We all know that cocaine isn't good for you, but while there's plenty of evidence that the drug affects heart function and screws up the brain's natural reward system, here's another reason to avoid it: scientists have found that it, quite literally, rots your brain.
A study carried out at the University of Cambridge, and published in Molecular Psychiatry, looked at changes in grey matter content in the brains of cocaine users and compared them to a control group. According to brain scans, cocaine users see a reduction in brain volume of 3.08mL a year — that's twice that of non-users.
Not just that, but the loss is concentrated in the prefrontal and temporal cortex areas of the brain — which deal with attention, decision-making, self-regulation and memory. Nasty. Dr Karen Ersche, one of the researchers from the University of Cambridge, explains:
"As we age, we all lose grey matter. However, what we have seen is that chronic cocaine users lose grey matter at a significantly faster rate, which could be a sign of premature ageing. Our findings therefore provide new insight into why the cognitive deficits typically seen in old age have frequently been observed in middle aged chronic users of cocaine."
Taken together with existing evidence that cocaine users put themselves at increased risk of heart attack and can blow out their dopamine reception mechanisms, it's compelling evidence to keep off the white powder. [Molecular Psychiatry via Motherbaord]