Even Occasional Cocaine Use Can Put Your Heart at Risk

Even Occasional Cocaine Use Can Put Your Heart at Risk

Multiple studies have detailed the ways that cocaine use can harm and impair the body. Recently, a few studies have revealed how these harmful effects can hurt the body long term. At the annual American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Los Angeles, researchers pointed out specifically how regular users of cocaine are damaging their cardiovascular system and setting their body up for a heart attack.

Building up the Risk

When cocaine temporarily impairs the body mentally or physically it is also doing damage within the body that the user cannot see. Hidden inside, cocaine is damaging blood vessels, the heart, and the entire system that keeps blood circulating and the heart beating. Using MRI scans, researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia assessed 40 individuals on their use of cocaine and how it affected their body. Half of the users regularly used cocaine and the other half did not use cocaine.

Those who used cocaine showed increased risk of heart attack due to the damage cocaine had done to their bodies. Regular cocaine users showed increased damage to their cardiovascular system:

  • Aorta – cocaine users had a 30 to 35 percent greater hardening of this largest artery in the body
  • Systolic Blood Pressure – blood pressure readings were 8mm HG higher for cocaine users.
  • Heart – the heart’s left ventricle wall was 18 percent thicker in those who used cocaine.

The combination of all the damage to the circulatory system makes the heart work harder until it reaches the point where the stress on the heart is too great and a heart attack occurs.

How Cocaine Risks Heart Attack

The damage done to the heart by occasional use can build up to risk a heart attack. Lead researcher and associate professor of medicine at Sydney Medical School, Gemma Figtree, pinpointed specifically how cocaine increases risk of heart attack.

As cocaine hardens the blood vessels, the constriction causes more stress on the heart. Hardened blood vessels are associated with an elevation in higher systolic blood pressure. As blood pressure rises, it is more difficult for the heart to pump blood. This increased work on the heart makes the heart walls thicker. As one ill effect causes another, a chain reaction of damage injures the entire circulatory system.


This recent Australian study adds further research to earlier studies. In the June 2012 issue of the Heart journal, researchers found cardiovascular damage in a group who had used cocaine for twelve years. Researchers found cardiac abnormalities, scarring of the heart, and swelling in the lower left ventricle.

Those who use cocaine, even occasionally, must be made aware of the damage they are doing to their heart. Heart attacks are often referred to as the “silent killer.” With greater awareness and treatment, those who use cocaine may find a good reason to get help in fighting their addiction.

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