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Cocaine and Heart Attack Risk: Everything You Need to Know

By Marta Manning
Chronic cocaine use can lead to heart issues and other health conditions. Find out if you are at risk.

Cocaine can be too much for your heart to handle. This powerful stimulant drug can stress your heart and blood vessels, causing your cardiovascular system to work overtime. In some cases, cocaine use can lead to long-term heart problems and cocaine overdoses can be fatal. Keep reading to learn the risks of a cocaine heart attack.

Can Cocaine Cause a Heart Attack?

Stimulants like cocaine have wide-reaching effects on the heart and blood vessels. According to the American Heart Association, chronic cocaine users are more likely to get high blood pressure, heart muscle wall thickening, and stiff arteries — all major risk factors for heart attacks.

According to a 2019 review published in theInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences, cocaine can increase heart rate and blood pressure while lowering the heart's oxygen supply. The inconsistency between oxygen supply and demand puts stress on the heart, in some cases leading to a heart attack. Heart attacks can also happen due to abnormal heart rhythms brought on by cocaine, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Cocaine-related chest pain or heart attacks can occur the first time a person uses it or the one hundredth — there's really no way of knowing or predicting when it will happen, so it's important to stay away altogether,” Nicole Harkin, MD, FACC, cardiologist, and Whole Heart Cardiology founder, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Long-term users also have an increased risk of heart disease, and cocaine use has been associated with premature blockages in the heart,” Harkin says.

Other Long-term Health Problems Linked to Cocaine Use

Cocaine affects your entire body, not just your heart. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, using cocaine in high doses or taking it frequently can cause a variety of health problems, including:

  • Psychological symptoms like irritability and paranoia
  • Nasal irritation or damage
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Movement disorders like Parkinson's disease

If you are a chronic cocaine user or are experiencing health issues due to illegal drug use, it is essential that you get professional help. Your doctor or therapist can point you in the right direction to recovery.

“Cocaine users can improve their heart health and overall health, first and foremost, by abstaining,” Harkin says. “Secondly, it's important to work with your doctor to reduce your overall risk of heart disease, ideally with lifestyle changes like a plant-forward diet and a robust exercise plan.”

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

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