A new study has found that cocaine could be even more addictive than previously thought. In fact, using the drug one time could pave the way for addictive behaviours. In this post, we consider what this means for recreational cocaine users.

Can Cocaine Addiction Develop after 1 Use?


  • To see this demonstrated in someone who has only used once is alarming, and it suggests that addiction could take hold much earlier than previously thought.
  • New study suggests cocaine addiction could start after 1st use.

Researchers working in Canada at McGill University recently made a discovery regarding cocaine use. They found that using it even once laid the groundwork for what they referred to as ‘brain triggers’, which make the user more vulnerable to full-blown addiction.

Specifically, the researchers found that using cocaine a single time could set a person up to have a triggered addiction response by simply watching another person use cocaine. These findings are in line with what many addiction treatment specialists already know based on interactions with their clients. The onset of addiction can be rapid, and addictive behaviour can emerge alarmingly quickly – especially with extreme habit-forming substances like cocaine.

All of this hinges on the role that neurotransmitters (and dopamine in particular) play in the brain. Dopamine serves to help the brain reinforce survival-related behaviours – those that involve critical behaviours such as seeking nourishment, reproducing and forming social bonds. But dopamine also becomes entangled in the cycle of addiction, effectively encouraging addicts to seek out and repeat destructive behaviours like substance abuse or compulsive gambling.

The understanding that dopamine plays a role in addiction is nothing new. However, this new study suggests that this behaviour can manifest much earlier than previously thought. If an addictive dopamine response can be triggered after a single use, then people with an acute susceptibility to addiction are at even greater risk of developing a dependency than previously assumed.

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Cocaine Cravings May Take Hold Much Sooner than Previously Thought

Professor Marco Leyton – a lead author of the study – noted that the study demonstrates that brain signals associated addiction are present much earlier than previously believed. “An accumulation of these brain triggers might bring people closer to the edge than they had realised,” he said.

Leyton and his associates determined this by exposing test subjects to cues that were decidedly specific to cocaine use. While subjects were exposed to these cues, their brains were being monitored with an advanced positron-emission tomography scanner.

What they found was that merely being exposed to cocaine-related stimuli led to dopamine release in the dorsal striatum region of the brain. In other words, their brains are primed and ready to enjoy the dopamine lift of using cocaine even before they have used.

This sort of brain behaviour is expected from drug abusers and addicts, who show clear signs of anticipating and enjoying the ritual of substance use as much as (if not more than) the use itself. But to see this demonstrated in someone who has only used once is alarming, and it suggests that addiction could take hold much earlier than previously thought.

Is Your Recreational Cocaine Use Pushing the Boundaries of Addiction?

This alarming new study suggests that a person who has used cocaine recreationally with what appears to be some level of restraint could be at a higher risk of full-blown addiction than expected. That makes it all the more important to tell the difference between recreational use and addiction.

There are no firm lines separating addictive use from recreational use. Every brain has its own unique means of coping and adapting. But given this new research, it’s more important than ever that those who occasionally use cocaine to be extremely vigilant with their state of mind.

Common Signs of Recreational Cocaine Use

Recreational cocaine users generally fit the following profile:

  • Being in a room with users does not mean you are bound to use cocaine yourself.
  • You have no problem saying no to cocaine – even when it’s directly offered to you.
  • A desire to use cocaine would never overrule the need to pay rent, settle expenses or otherwise take care of everyday necessities.
  • Extended periods of non-use are neither problematic nor anxiety inducing.
  • You have plenty of friends, family members and acquaintances who are not cocaine users.

Warning Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Opposite this, addictive cocaine use tends to feature the following attributes:

  • Your personal relationships are suffering because of your cocaine use.
  • You can’t properly enjoy yourself when you aren’t high on cocaine.
  • You use cocaine to boost your own confidence – be it at work, in social situations or with romantic partners.
  • You rely on a cocaine boost to cultivate a sense of libido.
  • You’re unable to refuse cocaine when offered to you.
  • You’re perpetually obsessing or fantasising about your next opportunity to use.
  • You’ve seen the physical damage cocaine is doing to your body (nosebleeds, bowel problems, weight loss, etc.), but you continue to use.

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Don’t Wait for the Warning Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Anyone who toys with what they consider to be ‘recreational’ cocaine use is wise to re-evaluate their use patterns. The threat of full-blown addiction always lurks. But this study suggests that addictive responses can develop much more rapidly than previously thought.

This study shows us that even casual cocaine users are at an acute risk of becoming addicted – and quitting coke is hard. If you have even an intermittent history of cocaine use, it’s best to walk away now. The Cabin Sydney can help you determine whether you’ve fallen victim to addictive thinking. And if you have, we can help you get clean. Contact us today for a confidential, no-obligation consultation.

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