How Cocaine Affects the Brain

The following will be a concise discussion of cocaine use, explaining what the substance is, its effects on the brain, and why cocaine addiction is difficult for many people to overcome.

What Is Cocaine?

Mind-altering substances are divided or categorized into different classes according to their effects. While heroin and painkillers are opioids and alcohol is a depressant, cocaine is what’s referred to as a stimulant. Acting prominently on the body’s central nervous system, cocaine has the effect of amplifying or speeding up many functions and processes throughout the body.

The drug notably raises one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, which can be extremely dangerous when the drug is taken in large amounts. However, cocaine use is typically characterized by bingeing with individuals using cocaine typically take large quantities intermittently over a very short time.

In terms of its composition, cocaine is a purified extract from the coca plant and is most often found in the form of white or yellow-tinted powder that can range from exceptionally fine to granulated and chunky to somewhat flaky and similar to the scales of a fish. Cocaine is most often administered by insufflating, or nasally snorting, since the drug is known to pass rapidly through the mucous membrane in the sinus cavity and into the bloodstream.

Alternately, cocaine can be injected in a similar way as heroin or prepared for smoking in its freebase form—known as crack-cocaine due to the sound the drug makes when heat is applied—using processes that often involve baking soda or other adulterants.

The Effects of Cocaine Use on the Brain

Like most other drugs, cocaine has a major effect of levels of neurochemicals in the brain. However, the way that cocaine affects neurochemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain is somewhat different than other drugs. Rather than triggering an increase in the production of chemicals—particularly dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine—cocaine inhibits the reuptake of such chemicals in the brain, preventing them from being reabsorbed and, therefore, causing a spike in levels of such substances.

The functions of the brain’s various neurochemicals number in the hundreds or thousands, but includes such things as communicating with the heart and lungs to ensure their functioning. However, the more widely known function of these substances pertains to areas of the brain referred to as the reward and pleasure pathways.

Over the course of evolution, living organisms evolved to produce certain neurochemicals that would activate particular regions of the brain, bringing them pleasure when they behaved in certain ways and ensuring their survival. According to evolutionary purposes, the behaviors that would trigger the reward and pleasure sentence would include eating, sleeping, and procreating by having sexual intercourse.

Similarly, cocaine causes a spike in neurochemical levels that continue to activate the reward and pleasure centers, reinforcing the behavior and making the use of cocaine particularly addictive. In other words, the spike in levels of neurochemicals in the brain that’s caused by cocaine use serve to reinforce cocaine use.

Although the reward and pleasure pathways are greatly affected by cocaine use and the spike in neurochemicals that it causes, the specific neural systems that make up the reward and pleasure pathways include the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the midbrain, the nucleus accumbens, and the caudate nucleus. This means there are a wide variety of bodily functions that are either intensified or desensitized by one’s cocaine use.

The ventral tegmental area is implicated in many emotional processes and motivation with cocaine causing a major increase in one’s awareness, a general increase in energy, and the intensification of one’s emotions. The nucleus accumbens is responsible for learning, pleasure, and motivation with cocaine causing an intense euphoria while also depriving individuals of sleep.

Additionally, the caudate nucleus is involved with both voluntary and involuntary—or reflexive—movement, learning, sleep, social behavior, and memory with cocaine causing such effects as twitching, jitters, an overall uneasiness, inability to pay attention, increased heart rate, and possibly even stroke.

Need Addiction Treatment? Call Us Now

If you or someone you know is battling a cocaine addiction and would like to learn what treatment entails and explore treatment options, call Ocean Breeze Recovery today at 844-554-9279 or reach out to us online. It’s our belief that nobody should have to continue to struggle with a chemical dependency or addiction to addictive and harmful substance. We help each of our clients achieve long-lasting sobriety and a long, healthy, fulfilling life. Don’t wait. Call us today.


5 Ways Employees Cheat Drug Tests

Employers have to deal with many matters on and off the clock, including drug abuse in the workplace. On top of dealing with that issue, they also must address another that comes with it—employees’ and prospective employees’ efforts to cheat the drug test.

Companies certainly have their reasons for using drug tests. The nation’s workforce does include people who use and misuse substances, and some of them are struggling with substance abuse disorders while gainfully employed.

Data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that of the 22.4 million people age 18 and older who were illicit drug users in 2013, 15.4 million, or 68.9 percent, held a part-time or full-time job.

Quest Diagnostics, which conducts workplace drug tests, reported in May 2017 that drug use in the U.S. workforce reached its highest positivity rate in 12 years after it reviewed 10 million workforce drug test results. According to its press release, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine use is up among American workers.

