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 (954) 998-0657 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.


Depression in Recovery: Fighting for Sobriety With Internal Affliction

Overcoming addiction is a fight in itself. When mental illness and feelings of hopelessness arise in early recovery, people in active addiction might stray from their goals to obtain long-term sobriety. Depression in recovery is one the most common obstacles recovering substance users face during their journey. Depression takes a significant toll on an individual and greatly affects the person’s motivation to stay away from addictive substances. It can arise related to factors before and after drug use.

The symptoms of depression derive from the psychological, genetic, environmental, and biochemical factors of an individual. Depression in recovery is prominent and often uncontrollable in individuals who fall victim to the disease.

Depression’s Agenda

Depression is a mental illness that interferes with everyday life. When people think of the word, they often associate it with sadness or feeling “blue.” However, clinical depression is much more severe than being down in the dumps. When people have this mental health disorder, they feel numb and empty. They also may feel an overwhelming lack of accomplishment, motivation, and willingness. This causes individuals to feel heavy, in a sense that they are carrying around these feelings in their day-to-day lives.

For a person recovering from substance abuse, this can be dangerous. People who are recovering from addiction need to be strong from within. If they are struggling with depression in recovery and let it get the best of them, it could lead to many losses, including their sobriety.

Individuals who abuse drugs are often self-medicating an underlying issue that they may know they have. Depression is not the only mental health disorder that coincides with drug abuse, but it is most commonly found in people struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Although the individual may be self-medicating if depression is pre-exposed, the person may also develop a mental illness after getting sober.

Fighting For Sobriety

Many people who enter sobriety have co-occurring disorders. Overcoming addiction and mental illness at once can be challenging. It is not uncommon for a person in recovery to initially feel lost or saddened by their recent life-changing decisions. It is also not unusual that mistreatment or lack of treatment for their depression in recovery leads to relapse.

When a person enters sobriety, they engage in a way of life they may have never experienced before. This can lead to situational depression as well as clinical depression. When an individual experiences moments of sadness based on a traumatic event, such as getting sober, they briefly experience the feelings of depression but can easily let them go.

Although depression can be situational, the real concern comes from clinical depression. When clinical depression is present, there is no source. The feelings arise out of nowhere. When nothing is causing depression in recovery, treating it can be difficult if the signs are unclear. Fighting for sobriety with a mental illness can often make the fight seem impossible to conquer. Addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful despite being sober. When mental illness comes into the picture, it increases the severity of addiction recovery.

If a person in recovery is not feeling a sense of accomplishment, they may start to question why they are even sober in the first place.

Depression After Drugs

When people get sober, they expect a life filled with joy and happiness. When things do not go as planned, they might begin to think recovery is not worth it. To them, treating their addiction meant all their problems would vanish. However, this is nowhere near the truth. In fact, many more problems can arise because they are now dealing with their sober self. There is nothing to mask or suppress the true feelings of their internal being. With no suppression of thoughts or feelings, one may realize they are struggling with depression in recovery. To their luck, depression is treatable if action is taken quickly.

The symptoms of depression are easily distinguishable when the person in active addiction accumulates a significant amount of clean time.  People suffering from depression usually have symptoms such as these:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, or “emptiness”
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Disinterest in activities or hobbies
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Harmful thoughts (suicide, homicide, death)

Having these symptoms masked by drug use for long periods can intensify these symptoms once a person enters sobriety, so it is important to quickly recognize and act on these feelings and thoughts. The person may or may not know how to deal with these thoughts and feelings alone. Seeking treatment can help someone combat the symptoms of depression in recovery so they can become healthy and feel confident in their sobriety.

Where Does Depression Come From?

Although depression comes from various sources, the effects they have on an individual remain the same. When referring to depression in recovery, it is most likely pre-existing, but it can be caused by recent events in someone’s life. Feelings will arise in early recovery that may seem unsettling to a person. It is important to understand where depression comes from and why it goes hand in hand with substance abuse.

  • Environmental factors of depression arise from the current situations of the individual. Different examples include trauma, stress, and early exposure to drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Genetics allow the mental health disorder to be passed down through generations. This is likely for people who have family members, especially parents, who are diagnosed with depression.
  • Biochemical refers to the lack of chemical production in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are depleted in individuals who have depression, especially after extended drug use. The brain is less likely to respond accordingly to pleasure when this occurs.

All of the causes, by nature or by nurture, can be treated effectively with a holistic approach or medication.

Is Depression Treatable?

Treating depression in recovery depends on the diagnosis. A diagnosis should be sought by a medical professional to make sure the individual is correctly treating the disorder. There are several approaches to treating this disease.

