Cocaine Consumption: It Literally Eats Your Brain
No one believes that cocaine is good for the body or brain, but it appears to be worse than anyone could have imagined. John Hopkins University performed a study involving mice. This study found that heavy cocaine consumption literally causes brain cells to kill themselves. Yep – brain cell suicide. Findings were recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This happens because cocaine consumption triggers something called “interactive autophagy”. Basically, cells digest their own insides. Were you ever told growing up that when you were hungry, your stomach “digested itself”? If so, this isn’t a much different idea. Additionally, mice borne of mothers given cocaine experienced the same effect.
A New Treatment?
Fortunately, however, this finding contributes to a greater good – potentially effective treatments for the condition. Rodent autopsies led to insight into the process, and how medicine may interfere and prevent damage.
Normally, autophagy is a natural part of cell clean-up, in which the cell eliminates accumulated debris in order to thrive. This process doesn’t usually cause the death of the cell. But if the process is accelerated, however, it can careen out of control. Basically, the cell cannibalizes itself.
Changes to cell protein levels and other manifestations lead to cell death by uncontrolled autophagy. Several chemicals were tested by researchers in order to determine if cell death could be prevented. A compound known as CGP3466B seemed to do the trick.
Although the specifics of these findings are new, researchers have suspected for many years that cocaine consumption had a negative impact on cell health.
Knowing the exact method of cell death, clinicians may now someday be able to prevent accelerated autophagy in fetuses exposed to the drugs. In addition, some of the toxic effects of cocaine consumption on the adult brain may be treated or reversed.