Cocaine’s Effect on Serotonin

Many people know that cocaine addiction stems from the way the drug affects dopamine, the neurotransmitter linked to pleasure. However, this drug affects not only cocaine, but also serotonin in powerful ways. Seek help to quit using this drug so you can get and stay clean.

What Is Serotonin and Why Does It Matter?

Serotonin strongly contributes to cocaine withdrawal and addictive urges. It is created in the central nervous system, where it serves multiple purposes, including the regulation of mood and appetite. It strongly influences sexual behavior and affective states, such as depression. Serotonin’s influence on depression is significant enough that certain antidepressants, including Prozac and Zoloft, work solely by adjusting this neurotransmitter. Unfortunately, cocaine affects serotonin in the same way it affects dopamine: serotonin levels skyrocket while someone uses cocaine, but once she stops using the drug her neurotransmitter levels plummet, which leads to unpleasant effects.

What Happens to Serotonin When Someone Is High on Cocaine?

Loren Parsons, a professor of neuropharmacology at The Scripps Research Institute, has extensively researched how drug abuse affects serotonin levels. He asserts that fluctuating serotonin levels are directly related to the affective disorders that frequently occur during withdrawal. Furthermore, he claims that serotonin influences the impulses to continue drug abuse.

Increased serotonin levels contribute to cocaine-induced euphoria by intensifying the way the drug interacts with both dopamine and the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid. However, during acute cocaine withdrawal, serotonin levels may drop to less than half of what is considered normal. The resulting feelings seem to be more severe for users who have abused cocaine for longer periods of time.

Cocaine Abuse and the Serotonin-1B Receptors

The role of serotonin in cocaine abuse and withdrawal is complex and deeply related to the activity of the serotonin receptors. Cocaine increases serotonin levels while activating serotonin-1B receptors, which profoundly affects users. Parson’s research discovered that, during heavy cocaine use, serotonin-1B receptors cannot absorb all the serotonin available, but during withdrawal these receptors cause anxiety because they soak up all the serotonin they can find. During withdrawal, a user’s depleted serotonin supply causes the serotonin-1B receptors to suffer from little to no stimulation. Parsons reports that the activity of these receptors has “been implicated in the etiology of depression, anxiety and impulsivity, and there’s growing evidence that they could play a role in drug craving.”

Find Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction, we can help you begin the journey to healing and recovery. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to learn more about your options for high quality addiction treatment. Our admissions coordinators are available right now to take your call and to connect you to treatment, so do not hesitate to call now.

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