NDARC was lucky enough to host a presentation by cardiologists Professor Gemma Figtree and Dr Rebecca Kozor on 21 August about the effects of cocaine on the heart.
In this excellent talk, the presenters discussed the results of recently published study that investigated the cardiovascular health of young, recreational cocaine users and compared them to a control group of non-users.
Despite being aged in their thirties, the cocaine users had cardiovascular health more typical of people aged in their sixties. They had significant blood pressure eight points higher than controls, stiffness of the aorta, and greater mass in the left ventricle of the heart (indicating the heart was having to work harder to get sufficient blood and oxygen). These measures are well known risk factors for premature cardiovascular events and highlight the dangers of cocaine use, even in a ‘social’ setting.
Cocaine users need to be aware that regular cocaine use, by any route of administration, results in irreversible damage to the heart, and that there is no safe way to use the drug. As Professor Figtree noted, you could not design a better drug than cocaine to cause heart attacks.
The study was undertaken in collaboration with Professor Shane Darke and Dr Sharlene Kaye of NDARC. Professor Figtree and Dr Kozor are based at the Kolling Institute of Medical Research, University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital.
The results from the study are published online in PLOS One:
Kozor, R., Grieve, S.M., Buchholz S., Kaye S., Darke S., Bhindi R. & Figtree, G.A. (2014) Regular cocaine use is associated with increased systolic blood pressure, aortic stiffness and left ventricular mass in young, otherwise healthy individuals. PloS One, April 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089710
To learn more about the effects of cocaine, read our cocaine fact sheet.
Pictured (L-R): Professor Shane Darke, Dr Sharlene Kaye, Dr Rebecca Kozor and Professor Gemma Figtree.