Cocaine Use Quadruples Cardiac Death Risk

Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

New research posits that cocaine use quadruples the risk of sudden cardiovascular death among individuals aged 19 to 49 years.

New research posits that cocaine use quadruples the risk of sudden cardiovascular death among individuals aged 19 to 49 years.

Among the findings published in the journal Addiction was the fact that the risk of death of cardiovascular origin related to smoking is doubled with cocaine use. For those aged under 50 years, cocaine is the main risk factor for sudden cardiovascular death, according to research.

Investigators studied forensic samples taken from dead individuals who died suddenly between 2003 and 2009. Gas chromatography and liquid spectrometry were used to detect therapeutic drug use, drug abuse, and ethanol ingestion.

All of the subjects had died with either instant death or within 6 hours of symptom onset. More than 430 individuals who died due to a sudden cardiovascular death but not from disease or acute intoxication were considered, as well as 126 others who died from different causes.

Of the former cases, nearly 10% showed traces of cocaine in their systems. Among those who had died of other causes, 2% showed evidence of cocaine use, according to the researchers.

The authors referenced several adverse effects that cocaine has on the body, including increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and myocardial oxygen demand. Cocaine consumption can also lead to restricted coronary blood flow and increased ventricular irritability.

The researchers maintained that cocaine’s link to sudden death could be related to a silent cardiovascular disease that the individual was not aware of, with sudden death being the first manifestation of an undiagnosed disease.