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How Does Cocaine Affect the Cardiovascular System?

Cocaine is incredibly dangerous in both the short-term and the long-term. It has been described as ‘the perfect heart attack drug’ because of its major effects on the cardiovascular system. The way that cocaine affects the cardiovascular system creates a variety of different problems that all combine to greatly increase one’s chances of suffering heart attack or cardiac arrest.

In a 2012 Daily Mail article entitled Cocaine is ‘the perfect heart attack drug’ – even if you only use it only a few times a year, they point to research that used magnetic resonance imaging to test the effects of cocaine on users’ cardiovascular systems. The leader of the study, Dr. Gemme Figtree said, “We are repeatedly seeing you, otherwise fit individuals suffering massive heart attacks related to cocaine use. Despite being well-educated professionals, they have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine. It’s the perfect heart attack drug.” The study found that users had a higher blood pressure, a 30 to 35 percent increase in aortic stiffening, and an 18 percent greater thickness of heart’s ventricle wall.

Dr. Richard N. Fogros, in a 2018 Verywell Mind article entitled Cocaine and the Heart explains that cocaine inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine in the neurons which allows norepinephrine to remain active for a longer period of time which, in turn, exaggerates sympathetic nervous activity. Fogros explains, “The exaggerated sympathetic nervous activity had profound effects on the cardiovascular system. It substantially increases the force of the heart muscle as it contracts, and at the same time it raises the heart rate and the blood pressure. These factors all greatly increase the work of the heart, and therefore the demand of the heart for oxygen and nutrients.” It also promotes blood clotting, constricts capillaries and reduces blood flow, causing the cardiovascular system to work much harder.

Cocaine does not have to be used over a long period of time to be dangerous. Dr. Fogros explains, “Heart attacks are a well-known complication of cocaine use, and can occur with any dose of cocaine, and even in first time users. Most cocaine-induced heart attacks occur within one hour of using the drug, and they are particularly prevalent younger people. In fact, cocaine use has been implicated in nearly 25% of heart attacks that occur in people under 45.” Additional risks include aortic dissection, coronary artery aneurism, myocarditis, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, and stroke.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together the highest quality behavioral health and addictions specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to help clients develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431