Images of Brain Scan Showing the Effects of Cocaine Released by Doctors, and This Is Scary

Newly released images show a startling effect cocaine use can have on the human brain over time, painting a fresh picture of the the drug's deadly side effects. The photos reveal brain scans where the tissue is eroded from the inside, leaving a visible hole in the vital organ.

The new brain scan images come from doctors at the Mater Dei hospital in Msida, Malta in the Mediterranean sea. There, Dr. Ylenia Abdilla treated a 45-year-old man who was a regular cocaine user. The patient — whose identity was kept anonymous in a report by Lad Bible — was brought to the hospital by his parents when he began acting confused.

Abdilla soon determined that the man was suffering from toxic leucoencephalopathy, a rare but potentially deadly side effect of prolonged cocaine use. If left unchecked, the disorder can also lead to permanent disability, yet little is widely known about it.

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

She and her colleagues released their patient's brain scans to help spread the word about toxic leucoencephalopathy. They included a case study which, thankfully, resulted in the patient's full recovery.

The man's parents brought him into the hospital after two days of confusion and strange behavior. They believed it had been about two or three days since he had last used cocaine. Doctors noted that his pupils were "briskly reactive to light," and that he was "not cooperative, unable to perform simple tasks and was not following commands."

They determined the cause of his symptoms with MRI scans, which showed damage in the white matter of his brain. Abdilla noted that, at this stage, completely recovery like the one displayed here is very rare.

"It may present in several different ways. These include an altered level of consciousness, confusion, impaired language, altered vision, fever or spasticity," she said. "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."

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The patient got a slew of harsh treatments, including plasma exchange, antibodies and steroids. At the same time, he was sent to a rehab facility to undergo the painful process of withdrawal as he kicked the drug habit.

The patient was finally allowed to go home after four months of continuous treatment. However, the doctor noted "persistent white matter changes in his brain," meaning that the drugs still had a permanent, lingering effect on his body. Hopefully, his story will encourage others to avoid the same fate.