Open Educational Resources

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Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2016


Cocaine afflicts many individuals and is potently addictive. Originally hailed as a wonder-drug in the late 19th century, cocaine is now considered an illegal substance. Cocaine’s addictive properties can be attributed to changes in the dopamine reward pathway of the Ventral Tegmental Area and Substantia Nigra, Prefrontal Cortex, Dorsal Striatum, Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala, Globus Pallidus, and Hippocampus. This drug affects the brain in two processes: binge and crave. The binge process highlights cocaine’s ability to block dopamine reuptake from the synapse resulting in hyperstimulation of the postsynaptic neuron in the dopamine reward pathway. The crave process promotes drug-seeking behavior through conditional and contextual cues. Understanding the effects of cocaine in the brain may grant insight in creating future medication and therapies to treat individuals addicted to this drug.