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Cocaine and cannabis use can trigger addictive behaviors

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It may not be surprising, but new research reveals that regular cannabis and cocaine users have increased levels of impulsive behavior.

Previously, it was thought that only occasional users showed more problems with impulse control - a phenomenon that didn't seem to affect regular users. The new study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, sheds light on how drug use can trigger addictive behavior.

Details of the study

The research, which was conducted in the Netherlands, involved 61 healthy regular cannabis and cocaine users who took both drugs and a placebo in controlled conditions. Afterwards, the participants took part in tests that challenged their impulse control and reactions. They were also tested on critical thinking skills, attention challenges and aspects of function and planning.

Results showed that both cannabis and cocaine use tended to increase impulsive behavior and responses, but in opposite ways. Cannabis users were slower, but made more errors in the tests. Cocaine users, on the other hand, reacted more quickly, but if they were made to control their impulses, they made more mistakes.

Implications

A hallmark of drug addiction is a faulty relationship between the frontal cortex, where decision-making happens, and the limbic system, which governs emotions and memory. The study results, researchers said, could therefore indicate that drugs like cannabis could decrease how much control the frontal cortex has over behavior, and cocaine could increase impulsive responses in the limbic system.

"Both of these options would cause the decrease in impulse control we see in our study," said lead researcher Janelle van Wel, from Maastricht University.

Source: Wiley