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High doses of cocaine can cause the brain to ‘eat itself’

According to new research, the drug can trigger ‘autophagy’ – a process that makes your cells actually digest themselves

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Shocking new research has found that high doses of cocaine can cause your brain to “eat itself”.

Experts from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that the drug can trigger an out-of-control reaction called “autophagy” – a process that makes your cells digest themselves.

“A cell is like a household that is constantly generating trash,” revealed Dr Prasun Guha, the lead researcher of the project. “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, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, was conducted on mice – with scientists pulling the results from post-mortems. They also found that authophagy-induced cell death could be passed on to children through pregnancy.

Given that cocaine is the second most widely used illegal drug in the UK behind cannabis, this isn’t exactly great news for the nation. It also comes just months after another study revealed that a single dose of the drug can make empathy levels in users plummet.

However, co-author Dr Maged Harraz insists that there are experimental remedies being worked on that may help reduce all that creepy self-cannibalising. According to the research, an experimental drug called CGP3466B was able to protect cells from cocaine death due to autophagy.

“Cocaine works exclusively to modulate autophagy versus other cell death programs,” he added. “(So) there's a better chance that we can develop new targeted therapeutics to suppress its toxicity.”