Studies into Relapse

Arguably the most difficult period of substance use disorder treatment isn’t the process of rehab in a treatment facility, but trying to not relapse after leaving the center. In fact, one of the most common thing patients treated for addictions don’t realize until they’re in treatment is that it is considered a chronic illness specifically for this very reason. The sometimes daily struggle against cravings can be challenging if not outright terribly difficult and claims thousands of recovering addicts a year, sometimes costing them their life. While relapse does not mean that treatment has failed, it is still a responsibility that often goes understated.

The University of Pennsylvania Epigenetics Institute’s Elizabeth Heller, Ph.D. has taken an interest in this part of addiction and why relapse is so common even when all traces and access to the drug is minimized or eliminated. Heller’s hypothesis is that understanding the persistent nature of the symptoms of drug abuse even during abstinence requires consideration of epigenetic changes caused by the drugs themselves.  

Dr. Heller explains, “Without changing the actual sequence of DNA, we have mechanisms in our body to control how and when cells express certain genes. These mechanisms are influenced by changes in our environment, and the process of influencing gene expression without altering the basic genetic code is called epigenetics.” To put it another way, without changing the actual sequence of DNA, there are mechanisms in the body to control how and when to express certain genes which are often influenced by things like the environment.

Heller’s most recent research went into the effects of cocaine addiction in relation to epigenetics. Of note, the FosB gene, an already suspected as responsible in addiction behaviors. The findings of the study showed that cocaine depletes the protein that helps regulate and attenuate response to use of the drug, contributing to it’s addictive properties. In addiction to FosB, Nr4a1 is hijacked by drug use, which is important in dopamine release.

Where this crosses over with cancer research, mice were administered a drug used in cancer treatments that suppresses Nr4a1. The tests revealed that mice who had taken the drug were far more likely to resist the normal environmental cues that normally trigger them to seek and use the provided cocaine. What was noticed more, though, was that the changes in gene expression of both were stronger when the mice were not using the drug, suggesting how and why relapse is so common in chronic cocaine abuse after initial detox and treatment.

As research continues, the specific changes that occur with drug use can possibly be prevented, where one might imagine a ‘cocaine vaccine’ or similar drug resulting from these studies to reverse what cocaine does to your brain.

Before someone can worry about relapse, they require treatment first at centers like First Step in Pompano Beach. Give us a call today to speak with our staff about treatment options.

Cocaine Effects

Cocaine Effects

Cocaine is a stimulant drug and a highly addictive controlled substance. Using cocaine can lead to serious side effects. Cocaine users can only begin to eliminate dangerous cocaine effects by confronting the addiction and choosing recovery.

Immediate Cocaine Effects

Once an individual ingests cocaine, the body begins to release dopamine. This release feels good, at least in the very short term. In fact, cocaine consumption can lead to feelings of euphoria.
Other immediate effects of cocaine use can include an increase in energy. On the flip side of that coin, using cocaine might prevent users from being able to sleep. This is one reason why long-term cocaine use can be devastating to sleep habits and cycles.

In the short term, cocaine use can also lead to a boost in confidence. Cocaine users might seem louder and more confident than normal. They may appear more outgoing, and they may have an easier time meeting new people or initiating romantic relationships.
Cocaine can also cause some unpleasant effects that begin right after consumption. Many cocaine users feel restless and anxious. They may fidget and can find it difficult to sleep even hours later. In some cases, panic and even paranoia are possible.

The Addictive Nature of Cocaine

One of the effects that cocaine users shouldn’t ignore is the potential for a cocaine addiction. The dopamine release that cocaine consumption initiates changes the reward system in the brain. Over time, cocaine users may only look forward to their next dose of the drug.

This is the physiological side that helps explain the development of an addiction. Of course, there are also other factors at play. Certain people are more likely to develop an addiction to drugs like cocaine for a variety of reasons. Some of the factors that increase the likelihood of addiction can include any or all of the following:

  • Genetic predisposition to addiction
  • Availability of cocaine
  • Trying cocaine at a young age
  • History of trauma
  • Mental illness

The Long-Term Physical Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse

While the short-term cocaine effects can be unpleasant, the long-term side effects are even worse. Even in relatively young, healthy individuals, the stimulant properties of cocaine can cause heart problems. Heart attacks are possible after prolonged use.

Other physical side effects of cocaine substance abuse can include tremors and muscle aches. Cocaine users might experience a high heart rate as well as increased blood pressure. An increase in body temperature is also common, which can lead to serious and prolonged dehydration.

Treating an Addiction to Cocaine

Ceasing consumption of cocaine cold turkey and alone is not the best way to effectively end an addiction. Recovery requires detox followed by rehab and intensive treatment. This approach allows for various types of therapy to address conditions like physical health, co-occurring disorders or family issues.

It’s no secret that the effects of cocaine use are problematic. At 1st Step Behavioral in Florida, you or your loved one can combat these effects and start making progress toward better health and happiness. End your dependence on cocaine by calling (866) 319-6126.