Get help today 888-744-0069 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

From Snort to Synapse: We Map Out Cocaine’s Trip in Your Brain

The powder is perfectly lined on the table. With no straw handy, you roll up a Washington and seconds later, the snow is gone. Inhaled into your nostril, this stimulant drug has started a trip that will change your brain… forever.

What does this trip look like? Let’s join the coke as it makes its way through your system.

The Cocaine Trip

Working its way around the mucus, cocaine finds its way to the blood vessels in your nose. And that’s the access point—through these vessels and into the bloodstream it goes. Now it takes a ride. Flowing into the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body and quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to enter your brain.

Now we’ve come to the point when your body reacts to cocaine use. But before we get to the euphoria, let’s take a look at what happens when the coke crosses that BBB line. Rest assured, this is not a casualty-free journey.

Crossing the BBB Turnpike

Your BBB is a barrier that separates circulating blood from your brain fluid and the entire central nervous system. It’s a dynamic surface that responds to various signals. Its job is basically to let good stuff in and keep bad stuff out. So how does it respond to cocaine use?

Creating a Traffic Jam

What’s next? Once the cocaine enters your brain, it causes neurotransmitter traffic to back up—specifically the neurotransmitter dopamine (your brain’s natural happy drug) is stimulated.

Normally, this chemical is released when you sense something rewarding, like a mouthwatering smell or a really awesome prize. Normally, dopamine returns to its origin shortly after being released, but there’s nothing normal about a coke trip. The stimulant drug prevents dopamine from recycling, causing a jam-up of excessive amounts in your cells.

This build-up of natural happy chemicals causes the euphoric high you feel after snorting coke. It also interrupts your general brain communications in the process. As a result, your body feels the effects from head to toe. Some of these effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • A boost of energy
  • Body temperature goes up
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Heart beats faster
  • A wave of exhilaration
  • Nausea
  • Muscle twitches and tremors
  • A feeling restlessness
  • A loss of appetite
  • Hallucinations and/or paranoia

Changing You Forever in a Moment

Researchers have intently studied this coke trip under the microscope; they tell us a single dose of cocaine changes your brain’s reward center. And that’s partly why it’s so easy to get hooked.

In the end, the high you feel from snorting a line of cocaine only lasts around 15 to 30 minutes, yet your brain is altered forever. Is it really worth it?

How to Find Help for Cocaine Misuse

If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional cocaine addiction treatment programs can help those battling cocaine use disorders live healthier and happier lives. To learn more about rehab options, please contact a caring admissions navigator with American Addiction Centers (AAC) free at . You can also check your health insurance coverage using the form below or contact free substance abuse hotline numbers.

Levels of Care in Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Recommended Cocaine Rehab-Related Articles

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.