cocaine.
- You need cocaine to enjoy yourself while you are out or, in extreme cases, just to function normally from day to day.
- You keep using even though you are aware of the damage it is doing your health, wellbeing and relationships.
- You begin to exhibit the physical signs of cocaine addiction: No appetite, weight loss, nose bleeds, bowel problems, etc.
- You begin to exhibit the psychological signs of cocaine addiction: Agitation, depression, paranoia, apathy, exhaustion, aggressiveness etc.
The Importance of Early Treatment
Even if you think you fall under the “recreational user” category you should seek the help you need to quit cocaine completely and eliminate the risks of a life-threatening addiction later on. Very often a few hours of outpatient counselling will be all that is needed to stop an occasional habit becoming a full-blown addiction.
However, if you think you fall under the “cocaine addiction” category the recovery process will be more complex and take longer. While some people have succeeded on their own by going “cold turkey”, the chances of recovery are much, much higher with quality inpatient cocaine addiction treatment.
Recovery from cocaine abuse disorders can be demanding both physically and psychologically, especially in the early weeks. Quality inpatient programmes can provide the best counselling, facilities and medical care in peaceful and secluded locations that give you the very best chance of making a full and permanent recovery.
If you want to break your cocaine habit, we can provide advice on all the options available to you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.