NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Cocaine

Cocaine Can Change the Way the Brain Works

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Although cocaine may make someone feel pleasure for a while, later it can take away a person’s ability to feel pleasure from natural rewards, like a piece of chocolate or a good time with friends. Research suggests that long-term cocaine use may reduce the amount of dopamine or number of dopamine receptors in the brain. When this happens, nerve cells need more dopamine to function normally—or more drug to be able to feel pleasure.

If a long-term user of cocaine stops taking the drug, the person feels tired and sad, and experiences strong craving for the drug. These feelings can last for a long time, until the brain (and the person) recovers from addiction.