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Teenagers more vulnerable to effects of cocaine

Those who start using drugs from an early age often find themselves addicted very easily, and new research looking at teenage cocaine use and the teenage brain may have identified part of the reason for this. 

An investigation carried out by Yale University has found that in the teenage years, individuals are much more vulnerable to the effects of cocaine, as the brain amounts a defense against the cocaine and the result is a less intense effect, leading people to believe they can handle to substance well (Daily Science, 2012).

However, the use of cocaine during the teenage years when an individuals brain is still fairly adaptable can cause alterations in the development of the brain, which then become permanent as the pathways solidify.

This change in brain structure may have an impact on an individuals sensitivity to cocaine, and possibly contribute to why people do or do not become addicted to the substance.  In studies on mice, those who were exposed to cocaine early on, and thus had an altered brain structure were more sensitive to cocaine, and needed less of the drug to induce behavioural changes.  These differences in sensitivity can also cause some individuals to become totally desensitized to cocaine, which the researchers suggest may be part of the reason as to why some people become addicted while others don't.  Those who are desensitized, will be less likely to seek the drug as it does not have the desired effect.

These investigations into brain structure and the effects this can have are only just the beginning.  As this type of research develops, there is hope that it will be able to help influence new treatment options that could be applied in drug rehab centers, and could be used to help people recover from addiction.  The more we know about what may cause the disease, the better chance we have of fighting it.

 

 

Science Daily.  (2012).  Cocaine and the reen brain: New insights into addiction.  Sourced from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221212616.htm

Published by on 05/04/2012.

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