Cocaine Teaches the Brain to Become Addicted By Growing More Cells

Research on drugs and their effects on people is always growing. At Cliffside Malibu rehab center, we employ a full time addiction researcher so that our treatment can reflect this ever-growing field.

Cocaine may fuel drug-seeking behavior by making the brain grow new dendritic “spines,” which have the purpose of causing the person to seek more cocaine. Recent findings from the study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco are published online in Nature Neuroscience.
Researchers used a microscope to see directly into nerve cells within the brains of living mice. They were able to watch in real time as dendritic spines grew denser in just two hours after being stimulated by cocaine. The mice who grew more dendritic spines had the strongest taste for cocaine.

“This gives us a possible mechanism for how drug use fuels further drug-seeking behavior,” researcher Linda Wilbrecht, of the University of California, Berkeley, told reporters. “It’s been observed that long-term drug users show decreased function in the frontal cortex in connection with mundane cues or tasks, and increased function in response to drug-related activity or information,” Wilbrecht said. “This research suggests how the brains of drug users might shift toward those drug-related associations.”

Cocaine greatly affects the frontal cortex which is responsible for long-term planning, decision-making, reason and self-discipline. Mice given cocaine grew new brain structures serving the cause of getting more of the drug.

In the first experiment, researchers injected a group of lab mice with cocaine and another group with a saline solution. The next day they were able to use a 2-photon laser scanning microscope, observing brain growth. In the second experiment, mice who were stimulated with cocaine grew four times more connections than the control group. In a subsequent experiment, researchers gave injections to mice in two distinctive enclosures. Each had its own design, texture and smell. Researchers then tested the mice on their preference. Mice with the most dendritic growth chose the enclosure when they had received the cocaine. “This suggests that the new spines might be material for the association that these mice have learned to make between the chamber and the drug.”

At Cliffside, a Malibu drug treatment center, studies like this help us to better understand our clients and result in long term recovery.

When you recognize harmful patterns and seek treatment, you can increase your chances of leading a healthier life. Cliffside Malibu is here to support you in your search for an alcohol-free life. We believe you deserve to have a private, comfortable and luxurious environment as you navigate your journey to a sober life. Our center allows you to explore your mental health needs, creates a treatment plan that is unique to you and allows you to discover beneficial coping skills. To learn more about alcohol treatment at Cliffside Malibu, call (855) 403-5641.