Cocaine remains one of the most addictive substances of abuse and one of the most difficult to treat. Although increasingly sophisticated experimental and technologic advancements in the last several decades have yielded a large body of clinical and preclinical knowledge on the direct effects of cocaine on the brain, we still have a relatively incomplete understanding of the neurobiological processes that occur when drug use is discontinued. The goal of this manuscript is to review both clinical and preclinical data related to abstinence from cocaine and discuss the complementary conclusions that emerge from these different levels of inquiry. This commentary will address observed alterations in neural function, neural structure, and neurotransmitter system regulation that are present in both animal models of cocaine abstinence and data from recovering clinical populations. Although these different levels of inquiry are often challenging to integrate, emerging data discussed in this commentary suggest that from a structural and functional perspective, the preservation of cortical function that is perhaps the most important biomarker associated with extended abstinence from cocaine.
Keywords: Abstinence; Addiction; Cocaine; Glutamate; Neuroimaging; White matter.
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