Posts Tagged cocaine addiction

Drugs That Influence Genetic Switches Could Address Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction has always been a difficult issue to address, but a recent study sheds light on a possible relationship between genetic makeup and the use of epigenetic drugs to stop cocaine addiction.

cocaineA joint study by the McGill University and Bar Ilan University investigated the effect of using epigenetic drugs to stop addiction to cocaine. The research team conducted lab experiments on mice, which were trained to crave for cocaine using a visual or auditory cue. The rats were then observed for evidence of cocaine withdrawal for up to 30 days. Results showed that changes in the mice’s genetic switches were at their highest as the withdrawal became longer.

The researchers injected RG108, an inhibiting agent for DNA methylation, to the mice during the lengthy withdrawal just before the triggering light or sound could cause them to crave for cocaine. “We discovered that injecting the drug RG108 just before the animals were exposed to the light cue after the long withdrawal not only stopped the addictive behavior of the animals, it also lasted for a longer period. This suggests that a single treatment with RG108 could reverse or perhaps cure drug addiction,” said study co-author Moshe Szyf in a news report.

The effect of the epigenetic drug was most evident during the withdrawal phase, according to co-author Gal Yadid. “During this period of withdrawal, hundreds of genes changed their state of DNA methylation including genes that were known before to be involved in addiction,” Yadid added.

Details of the study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Antidote For Cocaine Addiction? New Study Breaks Ground

It’s only a matter of time before scientists discover the cure for addictions to illicit drugs like cocaine.

A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Neuroscience and Pharmacology department claims to have stumbled upon the mechanisms surrounding dopamine, an amino acid found in the brain associated with processing motivation and addiction. Claus Juul Loland, one of the department’s associate professors and study co-author, said that this discovery could pave the way to eliminate addiction to cocaine. “If we have a better understanding of the dopamine transporter function we will become more proficient in developing an antidote against cocaine addiction,” said Loland in a news item.

Cocaine effect on dopamine [source]

Cocaine effect on dopamine [source]

The research team investigated the dopamine transporter — which has the ability to control the mechanism of dopamine — and has found a way to manipulate the metabolism between dopamine and the transporter. Loland believes that by creating a mutated form of the transporter, the dopamine molecule can be “tricked” into binding with an inhibitor instead of cocaine. As a result, cocaine in the human body will not be processed and may subsequently prevent addiction to the drug. “Our objective here is that cocaine will not then work anymore as the antidote will inhibit the stimulatory response of taking this drug,” Loland added.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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New Research Highlights Damaging Effects of Recreational Cocaine Use on Heart

A new research found recreational cocaine users have higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries, and thicker heart muscle walls — all of which can lead to heart attack.

recreational cocaine useThe study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012, is the first to document some of these cardiovascular abnormalities in seemingly healthy cocaine users. Australian researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check the heart of 20 healthy adults who regularly use cocaine. Compared to 20 non-cocaine users, cocaine users have 30 to 35 percent increase in aortic stiffening; higher systolic blood pressured; and 18 percent greater thickness of the heart’s left ventricle wall.

In a news release, Gemma Figtree, M.B.B.S., D.Phil., lead researcher of the study, calls cocaine “the perfect heart attack drug.”

“It’s so sad,” Figtree said. “We are repeatedly seeing young, otherwise fit individuals suffering massive heart attacks related to cocaine use. Despite being well-educated professionals, they have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine.”

Figtree is an associate professor of medicine at Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney in Australia. She further explained that cocaine users face greater risk of spontaneous heart attack because of the combined effects of greater blood clotting, increased heart stress and more blood vessel constriction.

Although the researchers couldn’t explain how repeated social cocaine use causes blood vessels to stiffen, they are currently looking into a signaling pathway that might be activated to cause such a response.

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Mother of Girl Killed in Crash Faces Drugged-Up Driver

There’s no way a mother can easily accept the death of her child. This is what Jennifer Mirra had to face when her daughter, Melissa Ehmer-Mirra, died in a minivan crash in Queens. The incident involved a drugged-up driver, who received her sentence in court, with Jennifer in the audience carrying a picture of her child taken from the morgue files so that the defendant can clearly see the devastation she caused.

