AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Why do only some COCAINE users become addicted?

The obvious precursor to cocaine addiction is cocaine use. However, some people are able to use cocaine on and off with out becoming addicted while others become afflicted by addiction very quickly. There has always been the theory that your personality can make you more prone to addictions and other “weak” decisions but recent studies go a step beyond that and link addiction to the structure of an individual’s brain.

The frontal lobe of the brain is associated with self-control. The size of the frontal lobe appears to indicate how susceptible an individual would be to cocaine addictions. A study done by scientists at the University of Cambridge compared the brains of casual cocaine users versus cocaine addicts. What they found was a noticeable difference in size of the frontal lobe: users had a larger frontal lobe while addicts had a smaller frontal lobe.

The scientists believe that the size difference was preexistent and  not a result of drug use because both groups were cocaine users. The main difference was that the mere users “could take it or leave it” due to their more powerful self control.

The brain is a popular subject when it comes to addictions due to the harm addictions can cause and due to the hope of a better understanding of addictions so that they can be “cured”. There are newly defined addictions more and more frequently, as addictions to food, caffeine, internet, and shopping become more and more prevalent.

Another example of increased susceptibility to addiction is the genetic or hereditary quality of alcoholism. “Though the exact mechanisms haven’t been identified, experts in alcoholism widely agree that some people are genetically vulnerable to developing the disorder.” Also, experts suggest that many people addicted opiates may have “deficiencies in their brain reward systems.”

Further studies exploring the links to the brain and addictions would be instrumental in curing the countless addictions that interfere with people’s quality of life.


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  1. jk1234

    Great post bg95! Cocaine addiction is certainly a scary thing and the frontal lobe plays a significant part in differentiating good and bad decisions and also retains long term memories relating to emotions inputted by the limbic system.

  2. evolucious

    Why do people “snort” cocaine? Turns out that absorption through nasal tissues is almost as quick as injecting it. Cocaine then enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it interferes with neurotransmitters. The resulting chemical buildup between nerves is what causes the “high.” Learn more about cocaine at:

  3. explodingllama342

    Harvard is also tackling the issue of drug addictions.

    Apparently, addictions may use the same chemical pathways as the learning and memory-making processes.

    The more we know about how it works, the better treatments will be available.

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