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Cocaine Heart Attack: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

Yes, cocaine does affect the heart and the cardiovascular system. Its use increases the risk of heart-related health issues, which include but aren’t limited to a heart attack. It was referred to as “The perfect heart attack drug” by a team of Australian researchers in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions back in 2012.  

Cocaine is an extremely potent stimulant known to have a variety of effects on the human body. It, for instance, is shown to stimulate the central nervous system, leading to the so-called “high” experienced by abusers. It may also trigger higher blood pressure and increase heart rates while disrupting the natural rhythm of the heart or the electrical signals it transmits. 

Years of cocaine abuse not only risk the body’s cardiovascular system, but the effects are so intense that it can lead to a heart attack with just one initial dose. This is even true for people who don’t have a history of heart disease.  

Cocaine was ranked as the leading cause of drug abuse (by Trusted Source), which led to abusers having to be admitted to the emergency room in 2009. Interestingly, most of these were related to the effects of cocaine on the cardiovascular system, triggering symptoms like chest pain and high heartbeat, according to a 2014 study. 

It is worth closely examining cocaine’s effect on the body and its dangers to your heart. 

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What Are The Long-Term Heart Problems Linked To Cocaine Use?

Cocaine Heart Attack

Cocaine acts fast, and that can lead to it triggering several adverse effects. Here are some of the long and short-term cardiovascular issues associated with cocaine abuse.

Blood Pressure Problems

As soon as a person ingests cocaine, the heart starts beatings faster. Cocaine also triggers a narrowing of the capillaries and other blood vessels; this puts a lot of stress on the body, especially the cardiovascular system because the heart needs to work harder to move the required amount of blood through the body. The result is an increase in blood pressure.

Cocaine Hardens The Arteries

Cocaine use almost certainly leads to the hardening of the arteries and capillaries, a condition doctors call atherosclerosis. While this isn’t immediately noticeable, this can be the precursor to heart disease in the long or short-term, leading to many other potentially life-threatening problems.

Inflammation of The Heart’s Muscles

Cocaine abuse leads to inflammation in the heart’s muscles. This will, over time, lead to the hardening of the muscles. Thus, the heart becomes less efficient at doing its job, which can be life-threatening, including the risk of heart failure.

Heart Rhythm Disturbances

It is no secret that cocaine can and will interfere with the heart’s electrical system. The electrical signals keep each portion of the heart in sync with the other portions. The disruption leads to irregular heartbeat, a condition doctors call arrhythmia.

Aortic Dissection

It is referred to as the abrupt increase in the extra stress and pressure on the muscular structure of the heart, which leads to a tear in the aorta wall. The aorta is the main artery in the body, so you can see how this can be life-threatening. The condition is referred to as aortic dissection or AD.

AD is painful and often requires immediate medical attention. Studies of the condition showed that cocaine use is a factor in around 9.8 percent of AD-related medical issues.

Heart Attacks

We’ve already established that cocaine can have a variety of adverse effects on the heart and related blood vessels. However, these effects can directly be responsible for a heart attack. The use of cocaine can cause an increase in blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thickening of the heart’s chamber walls, all of which can culminate in a heart attack.

Are Heart Palpitations a Sign Of Having A Cocaine-Induced Heart Attack?

Heart palpitations can be triggered for many reasons, including stress and anxiety. It can and often is caused by too much caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. However, for a cocaine abuser or addict, it could be a sign of heart issues, requiring an immediate visit to the emergency room.

A Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (CMR) is often used to detect damage to the heart. The CMR is performed in people whose cocaine use has resulted in a buildup of excess fluid on the heart, thickening of the blood vessels, and muscle stiffening.

How To Avoid Having A Heart Attack From Cocaine Use?

Well, for starters, you will want to stop doing cocaine. The best way to do this is to visit a rehab clinic.

If you feel your heart racing, sit down, and breathe deeply. If possible, sit down for a few minutes until you recover.

Some doctors may prescribe aspirin to thin the blood, similar to what is prescribed to other people suffering from heart disease. In addition, you will also want to avoid drinking alcohol and if your condition worsens, ask someone to call 911.

What Other Problems Does Cocaine Abuse Cause?

As mentioned earlier in this article, cocaine can affect the entire body, and it’s not limited to the heart. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, frequent abuse of the drug leads to numerous health problems such as:

For chronic cocaine users and those who abuse other types of drugs and are experiencing health issues, it is imperative to seek professional health right away. Your therapist or doctor can help by pointing you in the right direction, which will aid in recovery.

The key is abstaining from cocaine abuse right away. The next step is to work with the doctor to reduce the risk of heart disease, which, when combined with lifestyle changes like a plant-based diet and an exercise regime, can aid in preventing future heart-related issues.

Does Smoking Crack Or Snorting Cocaine Have A Higher Risk of Heart Attack?

Smoking crack does cause a faster effect than snorting cocaine and as a result, could put more stress on the heart than snorting cocaine. However, no studies have been conducted about the difference in cardiovascular issues between snorting cocaine and smoking crack or freebasing cocaine.

Treatment For Cocaine Addiction

It is possible to be treated for cocaine addiction. While there are many approaches to treating people with cocaine abuse problems, it is important to seek professional help right away. The sooner you seek professional help, the sooner it minimizes the damage done to your heart, which will lower your risk of a heart attack.

Magnified Health Systems are one of the leaders in treating cocaine addiction with an excellent success rate. Click here to find out more.


How much cocaine does it take to have a heart attack?

Cocaine can increase your heart rate and will lead to a heart attack if too much is taken.

Does cocaine cause myocardial ischemia?

Cocaine has multiple cardiovascular and hematologic effects on the heart that likely contribute to the development of myocardial ischemia (MI).

Does cocaine cause coronary artery spasm?

Coronary artery spasms can occur as a result of cocaine use, and also may cause platelet activation. Coronary artery spasms and platelet activation may lead to coronary artery occlusion. Cocaine speeds up the system which can lead to spasms.

Does cocaine cause chest pain?

The differential diagnosis of cocaine-induced chest pain includes aortic dissection. coronary artery vasospasm. acute coronary syndrome.

Does coke cause a stroke?

Cocaine can trigger an ischemic stroke which is caused when a vessel supplying your brain with blood is blocked. Having a cocaine-induced stroke is a real risk factor.

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Manning, M. (2022). Cocaine and heart attack risk: Everything you need to know. WebMD. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from

Andrea L. Mitchell (2006) Medical Consequences of Cocaine, Journal of Addictions Nursing, 17:4, 249,

McCord, J., Jneid, H., Hollander, J. E., de Lemos, J. A., Cercek, B., Hsue, P., Gibler, W. B., Ohman, E. M., Drew, B., Philippides, G., & Newby, L. K. (2008). Management of cocaine-associated chest pain and myocardial infarction. Circulation, 117(14), 1897–1907.

Brewer, J. D., Meves, A., Bostwick, J. M., Hamacher, K. L., & Pittelkow, M. R. (2008). Cocaine abuse: Dermatologic manifestations and therapeutic approaches. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(3), 483–487.

Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

Picture of This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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