Sheila BetheaThe accused, Sheila Bethea, was driving a minivan on October 26, 2009 carrying five kids, including Ehlmer Mirra. She was speeding at 75mph in a 45mph zone, and took heroin and smoked crack cocaine earlier in the day. When the van crashed, Melissa was killed as well as another 15-year-old kid, Katherine Willis.

In a report from the NY Daily News, Bethea pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 2 to 7 years imprisonment. She is 46 years old.

In court, Bathea refused to look at Mirra’s mother and faced Queen Supreme Court Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt. She tells the judge that she tried to pass the minivan along St. Albans Street despite a double-parked car scenario and that she was eventually side-swept. All of the five kids in the van were not wearing their seatbelts. Bethea confirmed that her mother, Genevieve Bethea, served as foster mother to the kids in accordance to a contract she signed with the Administration for Children’s Services.

Bethea was holding back her tears when she asked forgiveness from the two families that were still grieving. “God knows this was a bad accident,” Bethea said. “I’m suffering just as much as these parents are. It was an accident – a horrible accident.”

The families of the two minors who got killed in the accident filed lawsuits against ACS officials for failing to safeguard the kids under their care.

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Cocaine: Different Forms and Types of Administration

To effectively fight drug abuse, we need to understand the drugs that are most commonly abused — cocaine being one of them. Cocaine comes in many forms and it can be administered in different ways.


sniffing cocaineSalts – Cocaine may come in different salts like hydrochloride and sulfate.

Freebase – This comes in a base form (not salt form). Smoking this form of cocaine has an extra effect brought by releasing methylecgonidine into the user’s sytem.

Crack – It is a cheaper form of cocaine. It is also a free-base cocaine but it contains sodium bicarbonate making it impure. It is administered usually through smoking. The term crack cocaine is derived from the crackling sound it creates once heated.

Coca leaf infusions – This is used in countries that produced coca-leaf for the purpose of herbal medicine. It is usually known as coca tea and been popular in Peru and Bolivia because of its medicinal powers such as treatment for malaise, mild stimulation and mood enhancement.

Types of Administration

Oral – This is done either through the following: rubbing the powder along the gum line, through a cigarette filter , or wrapping the cocaine in some kind of rolled paper then swallowing it.

Chewing – This is done with coca leaves mixed with an alkaline substance like lime.

Insufflation or sniffing – This is one of the most known and used method of administering cocaine.

Injection – This method gives the highest blood levels of drug in the quickest time.

Inhalation – This is also known as smoking which is done through inhaling the vapor the smoke by sublimating solid cocaine through heating.

Suppository – This is also referred to as plugging which is the insertion of cocaine through an oral syringe into the anus or vagina.

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Amphetamines versus Cocaine: The Effects

In a previous post, we shared with you the symptoms that may point to amphetamine and cocaine abuse. For this post, we will dwell on the effects that these substances can have on the people who abuse them.

According to the Concepts of Chemical Dependency by Harold E. Doweiko, the effects of amphetamines on a user vary in relation to the user’s mental state. These effects can also be influenced by how much amphetamine the user takes, the potency of the form of the drug that the user takes, and how the user takes it.

cocaine addictionAt low to moderate dosage levels, amphetamine users can experience any of the following effects, as enumerated in an article on TestCountry: “alertness, an elevation of mood, feeling of mild euphoria, less mental fatigue, and an improved level of concentration.” All these effects are essentially positive, and if taken by an individual or patient who really needs it, amphetamine is helpful. When the dosage taken by an individual constitutes abuse, however, the abuser may suffer from episodes of hypertension, pulmonary edema, tachycardia, arrhythmias, and even sudden cardiac death.

The effects of abusing cocaine, also according to Doweiko’s book, include impulsiveness, irritability, confusion, and paranoia, as well as an increase in blood pressure. Taking cocaine in high dosage levels, such that the cocaine in the blood reaches toxic levels, can lead to the following effects, as enumerated in the article: “cardiac arrhythmias, rhabadomyolysis, convulsion, strokes, and possible death from cardio respiratory arrest.”

Cocaine users generally feel the effects of the drug anywhere from a few minutes up to an hour. The effects of amphetamines, on the other hand, can last longer than the effects of cocaine, sometimes up to several hours.

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