Some may feel strongly about medication while others seek a more holistic approach. Despite the different causes and effects of depression, treatment is vital. When a person in recovery chooses to ignore the clear signs of depression, there is a chance it will worsen over time. This causes a series of dilemmas because the person’s whole life is potentially at risk.

When it comes to recurring feelings in sobriety, an individual is urged to connect with a support group of some sort and utilize the coping skills he or she has learned in treatment and developed during their journey. However, depression can become crippling for the individual, causing them to stray away from their support and leaving them to their own devices.

Often, when a person with addiction is left to make decisions on their own, in a healthy state of mind, the outcome is never beneficial to sobriety. There are numerous techniques used to treat depression in recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and natural remedies can reduce the symptoms of depression. Addiction and mental illness are two diseases that go hand in hand and often are treated with the same approach.

Natural vs. Medicinal

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to treatment for mental health and substance abuse. Treating disorders are individually based. Some people can benefit greatly from medication, taking the natural route, or both.

People who can combat less severe depression on their own may engage in activities such as:

  • Exercise
  • Eating well
  • Talking to support groups
  • Journaling
  • Natural remedies to increase/ stabilize mood
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Prayer

However beneficial, there may come a point when these techniques do not work.

Depression, if left untreated, can worsen over time.

This is where taking prescribed medications come into play. Many people in recovery might feel judged for taking a prescribed medication. But in cases like these, taking medication will lead them to a more successful life. Ultimately, the decision is left to the individual and should not be based on outside factors. The decision to treat depression with medication should come only from the individual and their intentions in sobriety.

Are You Struggling With Sobriety?

Recovering from mental illness and addiction can make life seem like a never-ending downward spiral. However, you are not alone, and recovery is possible. If you or someone you know has a co-occurring disorder, call Ocean Breeze Recovery today at (954) 998-0657. Our telephone representatives are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and help you find the right treatment program for you.

10 Weird Drugs People Have Used to Get High

Intrepid psychonauts will find a way. Even against better judgment and common sense, some people have an intense desire to find and use psychoactive substances even if they kill them. And it sometimes does. Desperation, peer pressure, curiosity, and a little bit of ignorance are the ingredients to a potent and sometimes deadly cocktail that fuels the drive to get high, even if traditional drugs aren’t readily available. Sometimes that means resorting to some weird drugs as alternatives.

Illicit and prescriptions substances that are the most likely sources of recreational drug use can be expensive or hard to obtain. When desperation (or curiosity) strikes, would-be drug users can become creative and sometimes downright reckless. Alternative paths of intoxication come in all shapes and sizes; the results can range from gross to deadly. Herbs and chemicals with potential psychoactive effects are all over the modern household. You maybe have some in your spice rack, garage, and medicine cabinet right now.

Other substances come as a result of the drug trade breaking new, sinister ground. Designer drugs crop up as a result of black and grey market industries trying to subvert existing drug laws. New chemical compounds are synthesized that are chemically similar to existing illicit drugs. The goal is to provide a high that mimics a known illicit drug, without the legal risk. Designer drugs are synthesized and packaged as products that are not for human consumptions, like plant food.

Whether they are household products or shady designer drugs, some of the strangest ways people are getting high are also the deadliest. You may not believe it when you hear it, but here are some of the strangest drugs people have actually tried to get high.

Do You Need Help From Substance Abuse Addiction?

It’s all too easy to get caught in the throes of substance abuse addiction. But, it doesn’t have to be your fate. Call Ocean Breeze Recovery at (954) 998-0657 to speak with an addiction specialist and learn about your treatment options. Start your journey to recovery today.

Is PCP a Psychedelic?

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a drug that fell out of medical use decades ago and is now only used as an illicit recreational substance. It can cause addiction, psychosis, euphoria, and hallucinations, which has some wondering if it’s included in the psychedelic category alongside LSD, mushrooms, and peyote.

Find out if this substance that was at one time called “the peace drug” is related to one of the milder illicit drug categories of its nickname that has come to be ironic.

What Is PCP?

PCP is the abbreviation for a chemical compound called phencyclidine that also has the street name, angel dust. The drug is used for its psychoactive effects, physical euphoria, and hallucinations. A precursor to the drug called prothrombin complex concentrate was originally synthesized for medical use in 1926, and PCP developed shortly after. But it wasn’t marketed until 1950 when it was used as an anesthetic medication. Before long, however, its adverse effects became apparent and its legal use was discontinued in 1965 and by 1978, it was even outlawed for use on animals. It also fell out of use when ketamine was discovered to offer similar but safer effects.

