Scans reveal how cocaine ‘eats away’ at your brain in a matter of months

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THESE brain scans show the frightening reality of taking too much cocaine.

The images show how the class A drug can “eat away” at your brain, leaving you with disabilities – and at worst, dead.

The MRI scans of a regular cocaine user reveal the damage the drug can cause over time. The unnamed patient was diagnosed with a rare condition called cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy after regularly abusing the Class A
© BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2019

Rare but deadly side-effect

It’s a rare but severe side-effect of taking the drug, doctors have warned.

They treated the man after he was taken to hospital by his parents in Msida, Malta.

The 45-year-old was confused and was behaving bizarrely, before medics realised he was suffering cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy.

Dr Ylenia Abdilla, who treated the unnamed man, explained: “It’s a rare disorder which can cause significant disability.”

Sharing the medical case report, she added: “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.”

Brit coke use doubles

The case comes weeks after The Sun launched the End Of The Line campaign to highlight the devastating effects of cocaine on the nation’s health.

Coke use has doubled in the UK over the past five years, with around one million Brits admitting to taking the drug in the last year.

Of particular concern, is that more young people are trying the Class A – with 20 per cent of 16-24-year-olds having tried it in the last 12 months.

Man rushed to A&E confused

Dr Abdilla and colleagues at the Mater Dei Hospital in Malta, treated the man two to three days after he had last taken cocaine.

The 45-year-old regular coke user was rushed into A&E by his parents after two days of being confused.

Doctors noted his pupils were dilated and “briskly reactive to light”, and that the patient was “not cooperative, unable to perform simple tasks an was not following commands”.

Dr Abdilla’s team sent their patient for MRI scans on his brain.

They revealed damage to the white matter in the brain, and doctors diagnosed him with the rare condition cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy.

Often fatal

Dr Abdilla said: “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.”

Doctors treated the man, giving him steroids, a plasma exchange and antibodies.

He was transferred to a rehab facility, where he showed signs of improving.

End Of The Line

COCAINE use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.

Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.

A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.

That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.

Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.

People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.

It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.


After four months, he was walking independently, and coping with most aspects of daily life.

The patient was treated for anxiety and managed to stay off drugs – meaning he was allowed home a month later.

One year after he was admitted to hospital, the man returned for a follow up.

He had not used drugs for a year, and while his brain scan still showed “persistent white matter changes”, neurological tests were normal.

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


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