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Why Cocaine Makes People Act Like Total Jerks

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Cocaine flowed more freely than champagne at nightclubs in the 70s, and even though the war on drugs fought hard against that "devil weed" marijuana they turned a blind eye to cocaine because it's considered a "rich man's drug".

But I'll take the company of a stoner over a cokehead any time, because potheads are mellow and chill and cokeheads are hyperactive chatterboxes who act like total douchebags.

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So what is it about a cocaine high that transforms people into a-holes? To find out VICE spoke with David Belin from Cambridge University's Department of Pharmacology, who explained:

"Drugs target three psychological mechanisms in your brain," he said. With cocaine, you're effectively buzzing off the chemical dopamine flooding your brain every time you take a bump. "Dopamine is not pleasure itself, but a mechanism in the brain that allows for learning," David explained.

"It targets your brain so that dopamine is released all the time that you take it, and it feels great," says David. "You start building a very strong motivation for the drugs."

"Cocaine influences your pre-frontal cortex [the part of your brain that regulates behaviours and, essentially, your ability to make sound judgements]. It actually messes up your executive functions, your inhibitory control and your decision making. So now you've got this very strong motivation [from the dopamine] and, because of the effects of the drug, you end up with an inability to inhibit your impulses and make good decisions."

"Third: drugs facilitate habits, so at this point your impulses are full of motivation for the drug, and they reach your habit system and you just do it without thinking about it, necessarily," said David, referring to how moreish cocaine can be. "Also, with cocaine, there's no real physical withdrawal, but there's a strong psychological withdrawal. You feel anxious, you feel bad, so that adds to the motivation to continue taking the drug."

Read more from Why Cocaine Turns People Into Dickheads, a Simple Explanation at VICE (NSFW-ish)

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