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13 May 2014

The temporary rush that people get from taking cocaine can come at the long-term cost of debilitating cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the Sydney Medical School have found that regular social cocaine users had higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and heavier hearts than those who abstained – all changes associated with poor long-term cardiovascular health.

Senior paper author Professor Gemma Figtree said the risks of heart attack and myocardial ischaemia associated with cocaine use were well known, but the chronic effects of regular cocaine use in otherwise healthy adults were less well understood.

Professor Figtree said the findings of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, were “alarming”.

“While some people who use cocaine recreationally may not think that they are doing their body a lot of harm, our results show this is not the case, and that cocaine is dangerous for your health, even when taken socially,” she said.

Recent reports indicate that cocaine is a commonly used illicit drug. A survey conducted in 2010 found that almost 8 per cent of adults had used cocaine at least once.

Paper co-author Dr Rebecca Kozor said widespread ignorance of the health effects of the drug was concerning.

“The demonstrated adverse effects on long-term cardiovascular health, such as increased blood pressure, arterial stiffness and cardiac mass suggest that cocaine use does not just have acute consequences, but also increases long-term cardiovascular morbidity,” Dr Kozor said. “With cardiovascular disease being a leading cause of death in Australia, people need to be aware of the dangers of social cocaine use on the long-term health.”

Adrian Rollins

Published: 13 May 2014