New Report: Cocaine Addicts Have Less Gray Matter in Certain Areas of the Brain

December 21, 2011

In addition to studying new ways to treat and heal those struggling with cocaine addiction, a great deal of research is focused on the changes that are created in those who abuse the drug. A recent study has revealed that those who have lived with cocaine addiction have less gray matter in important areas of the brain.

Muhammad Parvaz is a post-doctoral fellow at Brookhaven National Laboratory and a lead investigator of the research. He says: “Reduced gray matter may culminate in the compromised ability to experience pleasure and control behavior, especially in high-risk situations.”

The question is this: are cocaine addicts born with this deficit of gray matter, making it a contributing factor to the development of the addiction or does it occur as a result of long-term cocaine abuse? It’s a question that will only be answered with continued research, but this new study is a landmark since future studies will likely include their findings.

No matter the cause, the patterns of behavior that result can be disastrous to patients, sabotaging their efforts to maintain a functional life. Unfortunately, even with treatment, these changes can remain over time and continue to cause problems for those in recovery.

The regions in which many cocaine addicts had less gray matter were areas of the brain related to decision making and thought processing. This may have something to do with the fact that many addicts have difficulty thinking through their decisions, often making choices that create negative consequences. When stress arises or they feel cravings, often their first choice is to abuse cocaine despite the negative health, emotional, and social effects.

Many addiction experts believe that the gray matter issue comes before cocaine abuse, which could open up a number of avenues of prevention and care to help patients stop abusing the drug before they start.

Jeffrey Reynolds is the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola. He says: “Increasingly there is a whole body of research focusing on addiction as a brain disease. and the implications are significant not only in terms of treatment but prevention.”

Studies like these support the construct of addiction as a medical disorder, which can help patients to avoid the stigma associated with the disease and be more willing to get the treatment they need to heal.

If you or someone you live with is fighting cocaine addiction, help is available. Contact us at Michael’s House today to find out more about the programs we offer than can aid you in building a new life without cocaine dependence.

  1. belinda February 22, 2012

    hi, i am 32 years old. i started using cocain (crack) at the tender age of sixteen, for a period of 10 years the extreme addiction controlled my life..i have managed to stay away from crack for th
    past 6 years but are snorting the shit now. Is there really a cure for this addiction, and if so please, i am willing to try?

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