Cocaine addiction is one of the leading drug problems across the United States at present. According to statistics, there has been an average of 5,000 deaths a year from cocaine overdose in the States over the past fourteen years. More alarmingly, there has been almost a 100% increase in cocaine usage from 2014 to 2015 amongst youths ages 12 to 17. There have been significant efforts into halting cocaine abuse because of the drug's addictive and harmful effects. Recently, scientists discovered one more reason people should avoid getting involved with cocaine usage.
According to a recently published scientific paper authored by doctors from the John Hopkins Univeristy, cocaine usage has severe effects on the brain. High doses of the drug can cause the brain to kill themselves through a process called "overactive autophagy."
"A cell is like a household that is constantly generating trash. Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash - it's usually a good thing. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell" explained Dr. Prasun Guha, co-author of the study.
The research was conducted on mice. Subsequently, the scientists have further observed that the offspring of the test subjects develop the same "overactive autophagy" after their mothers were exposed to the drug.
Thankfully, the recent study also delved on a possible solution to the brain on cocaine killing itself. The scientists used an experimental drug called CGP3466B on the mice who served as test subjects. They found out that the drug was able to protect the nerve cells from autophagy.
More research is needed to prove that cocaine causes autophagy. Likewise, more tests are needed to make sure that CGP466B is safe to treat autophagy caused by cocaine. The authors of the study however are confident that a cure might soon be within reach.