Cocaine Addiction Information
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There are a host of dangerous side effects associated with the use of cocaine, but the adverse effects the stimulant drug can have on the cardiovascular system are especially harmful, and may even be deadly. Research shows that cocaine use is associated with several different types of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies and endocarditis, and cocaine, known as the perfect heart attack drug, can cause these problems even in fit, otherwise healthy individuals. For example, in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2012, researchers found that otherwise healthy adults who chronically used cocaine had a significant increase in heart attack risk factors like aortic stiffening, high blood pressure and a thickening of the heart’s left ventricle wall.

Cardiovascular Symptoms of Cocaine Use

Increasing attention has been paid to the effect of cocaine use on cardiac muscle and coronary blood vessels, but the extent to which cocaine can damage the heart and the cardiovascular system is still poorly understood. What is known is that cocaine users are at a higher risk for serious cardiovascular problems, with some of the most common side effects including:

Elevated heart rate

Increased blood pressure

Increased myocardial oxygen demand

Decreased oxygen supply

Narrowed coronary blood vessels

Blocked arteries in the heart

The effect of cocaine on the cardiovascular system is believed to be linked to the drug’s ability to block the reuptake of the hormones dopamine and norepinephrine. This is presumed to cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and can lead to more serious cardiovascular side effects. Furthermore, cocaine is considered to be significantly more dangerous than other stimulants because, at high doses, it blocks sodium channels in the brain, putting users at risk of sudden cardiac death.

Prevalence of Cocaine Use in the U.S.

The problem with cocaine is that even non-frequent users of the drug may exhibit potentially harmful cardiovascular side effects like high blood pressure, stiff arteries and thicker heart muscle walls, all of which can lead to a heart attack. Research shows that, compared to non-users of cocaine, cocaine users have a higher overall incidence of heart problems like myocardial infarction, with the risk increasing by 24-fold in the first hour after cocaine use. Despite these considerable risks, cocaine abuse continues to be a widespread problem, in North America in particular, and statistics show that one in every four Americans has used cocaine. And while many cases of cocaine-related cardiovascular problems have proved to be reversible, plenty of others have resulted in permanent cardiac dysfunction or death.