Occasional Cocaine Use Can Do Acute and Chronic Damage

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Regular cocaine use by otherwise-healthy people can increase systolic blood pressure, aortic vascular stiffness, and left ventricular mass, a new Australian study shows.

Dr. Rebecca Kozor (Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia) and colleagues used cardiac MRI to investigate whether cocaine caused cardiovascular abnormalities in regular “social” cocaine users who are otherwise healthy. Dr. Gemma Figtree (Royal North Shore Hospital) presented results of the group’s 40-patient controlled study at the American Heart Association (AHA) 2012 Sessions.

Cocaine is known to cause MI by increasing thrombotic risk, blood pressure, and sympathetic drive, while often causing vasospasm. “We’ve had a spate of young males with large heart attacks related t cocaine use [at our center],” Figtree told heartwire. “People seem to be very ill-informed about this risk, [so] we were interested to know the background incidence of cardiovascular abnormalities in people who consider themselves social or recreational cocaine users. These guys were using cocaine usually once or twice a week, usually related to work, but considered it to be just a social thing. They were quite shocked to learn that it could cause a potentially fatal heart attack.”

by Reed Miller

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