Cocaine Causes Heart Disease

Many side effects are associated with cocaine use. But one under-reported consequence is the effect on the user’s heart.

Dr. Subodh Verma, a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said he is seeing an increasing number of young patients with advanced heart disease as a result of cocaine use.

The price of cocaine has dropped since the 1980s, when it was a recreational drug primarily for the rich and famous.

"Cocaine is emerging as the new marijuana, and more and more people are using it," Verma told CTV’s Avis Favaro.

Doctors warn that even someone who uses cocaine occasionally can experience serious side effects, such as increased blood pressure and narrowed blood vessels — which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and even death.

Verma cited a recent case at the hospital when a 17-year-old died of heart failure after using cocaine.

Another concern for doctors is that drugs that treat heart attack symptoms can in fact be detrimental if there are drugs already in a patient’s system.

As a result, Verma is recommending that doctors and nurses ask young people if they have taken drugs when they arrive in an emergency room with heart-related complaints.

"You can’t predict who it’s going to affect and who it’s not," said Dr. Lee Errett, also a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael’s. "And those people it does affect, it may be one-time use may end your life."

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