“An MRI study in 2002 looked at the white matter in the brain of dozens of cocaine addicts from youth to middle age, in comparison with the white matter of nonusers. The brain’s grey matter contains the cell bodies of nerve cells; their connecting fibres, covered by fatty white tissue, form the white matter. As we age, we develop more active connections and therefore more white matter. In the brains of cocaine addicts, the age-related expansion of white matter is absent. Functionally, this means a loss of learning capacity – a diminished ability to make new choices, acquire new information and adapt to new circumstances. It gets worse. Other studies have shown that grey matter density, too, is reduced in the cerebral cortex of cocaine addicts – that is, they have smaller or fewer nerve cells than normal. A diminished volume of grey matter has also been shown in heroine addicts and alcoholics, and this education in brain size is correlated with the years of use: the longer the person has been addicted, the greater the loss of volume. In the part of the cerebral cortex responsible for regulating emotional impulses and for making rational decisions, these brain centres have also exhibited diminished energy utilization in chronic substance users, indicating that the nerve cells and circuits in those locations are doing less work.

…a recent primate study showed for the first time that the monkeys who developed a higher rate of cocaine self-administration – the ones who become hardcore users – had a lower number of these receptors to begin with, before ever having been exposed to the chemical. This illuminating finding suggests that among rhesus monkeys, who are considered to be excellent models of human addiction, some are much more prone to extremes of drug dependence than others.”

Wow did I ever find this interesting…

In the above, quoted from Dr. Gabor Maté, we see that cocaine abuse causes a decrease in the white matter of the brain, affecting learning and choices. It also affects the grey matter, decreasing impulse control and making rational choices. Dr. Maté also notes that not only does cocaine decrease brain size and function, addicts have a decreased ability in these areas even before they are introduced to the substance. 

In human life, there is an absolute explosion of growth and development of the human brain in the first months and years of life. Any stressors, be they social, physical, psychological, mental etc., in the life of a child during this time will have a significant impact on the health of the brain. Since 97% of addicts and those who suffer from mental disorders also suffer from complex trauma, we also often see the difficulties they have with making rational decisions, poor impulse control, problem solving, and social/ language skills. I aim to teach ways to deal with these defects instead of using addictive behaviours to “cope”.

If you think you’ve been negatively affected by complex trauma, reach out! We help develop new thought pathways in the brain that will allow hurting people to correct defects caused by complex trauma. This whole process takes time. We offer all sorts of programs and offer resources to help those who struggle on their healing journey.

With Love,

Tim Fletcher