Home Interesting Facts Doctors share the harrowing effects of cocaine on the brain

Doctors share the harrowing effects of cocaine on the brain

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Images were recently released that show the effects of cocaine on the human brain and the damage that the Class A substance can do in just a short amount of time.

The brain scans reveal how cocaine can “eat away,” at the brain – sometimes leaving the user with disabilities and in extreme cases, dead.

Image via BMJ

The patient was suffering from a rare but severe side-effect of cocaine use called cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy.

The 45-year-old cocaine user was brought into the hospital in Mata by his parents because he was confused and acting oddly.

He has made a full recovery but doctors wanted to share the scans from this case to raise awareness.

Dr. Ylenia Abdilla who treated the man at the hospital in Msida shared:

“It’s a rare disorder which can cause significant disability.”

Image via pixabay

“This case study is intended to increase awareness of this condition. The prognosis is generally poor and can be rapidly fatal, however some rare cases recover fully, as is seen in this case report.”



Dr. Abdilla and her colleagues at the Mater Dei hospital treated the man after he was brought to them by concerned parents, two or three days after the last time he had taken cocaine.

They then decided to bring him in after he had been confused for an entire two days. The doctors then found that his pupils were”briskly reactive to light” and how he was “not cooperative, unable to perform simple tasks and was not following commands.”

Image via pxhere

That is when they sent him for MRI scans.

The white matter in his brain was discovered to have been damaged which led to their diagnosis.

Dr. Abdilla continued, saying:

“It may present in several different ways. These include an altered level of consciousness, confusion, impaired language, altered vision, fever or spasticity. Prognosis is poor – the condition progresses rapidly and often leads to death. Rarely it has been reported to result in complete recovery, as in our case.”

Image via Public Domain Pictures

And a few months later after extensive treatment including steroids, antibodies and a plasma exchange — he was sent to a rehab facility where he displayed signs of improvement.

His recovery four months later was so successful that he was then allowed home. In the following year, he stayed clear of drugs and his yearly follow-up revealed that while there were still “persistent white matter changes” in his brain, neurological tests were normal.

“Apart from some complaints of low mood, he was fully independent and had returned to his previous functional status,” Dr. Abdilla’s team said.

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