Cocaine: "The Perfect Heart Attack Drug"

By McCarton Ackerman 11/06/12

Regular cocaine use increases long-term risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study finds.

It's well-known that a cocaine overdose is dangerous business, but a new study shows the drug can also boost the long-term risks of both heart attack and stroke. The Australian study, which was recently presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions, was the first to document the party drug's long-term effects on the heart. Researchers looked at the MRI's of 20 recreational users who reported taking cocaine at least once a month for the past year and compared those MRI's to 20 non-users. They found that cocaine users showed an increase in aortic stiffening of 30 to 35%, higher systolic blood pressure, and an 18% greater thickness of the heart's left ventricle wall—all symptoms associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Although the study did not examine overall heart attacks among users, lead researcher Gemma Figtree concluded that cocaine was "the perfect heart attack drug." Figtree also expressed concern that there was a population of cocaine users who, "despite being well-educated professionals ... have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.