CAROL & MIKE WERNER / VISUALS UNLIMITED, INC. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CAROL & MIKE WERNER / VISUALS UNLIMITED, INC. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Biomedical illustration of the effect of cocaine on the nervous system. Cocaine (blue) is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine (green), a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and movement. Normally, dopamine is released by a neuron in response to a pleasurable signal and then recycled back into the cell that released it, thus shutting off communication between neurons. Cocaine acts by preventing the dopamine from being recycled, causing excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter to build up, amplifying the message to and response of the receiving neuron, and ultimately disrupting normal communication. This excess of dopamine is responsible for cocaine's euphoric effects. With repeated use, cocaine can cause.
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