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Cocaine: The Invisible Addiction

February 6, 2012

  • Employers confuse addiction with burnout, stress and anxiety problems.
  • Early detection of drugs abuse can save companies money.
  • Cocaine affects areas of the brain that control important cognitive functions such as memory, concentration and decision-making

 

Employers are not aware of the dangers of excessive cocaine use by their workers. By denying the problem and sticking their head in the ground the business world will face considerable damage.

Castle Craig, one of Europe's leading drug treatment centres, is calling on employers to take this problem seriously and to start addressing the root of these problems.

Cocaine and Brain Performance

In recent years there have been considerable advances in our understanding about the effects that long-term drug use can have on the human brain. It has become increasingly clear that drugs such as cocaine affect areas of the brain that control important cognitive functions such as memory, concentration and decision-making. People who regularly use cocaine have been found to perform worse in concentration tests compared to non-users. Excessive use of cocaine can lead to dysfunctional judgment, risky decision-making and reckless gambling with company assets. Employers do not pay much attention to these problems and confuse addiction with burnout, stress and anxiety problems.

Cocaine Drug Abuse at Work

"Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug and this addiction harms not only the employees but also the company management. We are talking about millions of Euros lost in, for example, financial institutions”, said Dr. Etienne Olivier, Medical Director of Castle Craig Netherlands. “It can be difficult to recognise a cocaine addiction. Side-effects, including fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and depression are not always recognised as a cocaine problem”.

By giving training and consultancy to companies and by offering treatment to their employees, Castle Craig supports the business world. Early detection can save companies money and after good treatment the employee is able to function fully again.

Scientific Research

The study by Goldstein et al., used FDG-PET technology assesses how active the brain is. The researchers found decreased concentration in cocaine users associated with lower activity in the area known to be involved in attention and concentration. The memories of cocaine users were significantly worse than those who didn’t use the drug. Another important function of the brain that is affected by cocaine is decision-making abilities. A crucial component of decision-making is the ability to inhibit incorrect responses.

A study by Kaufman et al., using fMRI, which measures brain activity by looking at the amount of oxygen used, found decreased activity in the anterior cingulate region of cocaine users who also performed significantly worse than non-users in the decision-making task.

Not Hopeless

The message for chronic cocaine users is not one of despair however, as with the correct approach it appears possible to reverse the damaging effects that cocaine has on the brain. Evidence points to the importance of abstinence in recovering brain function after cocaine use. Result studies from Castle Craig show that after a year almost 60% of the patients stays completely abstinent.

The benefits of exercise on brain function have been described at length and there is now a large amount of evidence showing that physical exercise increases cognitive abilities (Heyn, Abreau, & Ottenbacher, 2004). There has been an exciting advance in understanding of the brain with the discovery that the brain can essentially repair itself in a process called neurogenesis.

Addiction Treatment Programmes

While there may never be a quick simple solution to reverse the damaging effects of cocaine use on brain function, there is great potential for treatment programmes. Sustained abstinence, time, psycho education, treatment and exercise programmes are therefore key elements of a successful treatment programme as offered by Castle Craig. “Don’t expect a ‘quick fix”, said Frances Beek, Director of Castle Craig Nederland. “It takes time to recover from an addiction, to let the brain recover and to function well again”.

 Article translated from Dutch, first published by NRC Het Brein, 12 January 2012

Related Pages: Castle Craig Personalised Cocaine Detox

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