How Much Use of Cocaine Does It Take to Lower Your Dopamine Levels, and How Long Until They Return Back?

Question by Ray Smith: How much use of cocaine does it take to lower your dopamine levels, and how long until they return back?
How much use of cocaine will lower your dopamine levels (approximately), and once they are lowered how long approximately will it take for them to return to normal levels?

I understand a once every few months use doesn’t do anything, so how much use would have negative affects, say maybe once a week, or would even less use than that affect the dopamine levels?

Best answer:

Answer by JG
Although the psychological and behavioral effects of cocaine use in humans have been well documented, the current knowledge of the neurological basis for the abuse of cocaine in humans is still limited. The majority of knowledge we possess about the mechanisms of the effects of cocaine comes from animal studies performed over the last 20 years.

I think you should understand exactly how cocaine affects the brain. Cocaine is an indirect dopamine agonist. Once in the brain, it works in large part by occupying, or blocking, dopamine transporter sites in the terminal buttons of neurons in the brain. This prevents the reuptake of dopamine by the neurons that release it, allowing higher concentrations of dopamine to remain in the synapse for an extended period of time. This abnormally long presence, and high concentration, of dopamine in the synapse is believed to cause the high (among other effects) associated with cocaine use.

*Immediately* your body will begin to adapt for the excess dopamine in the synapse by causing a large decrease in post-synaptic dopamine receptors, rendering dopamine less effective. Also by causing a decrease in the concentration of tyrosine hydroxylase (enzyme responsible for the synthesis of dopamine), decreasing the availability of dopamine. Without dopamine transporters, cocaine will have no effect.

When cocaine pathologically alters the dopamine pathway, chemical addiction and tolerance are the result. It is difficult to estimate exactly what amount of cocaine will cause what level of neurological effects. To simply put it, the higher your tolerance becomes, the lower your functional dopamine levels become. You can create your own scale based on this information. Depending on frequency of use, recovery can last days, weeks, or months.

You also need to understand that there is no such thing as a “safe” dose of cocaine, and a person can overdose even if they have only ingested a relatively small amount of the drug. Using “once every few months” still has physical health risks.

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