Coming from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America, cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug which produces short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness. In addition, it has potentially dangerous physical side effects including raising blood pressure and heart rate. Cocaine also increases brain activity because it is a central nervous system stimulant.

The Effects of Cocaine on the Brain


Once ingested, cocaine acts on the ventral tegmental area, or VTA of the brain, more specifically with dopamine. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine is used by neurons to to communicate, and acts as both an inhibitor and an exciter. Dopamine can either attach to chemicals in the brain that produce pleasurable feelings, or those that cause impulsive behavior or panic. The neurotransmitter is typically re-absorbed by the neuron that initially produced it, but cocaine blocks this transporter, and dopamine begins to build up.

Cocaine also affects the level of serotonin in the brain, which is another neurotransmitter. This one is responsible for maintaining mood balance in the brain. Norepinephrine is also affected by cocaine use, which helps control the body’s “flight or fight” response. Because of this, side effects of cocaine use may include:

  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • increased heart rate
  • increased rate of respiration

Other side effects of cocaine use may include euphoria, impulsiveness, talkativeness, and paranoia.

Cocaine is typically snorted or injected when in powder form. When the drug is snorted, it can take up to 3 minutes to reach the brain, while the injected form can reach the brain in just 14 seconds. Cocaine can also be smoked, which will reach the brain in about 7 seconds. The body will go through immediate withdrawal after using cocaine, even if it’s the first time. This is because when dopamine levels out to normal, the brain feels it as a deficit, leaving the user with anxiety, depression, and other negative side effects.

Dopamine plays a huge role in the possibility of cocaine addiction, because when it is used, the brain’s dopamine levels will break down and need replenishing. However, dopamine replacement is not something that happens overnight—it takes some time. While waiting for it to replenish, the user will likely feel depressed and experience drug cravings. This feeling can occur even when someone uses cocaine for the first time, so even “casual” use is considered risky.

For help with cocaine addiction or anything related to addiction recovery, call Treatment Now today at 844-438-8689.