CAROL AND MIKE WERNER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CAROL AND MIKE WERNER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Effect of cocaine (red spheres) on the behaviour of neurotransmitters (yellow spheres) in a synapse between two neurons. In response to an electrical signal, vesicles containing neurotransmitters fuse with the cell wall allowing the neurotransmitters to enter the synapse. They attach themselves to receptors (green), relaying the message. Normally, extra neurotransmitters migrate back to the transmitting cell via reuptake transporters (blue). Cocaine, however, is a serotonin/norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor. It acts by blocking the reuptake channel, causing the synapse to become flooded with neurotransmitters which overstimulates the nervous system. Depletion of neurotransmitters in the neurons can cause a 'crash'.
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