Recreational Cocaine Use: One-Way Ticket to a Heart Attack?

cocaine useA widely-held notion about cocaine use is that the more you do it, the worse the effects become over time. In many ways, of course, this belief holds true. After all, one of cocaine’s most notorious effects is the addiction that reels you back in until it seems you just can’t escape. In an Australian study led by cardiologist Dr. Emma Figtree, however, there was a surprising result that almost completely overturns one of the most common views on cocaine use and its consequences.

Studying the Hearts of Recreational Cocaine Users

The cardiologist leading the study and her colleagues at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney recruited 17 recreational cocaine users with an average age of 37, who reported cocaine usage at least once a month for the last year. The participants provided information about their habit and cardiovascular risk factors. At least 48 hours after their last cocaine use, they had their blood pressure taken and each also underwent tests using a cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner.

The three conditions that can trigger a heart attack, namely, elevated blood pressure, thicker heart muscle walls, and stiffer arteries, were found in recreational cocaine users. Risk factors for cocaine users were increased by as much as 30 to 35%, particularly in the areas of aortic stiffening and high blood pressure. Another significant issue identified in the study was an 18% increase in the thickness of the ventricle wall located on the left side of the heart. 

Be Aware of the Effects of Cocaine Use on the Heart

cocaine useEven if you use cocaine only occasionally, this does not save you from its potentially fatal effects. If anything, recreational use may even be the key that exposes you to a sudden, spontaneous heart attack. This could be closely linked to the fact that not everyone knows about the harsh effects of even infrequent cocaine use, especially on the heart. There is the mistaken notion that, to suffer any serious effect, one must be chronically involved in cocaine use. Think again.

The Australian study is the first to reveal certain cardiovascular abnormalities (primarily high blood pressure, stiff arteries and muscle wall thickening) in seemingly healthy cocaine users long after the drug’s immediate effects have worn off.

When referring to cocaine, study leader Dr. Figtree, also an associate professor of medicine at Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, states, “It’s the perfect heart attack drug.”

 

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