New Research on Cocaine: Side Effects and Smuggling
Research shows cocaine use can cause weight gain; U.S. government is fighting cocaine smuggling
Cocaine and Overeating
After posting last month about two drugs for addiction treatment that may also help with obesity, (Naltrexone, which reduces the craving for alcohol and opioids and Buproprion, which alters the high a meth addict achieves) here’s another study related to eating from the same author of that news: Gene Jack Wang, Senior Clinician and Clinical Director, Laboratory of Neuroimaging, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
This one has to do with cocaine, which has been in the news, and discussed on our blog in posts covering cocaine addiction and the brain, cocaine addiction possibly being cured by Ritalin, and cocaine use being linked to Parkinson’s, quite a bit recently.
In this study, “Overlapping patterns of brain activation to food and cocaine cues in cocaine abusers: Association to striatal D2/D3 receptors,” which also implications for obesity, Wang and a team of researchers measured brain activation responses to food and cocaine cues. Dr. Mark Gold simplified the ramifications when he said, “We know that cocaine inhibits appetite and that after cocaine addiction, appetite returns with hyperphagia-weight gain.” (Hyperphagia means abnormally increased appetite).
[In addition,] he said, “cocaine, through its activation of dopamine (DA) signaling, usurps pathways that process natural rewards. These new findings show that cocaine cues activate similar pathways to those activated by food cues, which may help explain co-occurring eating, overeating, and addiction disorders. Both cocaine and food interact with D2/D3 receptors. All of this suggests that chronic cocaine exposure might influence brain sensitivity not just to drugs but also to food cues and vice-versa.”
I found this interesting because I don’t know that many people (at least laymen) associate weight gain with cocaine. You usually think of getting the munchies from pot smoking, which can, of course, put weight on. On the other hand, many drug abusers are painfully thin. So thanks to Dr. Gold for passing on important information.
Cocaine Smuggled from Caribbean
Cocaine use may seem to be overshadowed by the heroin epidemic, but the problem has not gone away by any means. In September, the coast guard offloaded nearly three tons of cocaine from ships, worth $93 million, that the U.S. government confiscated as part of an operation to “halt the increased flow of drugs through the Caribbean,” according to The Baltimore Sun. This load is part of the 30 tons that have been confiscated in the last year.
WebMD has in-depth information about cocaine. It’s called “the caviar of street drugs,” according to the website, and is popular among celebrities, but it has “powerful negative effects on the heart, brain, and emotions.” You don’t have to be addicted to die from cocaine use; even occasional users sometimes die suddenly from the drug.
The site also explains the difference between cocaine and crack (cocaine). The former, a purified extract from the coca bush, is a powder that you can snort or ingest. The latter is “made by a chemical process that leaves it in its ‘freebase’ form, which can be smoked.” (Actually, cocaine undergoes a chemical process as well.)
Other facts I found interesting:
- There are more ER visits from cocaine than from any other illegal drug.
- 14% of Americans have tried cocaine, and 1 in 40 adults used it in the last year.
When you suspect a friend, family member or loved one is using cocaine it’s very worrisome. It’s a powerful addiction, and many users require the help of a professional to find sobriety, but learning what you can about the drug can help you understand the issue.