Study: Cocaine Increases Long-Term Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

More

Not just while high

snow615.jpg
Cindy Funk/Flickr

PROBLEM: In the moment, cocaine produces its stimulating cardiovascular effects by constricting blood vessels while increasing heart rate and blood pressure. This high-inducing physiology is also why the drug's been known to cause heart attacks in users -- but only while they're actually under the influence.

METHODOLOGY: This Australian study looked at the MRIs of 20 "recreational" users -- who reported having used cocaine at least once a month for the past year -- as compared to 20 non-users. The users, 17 men and 3 women, were otherwise healthy and had an average age of 37.

RESULTS: The users showed an increase in aortic stiffening of 30 to 35 percent, higher systolic blood pressure, and an 18 percent greater thickness of the heart's left ventricle wall -- all symptoms associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

CONCLUSION: The persistent hypertension and vascular stiffness seen in users, according to lead researcher Gemma Figtree, makes cocaine "the perfect heart attack drug."

IMPLICATION: While this study didn't look at the actual incidences of heart attacks among cocaine users, the observed effects are known contributors to an increased risk of heart disease. Even though Figtree expressed great distress over cocaine users who, "despite being well-educated professionals ... have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine," most people are probably aware of the risks associated. The real significance here is that even though it may seem like recreational users are getting away with something, this study is the first to document worrisome long-term effects of cocaine use on the heart.

The full study, "Cardiovascular Impact of Cocaine In Regular Asymptomatic Users Assessed By Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging" was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In