Why Companies Test for Drugs

Keeping employees safe while they are at work and reducing the number of workers’ compensation claims are some reasons employers use drug tests. Workplace drug abuse can:

  • Affect employee morale
  • Damage a company’s reputation or public image
  • Lower productivity
  • Cut into company profits

With all of these things at risk, it is understandable why businesses use drug tests to get a heads-up on potential drug-use behaviors workers and prospective employees may have. Although testing blood, hair, and oral fluid for drugs is one way to find out who’s who and who’s doing what, the most relied upon drug-testing method is the urine sample.

The five-panel urine test is commonly used to look for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines. Employers may also opt to use the test to look for alcohol, MDMA (ecstasy), barbiturates, propoxyphene, and benzodiazepines.

Here are five ways employees attempt to cheat drug tests. The first three listed here are the most common.

1. They Dilute Urine Samples

People who drink large amounts of fluids right before taking a drug test likely will turn in a diluted urine sample, which will have a higher-than-average level of water content. This is typically done to diminish visible drug levels in the urine. If any drug content is detected in a diluted sample, it likely will be a small amount, and it won’t be marked as a positive result because there is little of the substance present, according to Another dilution method is to add water directly to the urine sample after it is collected.

While water is commonly used for this method, there are other products that can be mixed with other products.

People who use this method to cheat the drug test should not count on a negative test result. Laboratories can detect diluted samples and require the subject to retest. Also, some testing laboratories shut down access to their faucets and add dye to their toilets to catch people who use water to their drug samples, writes

2. They Substitute Urine Samples

Some people attempt to cheat drug tests by submitting a urine sample that did not come from their bodies. According to OHS Health & Safety Services Inc., people who try this method may use liquid urine, synthetic urine, or urine that belongs to someone or something else, such as an animal, just to pass the test. Those who are diligent about going undetected may buy powdered urine packets online and then mix the contents with water.

It is difficult to keep substitute urine samples at the right temperature. However, those determined to do so may use devices to keep the specimen warm. They may also keep the sample warm by holding it close to their bodies in an armpit or the groin area.

3. They Adulterate Urine Samples

Urine samples that have been tampered with are called “adulterated specimen.” Some would-be drug testers attempt to pass off a sample that contains chemicals that have been added to either hide the presence of drugs or affect the equipment used in laboratory drug testing. Some of these chemicals include bleach, salt, soap, eye drops, peroxide, among others. According to the AACC, “Both collection sites and laboratories have at their disposal a number of mechanisms to detect potentially invalid specimens.” But the AACC says specimen integrity testing doesn’t detect all adulterants, such as Visine eye drops, isopropanol, and other urinary adulterants.

4. They Delay the Test to Allow for the Drug to Clear their System

Some employees or prospective employees who are up for a drug screening may just try to wait it out and delay taking the test until the drug(s) leaves their systems. Many factors come into play here, including the kind of drug that was taken and how much of it was taken. Some substances clear the system faster than others. However, body height, weight, age, metabolism, and family history, among other factors, also affect how long a substance hangs around and whether a drug test will detect it in a person’s urine. Signs of past drug use can last for a few days or a few weeks.

5. They Try Other Methods that Promise to Detox the Body’s System of Drug Use

Other attempts to cheat drug tests include taking various products and foods and before turning over the urine for examination. The list of “home remedies” runs long and includes everything from eating fiber and certain herbs, such as red clover and burdock root, to drinking detox herbal teas or liquids that act as diuretics to flush out toxins left behind after drug use. These include apple cider vinegar and cranberry juice among others.

Some people opt to use “commercial screens,” such as GoldenSeal, Mary Jane Super Clean, or QuickKlean to “clean” their urine sample, but it has been advised that if these are found, the sample will be flagged. An online search for ways to cheat employer-given drug tests turns up thousands of results. People will go to great lengths to avoid a positive result on a drug test, and some will be successful in their attempts.

This is just one reason some advise employers to use random drug screenings and test new hires after they join the team.

Drug tests can help businesses find employees who cheat drug tests and take action, including helping them find substance abuse treatment, if needed, through an employee assistance program (EAP).


Are You Suffering From Substance Abuse Addiction?

If you or someone you know is involved in recreational substance abuse or can’t seem to stop misusing drugs and alcohol, get help today. The addiction specialists at Ocean Breeze Recovery will help point you toward therapies and counseling methods tailored to your needs. Call 844-554-9279 or contact us online to discuss your options today.