Anyone who watched TV in the 1980s know what a brain on drugs looks like.
According to recent research out of Johns Hopkins, the reality of a drug-addicted brain might be even uglier than that. The researchers found that high doses of cocaine caused brain cells to cannibalize themselves through a process known as autophagy — in other words, yes, cocaine eats holes in your brain.
“A cell is like a household that is constantly generating trash,” the study’s lead author, Prasun Guha, said. “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.”
The study also found a possible treatment to prevent that kind of cell death — but the simpler solution is to just not do high doses of cocaine.