Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Here\'s What Cocaine Is Actually Doing To Your Brain

Here's What Cocaine Is Actually Doing To Your Brain

The Debrief: Scientists have found that high doses of cocaine make the brain eat itself...

Everyone knows cocaine is bad. We’ve all heard stories about dogs being used to smuggle it, having it force fed to them and then dying when it explodes in their stomachs. We’ve all seen Stacey Dooley Investigates, we know that people in poor countries are being exploited to make it and that it is the cause of conflict  around the world.

However, a new study has just trumped anything bad you’ve ever heard about cocaine: the drug -coke, gak or chang, whatever you call it - can make your brain eat itself.

That’s right there are cocaine side effects which are even worse than the fact that it makes already quite boring people go on and on for ages about absolutely nothing in particular, inflates already over inflated egos and wastes people’s money.

Makes your brain eat itself though, that like something out of a horror film doesn’t it?! The research, conducted on mice, has found clues which suggest that high doses of cocaine can actually cause brain cells to cannibalise themselves. This process, known to scientists as ‘overactive autophagy’, means that when neurons are exposed to a lot of cocaine, the brain actually begins to digest itself.

The researchers gave pregnant mice cocaine and found autophagy in the brains of both their offspring and the mothers themselves.

But why were these guys testing cocaine on animals in the first place? Well, these scientists hope that their research could help with the development of a drug that could protect people from the harmful effects of cocaine on the brain.

Additionally, their report says that the cell process of autophagy, when properly regulated, can basically be what they call ‘a valuable cleanup service’ for the brain. Kind of like hovering or taking out the rubbish, it gets rid of ‘unwanted debris’, they say.

Dr Prasun Guha, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, who led the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: ‘A cell is like a household that is constantly generating trash. Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash – it's usually a good thing. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell.’

So, basically, what these guys have found out is that if you take lots of cocaine your brain cells start to eat themselves and this is really not a good thing. But, they also found out that if you give mice who you’ve also pumped full of cocaine another experimental drug called CGP3466B this can protect those brain cells from attacking themselves. So, basically, it could be an antidote to cocaine.

The scientists who conducted the study are also planning to examine the way that cocaine affects cells in other parts of the body – like the heart.

So there you have it. Not only is cocaine – referred to by at least one idiot somewhere out there as ‘naughty salt’ - really, really unethical it’s also really really bad for your brain and for the brains of the poor pregnant mice that they tested this on so you should probably (definitely) not be doing it.

You might also be interested in:

What's The Ethical Cost Of Your Christmas Party Coke Habit?

Is It Ever Ok To Take Drugs With Your Parents?

'I'm The Only One Of My Friends Who Doesn't Do Coke, And That's OK'

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Tags: Drugs, Science Says