How Recreational Users Become Addicted to Cocaine

A cocaine addiction is much different than an opioid addiction, and not just because the two drugs provide very different types of highs. A person who is addicted to opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, often has a very difficult time getting over the physical withdrawal symptoms, which often lead the addict back to using opioids. These withdrawal symptoms can be extremely painful and usually last 5 – 10 days or more, depending on the severity of the addiction. However, a cocaine addict has a different obstacle to overcome.

While there are fewer physical withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine addiction, there is a significant emotional withdrawal that takes place, and lasts much longer than the physical discomforts of an opioid addiction. And, according to new research, this emotional dependence occurs in the brain much earlier than previously expected.

“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,” explained Marco Leyton, a professor at McGill University and an expert on drug use and addictions.

Researchers at the university gathered recreational (not considered to have an addiction) cocaine users and had them use the drug with a friend that they had previously used with before. The sessions were videoed and then later played back to the subjects. When the subject was viewing the footage the researchers were also measuring their brain waves. They found that when the subject viewed their friend using cocaine the brain released far more dopamine than before and also indicators that cravings were more severe. This information points to recreational users who may not have as much control over their drug use as they may have thought.

This information is vital because it helps to open a discussion on recreational drug usage, especially having to do with cocaine. This extremely addictive drug is often used in party situations, and some people report occasionally using the drug, but do not consider themselves addicted. However, this new information likely shows that they may be more addicted than they thought.