La cocaina è una sostanza naturale di origine vegetale, viene ricavata da un arbusto attraverso la macerazione delle sue foglie. Una volta veniva sfruttata dalle popolazioni andine che ne masticavano le foglie per riuscire a sopportare la fame, il freddo e la fatica dovute alle dure condizioni di vita a così grandi altitudini.

La sostanza iniziò a diffondersi negli U.S.A ed in Europa all’inizio dell’Ottocento, dapprima come farmaco anestetico, in seguito come ingrediente per cocktails energizzanti o antidepressivi ed infine, com’è tristemente noto, anche a scopo ricreazionale.

Dal punto di vista farmacologico la cocaina agisce come un blando anestetico se sfruttata a livello periferico. Radicalmente diverso è tuttavia l’effetto a livello del sistema nervoso centrale. I neuroni, principali cellule del cervello, comunicano tra loro utilizzando particolari sostanze chimiche, i neurotrasmettitori. Ad ogni stimolo si ha il rilascio di un neurotrasmettitore che comporta una risposta specifica. Uno dei principali neurotrasmettitori coinvolti nei fenomeni di dipendenza è la dopamina. Questa viene rilasciata dai neuroni per dare risposta a segnali naturali di piacere, come potreScreenshot 2014-12-07 15.08.08bbero essere il richiamo del cibo o il sesso. Dopo aver svolto la sua funzione, la dopamina viene ricatturata dal neurone che l’ha rilasciata.

Il meccanismo di azione della cocaina sembra essere dovuto principalmente ad una inibizione della “ricattura” della dopamina. Il risultato è un accumulo del neurotrasmettitore nello spazio compreso tra i due neuroni; in tal modo è ancora nelle condizioni di stimolare il cervello, prolungando la sensazione di piacere tanto ricercata dagli utilizzatori.

Gli effetti a breve termine della cocaina si riscontrano principalmente sul sistema nervoso centrale:  euforia, aumento della vigilanza mentale, diminuzione del bisogno di nutrirsi e di dormire ed una generale percezione di aumento dell’energia e sul sistema nervoso autonomo: vasocostrizione, tachicardia, aumento della pressione sanguigna, dilatazione delle pupille.

La durata e l’intensità dipendono dalla quantità di sostanza e dalla modalità di somministrazione: la cocaina fumata o iniettata produce un effetto immediato che dura tra i 5 e i 10 minuti mentre la cocaina sniffata agisce più lentamente ma con una durata superiore, circa 15-30 minuti.

La cocaina crea una fortissima dipendenza, non solo psicologica ma anche fisica. Dopo gli effetti eccitatori, il consumatore si sente spossato, stanco e completamente senza energie. Questo porta ad una sfrenata ricerca di altra sostanza per poter stare di nuovo bene, per rivivere il benessere. Com’è facilmente intuibile, l’abuso nel tempo porta ad una sempre più alterata coscienza di se stessi e dei rapporti con gli altri, con profonde modificazioni della personalità in senso paranoide: prevale il sospetto, l’irritabilità,  la sensazione di trovarsi in un ambiente ostile e talvolta addirittura il delirio paranoide.

0001E’ stato inoltre dimostrato come anche a livello fisico la cocaina distrugga selettivamente alcune aree del cervello (fascicolo retroflesso) e causi una profonda e diffusa perdita di attività dei neuroni, evidente soprattutto a livello dei lobi frontali. A tal proposito vediamo nell’immagine conclusiva gli effetti della cocaina sul cervello, a distanza di 10 e 100 giorni dallo stop dell’assunzione: notate come, ad oltre tre mesi dallo stop, il cervello soffra ancora di un deficit nella sua attività.

Che dite, ne sarà valsa la pena?

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