Study Shows Cocaine Affects on Heart Not Detectable

heartCocaine is potentially highly addictive, and can be injected, snorted and in some forms of the drug–smoked.  It is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, and its use has health consequences.

Consequences of Cocaine

Short-term consequences of using cocaine include dilated pupils, constricted blood vessels, an increased heart rate, an increased body temperature, and elevated blood pressure.  When binging, cocaine users may experience irritability, restlessness and paranoia.  Some users experience auditory hallucinations and disconnection from reality.

Long-term and repeated cocaine use is capable of causing chest pain, abdominal pain and nausea, respiratory failure, headaches and seizures, stroke—and a heart attack.

The smallest vessels in the heart can be damaged by cocaine use, and a new study reveals that this problem does not show-up in routine medical tests.

Study Results

According to Dr. Varun Kumar, study researcher and internist at Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, the hospital sees many emergency room admissions due to individuals experiencing chest pains after cocaine use.

Moreover, Dr. Kumar notes that an angiogram (a test that looks at blood flow in the main arteries of the heart) would appear normal.  As a result, doctors would be left without an explanation for the person’s chest pain.

As part of the study, Dr. Kumar and his colleagues looked into the function of the small vessels in the heart in individuals who had come to the hospital due to chest pain.  Of those studied, 202 individuals reported having used cocaine, and 210 individuals reported not having used cocaine.

Study results presented to the November 18th meeting of the American Heart Association revealed that in cocaine users, there was an abnormal flow of blood in the small vessels of the heart; a condition putting them at risk of heart problems and possible death.

Cocaine and Heart Damage

The study determined that the small vessels of cocaine users were over-dilated which resulted in more rapid blood flow.  The observed abnormalities remained clear even when cocaine users were compared to non-users who suffered from high blood pressure or diabetes.  Even smoking habits were cited by researchers as being unable to explain the difference of the blood vessels between the test groups.

The study findings suggest that even though no sign of artery damage may be showing-up, those who are using cocaine may have damage to the small vessels in the heart, leading to shortness of breath and chest pain.  An additional point of interest was that study researchers did not take into account how often the study subjects had used cocaine.

According to Dr. Kumar, further research is needed to determine how heart disease can be prevented in cocaine users who are otherwise healthy.  While Kumar noted that heart disease prevention therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs or aspirin may be of some benefit, this writer suggests that perhaps not using cocaine would be the simplest solution to preventing cocaine-caused heart disease.

Results of previous studies revealed the use of cocaine, even if only used “socially”, is capable of causing a heart attack in a healthy young person.  Cocaine can damage large arteries in the body, causing stiffness in the blood vessels and thus increasing blood pressure and making the heart work harder.

Dr. Kumar notes that there is some evidence suggesting cocaine itself may contribute to coronary artery disease (the narrowing of the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart) and atherosclerosis (the build-up of arterial plaque) due to its capability of stimulating clot formation.

If you are struggling with cocaine abuse, or want to find help for someone who is, contact us today.