PCP has several intended and adverse effects but its typically recognized pharmacological category is a dissociative anesthetic. This class of anesthetic is characterized by catatonia and memory loss but generally doesn’t cause the user to lose consciousness. In the 1960s, PCP began to be used as a recreational drug and many of the dissociative, euphoric, and hallucinogenic effects were sought after on the street level. Haight Ashbury, San Francisco was the epicenter of the hippie, counter-cultural movement in the 1960s and it’s largely attributed as being the origination spot for a number of recreational drugs, including PCP.

PCP is most often smoked but it can also be injected. It also has a relatively high bioavailability (the percentage of the drug that reaches the bloodstream) even when taken orally at 72 percent. It is also sprayed onto to cannabis and smoked, sometimes without the user’s knowledge.

How Does PCP Work?

Like most psychoactive drugs, dissociatives like PCP work by disrupting the chemical messaging processes throughout the nerve cells in your brain and body. PCP specifically disrupts communication involving the chemical glutamate at the specific receptor called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). Glutamate is an important compound that’s instrumental in learning, memory, emotion, and the perception of pain. PCP can also affect dopamine, which is a chemical that elevates mood, make you feel energized, and give you a rush of excitement and a feeling of power when it’s influenced by drugs of abuse.

What Is a Psychedelic?

A psychedelic is a class of drug that alters thinking, cognition, and perspective to induce a “psychedelic experience” through visual, auditory, and olfactory changes. This can involve a heightened state of consciousness, hallucinations, and color and sound enhancement. Common drugs that are associated with psychedelic experiences include LSD, mescaline (peyote), psilocybin (mushrooms), and DMT.

Psychedelic drugs produce their effects by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain, which regulate excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. Many psychedelics are very close in their chemical structure to melatonin and serotonin, which allows them to bind to the receptors and agonize (activate) them. The result is altered emotion, senses, and a feeling of heightened self-attunement.

Psychedelic drugs are generally physiologically harmless and have very mild effects on the body, though, some may cause nausea and vomiting when ingested like peyote. Also, most psychedelics have a very low likelihood of causing addiction. However, some may cause dangerous psychological effects as a result of a bad trip, or a frightening psychedelic experience. While not extremely common, the development of PTSD and psychosis have been reported, especially in people with latent or existing mental health issues. Still, there is very little evidence to suggest that psychedelics lead to significant long-term mental health problems in otherwise healthy people.

What Are the Effects of PCP?

The effects of PCP share some similarities with the effects of the typical psychedelic drug. The most obvious comparisons are hallucinations. Deliriants like PCP commonly cause external hallucinations at moderate to heavy doses. These hallucinations are often reported to take on sinister tones like encountering insects, darkened visual distortions, and other nightmare-like experiences. Traditional psychedelic drugs often cause internal hallucinations (also called closed-eye hallucinations), which are imagined environments, images, and experiences. In PCP this kind of hallucination is usually brief and uncommon.

Other effects of PCP include:

  • Analgesia (pain relief)
  • Anesthesia
  • Paranoia
  • Ego death (loss of any sense of self)
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Temporary psychotic state
  • Convulsions (in high doses)

In some circumstances, PCP has been reported to cause violent actions like property destruction, self-harm, and assault. In one case, PCP appears to have played a role in a murder committed by former rapper Big Lurch.

PCP has also shown to have some addiction liability, which can vary from low to high. Conversely, other psychedelics very rarely cause addiction.

Does PCP Qualify as a Psychedelic?

While PCP shares some similarities with psychedelics, it has several glaring differences. It’s generally more volatile and users describe it as an unpleasant experience. It has more adverse physical effects like convulsions, nausea, and dizziness. Finally, it’s cognitive and psychotropic effects can be more dangerous, leading to psychosis or mania.

It also works differently in the brain. To be considered a true psychedelic, a substance has to act on serotonin receptors, but PCP interacts with NMDA receptors. Overall, PCP is not a psychedelic drug but rather a dissociative hallucinogen and it should be treated as in its own category.

Seeking Addiction Help

PCP is just one of many illicit street drugs that can lead to dangerous results in a person’s life. When drug use becomes a problem, it might qualify as substance use disorders, a serious diagnosis that includes substance abuse, dependence, and addiction. If you or someone you know might be struggling with a substance use disorder, call the addiction specialists at Ocean Breeze Recovery at (954) 998-0657 to learn more about your addiction treatment options. Addiction may be a complicated disease that is difficult to overcome, but it is treatable and you don’t have to go through it alone.