About 5.2 million American adults used cocaine, and over 19,000 people died from an overdose involving cocaine in 2020. As with other addictive drugs, underneath cocaine’s surface lurks some unpleasant truths about the effects of cocaine use. Even in the young and very healthy, using cocaine even once can lead a person to experience a myocardial infarction — otherwise known as a heart attack.
Heart attacks are often fatal, meaning that every time cocaine is used, a risk of dying from experience occurs. Even without experiencing a heart attack, other health risks are associated with cocaine use. These health issues range from high blood pressure to heart arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, etc.
Why Is Cocaine So Bad for the Heart?
Mild stimulants like caffeine are common and well-known stimulants. After all, caffeine is found in many popular drinks, including coffee, energy drinks, and soft drinks.
After having a coffee or two, feelings of refreshment and alert can occur due to this common stimulant. Drinking caffeine throughout the day can cause symptoms of increased heart rate and feelings of jitter or anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant for the heart and can even cause heart palpitations.
In the same way, cocaine is a stimulant for the heart, the central nervous system, and the cardiovascular system. However, its stimulating effects are much stronger than the mild effects of caffeine. Cocaine is such a potent and stimulating drug it can cause a “high” that can only be described as euphoric.
Beyond the “great” hyper-euphoric feeling, heart rate and blood pressure can increase when using cocaine. Even more troubling, cocaine can also interfere with the heart’s electrical signals — putting even a young, healthy person at a greater risk of irregular heartbeat.
What Does Cocaine Do to the Heart?
Cocaine is a drug that acts very rapidly after it enters the body, so it doesn’t take long for cocaine to affect the heart. The heart and blood vessels can feel its intense stimulating effects fairly quickly.
Cocaine’s Effect on Blood Pressure
Shortly after using cocaine, a noticeable change in a heartbeat can be felt. As this sensation occurs inwardly, blood vessels and capillaries begin to narrow. This extra pressure on the vascular system causes the heart to pump even harder to make sure that blood moves through the body. As the blood pumps harder and harder, blood pressure begins to rise.
Cocaine and Aortic Dissection
Sometimes, the extra stress brought on by the abrupt increase of the heart’s pumping can lead to a sudden tear in the aorta. The name for this condition is aortic dissection.
An aortic tear is very serious since the aorta is the heart’s main artery. This condition is quite painful and life-threatening. Experiencing a tear in the heart’s main artery may cause a need for immediate medical attention.
Cocaine’s Effect on Heart Rhythm
A normal heart has electrical signals that tell different heart sections to pump in sync. Ingesting cocaine can interfere with these electrical signals. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat, otherwise known as a heart arrhythmia.
Cocaine Damage to the Heart
The fact that cocaine increases the heart rate and narrows capillaries and blood vessels to intense levels can cause long-term heart damage and chronic heart issues.
Heart issues from cocaine may include:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
- Congestive heart failure
- Damage to heart structures
- Chest pain
Experiencing these serious health conditions can often produce a reduced quality of life or early death.
Cocaine and Heart Attacks
Using cocaine can also lead to a heart attack. If all these heart issues aren’t enough, using cocaine can also lead to a heart attack. This can happen in either of two ways. The first way involves chronic cocaine use.
Repeated cocaine use often leads to chronic heart issues. It increases blood pressure, stiffens arteries, and thickens the heart muscle walls. Over time, this increases a person’s risk of a heart attack. Secondly, a healthy person can have a heart attack after the first use of cocaine.
For those who would ask how much cocaine can cause a heart attack, it’s reasonable to say it could be a lot — or just the amount they used on their first try.
Medical research has shown a link between using cocaine and heart attacks. Cocaine is also associated with other heart issues and overall health problems. To avoid the health risks associated with cocaine, finding a treatment center that treats cocaine addiction can help.
At Inland Detox, our comprehensive drug treatment programs offer compassionate help for those struggling with addiction to cocaine and other drugs. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine abuse, reach out to Inland Detox today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our inpatient program.