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NIDA Notes Articles: Cocaine

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Brain Proteins Differ in Cocaine-Overdose Victims

December 2008

Describes research findings showing differences in protein concentrations in the brain pleasure centers of people who died from cocaine overdose as compared with those who did not abuse the drug.

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Brain Opioid Receptor Levels Predict Time to Cocaine Relapse

October 2010
Describes study findings revealing that cocaine abusers who maintain high levels of a certain receptor in their brain during early abstinence relapse sooner than abusers whose levels drop.

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Brain Mechanism Turns Off Cocaine-Related Memory in Rats

October 2006
Describes a series of experiments that have added to evidence that a brain enzyme controls key memory processes that link drug experiences, the surroundings in which they take place, and the urge to repeat them.

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Brain Changes Accompany Cocaine Withdrawal

February 2007
Summarizes an animal study of the neural changes in the amygdala portion of the brain that occur as a result of cocaine exposure followed by withdrawal of the drug.

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Brain Adaptation May Dampen Effects of Cocaine

October 2010
Reports evidence that a cocaine-induced change in the structure of brain cells represents an adaptive response that may limit the drug’s impact.

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Behavioral Response to Novelty Foreshadows Neurological Response to Cocaine

February 2007
Describes evidence supporting the view that developmental differences in brain systems that use the neurotransmitter dopamine underlie age differences in susceptibility to drug abuse.

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Aripiprazole Prevents Rats From Resuming Cocaine Seeking

December 2008

Reports on study results indicating a medication prescribed for schizophrenia and manic phases of bipolar disorder shows promise as a cocaine addiction treatment.

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Animation: The Rise and Fall of the Cocaine High

November 2014

This animation shows the rapid passage of cocaine through the brain. It demonstrates that the intensity of the cocaine “high” parallels the trajectory of cocaine levels in the brain.

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Animation: Building an Anti-Drug Vaccine

December 2012

The immune system has an extraordinary ability to recognize compounds foreign to the body and eliminate them. NIDA-sponsored scientists are working to harness this ability to create vaccines that will protect individuals against the psychogenic and addictive effects of abused drugs. This animation shows one of the most promising strategies, which has already yielded partial success in producing effective vaccines against nicotine, cocaine, and other drugs.

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Animal Research Advances Effort to Develop Vaccines Against Cocaine, Heroin Abuse

September 2012

New vaccines that aim to promote recovery from cocaine and heroin abuse showed promise in animal testing. Both vaccines induced rats’ immune system to produce high titers of antibodies that inhibit the target drug from reaching the brain. The rats’ behaviors when given access to the target drug indicated that the vaccines reduced the reinforcing effects that, in recovering people, can cause lapses to turn into relapses.

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