The human body is a complex assembly of physiological systems designed to manage the multidirectional transport of both information and nutrients. An intricate interplay between the nervous, circulatory, and secretory systems is therefore necessary to sustain life, allow delivery of nutrients and therapeutic drugs, and eliminate metabolic waste products and toxins. These systems also provide vulnerable routes for modification by substances of abuse. Addictive substances are, by definition, neurologically active, but as they and their metabolites are spread throughout the body via the nervous, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems, there is abundant opportunity for interaction with numerous cell and tissue types. Cocaine is one such substance that exerts a broad physiological effect. While a great deal of the research concerning addiction has addressed the neurological effects of cocaine use, only a few studies have been aimed at delineating the role that cocaine plays in various body systems. In this paper, we probe the current research regarding cocaine and the immune system, and map a systems-level view to outline a broader perspective of the biological response to cocaine. Specifically, our overview of the neurological and immunomodulatory effects of the drug will allow a broader perspective of the biological response to cocaine. The focus of this review is on the connection between the nervous and immune systems and the role this connection plays in the long-term complications of cocaine use. By describing the multiplicity of these connections, we hope to inspire detailed investigations into the immunological interplay in cocaine addiction.
© 2014 by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.