You will be hard pressed to find from the many effects of using cocaine any that are good. In fact, cocaine isn’t good for anything. The price of getting high-as-a-kite worsens from chest pains, through disability, to sudden death. In all these, it is the cardiovascular system that first takes a hit.
The effects of cocaine on the human body are caused by the increased release of adrenaline in the body and changes in the chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, heart rate and blood pressure rise. This overworks the heart, leading to chest pain and increased demand for nutrients and oxygen.
The most common effects of taking cocaine that can be experienced by occasional users are hypertension, stiff arteries, and thicker heart muscles. But the drug is so addictive that users may quickly develop a dependence on it and soon start to overuse it. For heavy, habitual users the risk of an overdose is high, with many cases ending in death.
Cocaine, commonly made in South America from the leaves of the cocoa plant, is the perfect heart attack drug. Even young and physically fit individuals can experience a heart attack after many years of using the drug. Here are some ways the drug causes poor heart health:
Increases aortic stiffening to 30-35%, when compared to non-users.
Increases blood pressure.
Increases the thickness of the heart muscle by up to 18% (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).
Increases viscosity of blood, heat, stress, and vasoconstriction can lead to severe heart attack.
Among cocaine users, people at the highest risk of cocaine-related heart attacks include:
Old users with pre-existing cardiovascular disease,
Individuals who smoke crack cocaine.
Cocaine overdoses usually end with a fatality
In many developed countries like Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the USA a disturbingly large number of many emergency department admissions are due to cocaine-related cardiovascular illnesses.
In 2011, 40.3% of illegal, illicit drug-related events in the United Kingdom were due to cocaine when compared to amphetamines and heroin. In terms of fatalities, cocaine is blamed for about 15,000 deaths every year.
And besides causing many cardiovascular issues, cocaine will also complicate the treatment of heart problems. For that, cocaine is in many respects a double-edged sword.
1.Kozor R, Grieve SM, Buchholz S, Kaye S, Darke S, et al. (2014) Regular Cocaine Use Is Associated with Increased Systolic Blood Pressure, Aortic Stiffness and Left Ventricular Mass in Young Otherwise Healthy Individuals. PLOS ONE 9(4): e89710. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089710
2.Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2012 to 2013 Crime Survey for England and Wales, National Statistics Published 25 July 2013