Researchers are now calling cocaine ‘the perfect heart attack drug’. This is because those who use it even infrequently are more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest compared to their non-using counterparts according to a new study. In the study, the researchers noted that people who were not addicted to cocaine but still used it recreationally had arteries that were stiffer, thicker walls in their hearts and blood pressure that was above normal levels. All these are factors that can result in a heart attack.
This study, which was conducted in Australia, marked the first time that the abnormalities in question were spotted in the bodies of cocaine users who still seemed healthy and despite the fact that it was long after they’d used the drug. The study was carried out with the help of MRI. MRI was used to investigate the results of the drug use in 20 adults. These were adults who used the illegal drug ‘chronically’.
When the results of the MRI were compared with those of 20 people who didn’t use cocaine, it was noted that they had higher rates of several factors that are normally connected to people with a high likelihood of suffering a stroke or a heart attack. There was a 30-35% increase in the stiffening of the aorta and a higher blood pressure in these individuals. There was also an 18% thickening of the left ventricle wall.
According to the person who led the study, Dr Gemma Figtree, they’ve been noticing that cocaine usage is triggering heart attacks in people who are still young and seem quite fit. She described cocaine as the perfect heart attack drug because the users were unaware of the dangers of regularly using it despite the fact that they were well-educated individuals. The users faced a higher likelihood of suffering a sudden heart attack as a result of the increased stress to the heart, constriction of the blood vessels and elevated blood clotting levels according to Dr Figtree.
The team of researchers carrying out the study were all from the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The brought in a number of individuals who used cocaine recreationally – 3 women and 17 men. The users’ average age was 37 and in the past year, they’d used cocaine at least once in every month. The participants filled out a questionnaire and also had a blood pressure test and an MRI 48 hours or more after the last time they used the drug.
There have been serious studies which have shown the effects that the drug has on the heart. These studies were however conducted among people who are already dependent on the drug. This was the first time the study was conducted among those who use the drug socially. Because cocaine causes the blood vessels to become stiff, the heart will have to work harder and this causes thickening of the walls.