By Jordyn Taylor for Mic. What happens to your brain cells when you’re high on coke? Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explored the effects of cocaine on the brains of mice, and the findings were disturbing. Their study, set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found new evidence that cocaine makes brain cells in mice commit suicide by, more or less, eating themselves.
Autophagy is the natural process by which our cells clean out — or digest — unwanted debris stored inside bag-like structures called vacuoles. Normally, it’s good for our cells. But when the mouse brains were exposed to cocaine, the process accelerated and began spinning out of control — ultimately resulting in cell death.
Even scarier: The researchers also detected this out-of-control autophagy in the brain cells of mice whose mothers were exposed to cocaine during pregnancy.