Can Cocaine Use Cause a Heart Attack?

Cocaine’s enduring popularity has a lot to do with how it makes people feel. Once the drug is smoked, snorted, or injected, people are on their way to an intense, short-lived euphoric high that will eventually leave them searching for the next one when they “come down.”

Whether people experiment with cocaine, use it occasionally or casually during social outings, or binge on it regularly, they are taking chances with their health, especially their heart health. In the past, specifically in 2011, cocaine sent more people to the emergency room than any other illegal drug, according to the SAMSHA Drug Abuse Warning Network’s data. And there has been at least one study that shows cocaine use can cause heart attacks and other heart conditions.

What Exactly Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a potent, highly addictive stimulant derived from coca leaves that are native to South America, where residents chewed and ingested them for their potent effects. In the early 1900s, purified cocaine was isolated from the plant and used in tonics and elixirs to treat different illnesses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Cocaine is still one of the most widely used illicit street drugs used in the U.S., although there are legitimate medical purposes for its use. It is used for anesthesia for surgeries of the eyes, ears, and throat. For this reason, it’s classified as a Schedule II drug. As the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) explains, the white, crystalline powder is often “cut,” or diluted with different substances. The most common ones are sugar and local anesthetics, it says.

The drug stimulates the central nervous system, which is why users have feelings of euphoria. It also causes:

  • Increased alertness
  • Excitation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

How potent cocaine’s effects depend on how quickly it travels to the brain. And, how fast it reaches the brain depends on the manner in which it enters the body. If a person smokes or injects cocaine, it reaches the brain in seconds and builds up rapidly, causing users to feel a “rush.” Snorting the drug results in less intense effects as the buildup is slower. Also known as Coke, Blow, and Snow, among many other slang names, cocaine can be snorted, smoked, injected, or mixed with other drugs.

How Does Cocaine Use Affect the Body?

Cocaine speeds up breathing and elevates the heart rate and blood pressure. Intoxication can also make users sweat, feel hot or cold, and experience muscle weakness, nausea, and other symptoms. Frequent or regular use of the powdered substance causes external and internal damage to the body, sometimes permanently. It also often leads to a higher tolerance for the drug, which means more of it is needed to achieve the same results for each use. Repeated use can lead to addiction.

Externally, snorting or sniffing the drug can cause septal perforation damage in the nose and rotting teeth. Internally, damaged blood vessels and sinus cavities are characteristic of cocaine use. Cardiovascular health also is affected and users are at increased risk of having a cocaine heart attack.

Chronic cocaine use takes its toll on various parts of the body, causing damage to blood vessels, the nose, and sinus cavities. Users may not be aware of how much stress cocaine puts on the heart and vascular system.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Heart?

Cocaine use also means users could possibly have a cocaine heart attack or other heart-related problems. Cocaine’s stimulating effects on the body put stress on the heart and vascular system and increases the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association writes that the drug, along with amphetamine and ecstasy, all adversely affect the cardiovascular system.

Study Details Cocaine-Related Heart Health Risks

The long-term heart risks of cocaine were documented in a 2012 study conducted in Australia and presented at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions conference. Researchers reviewed the MRIs of 20 recreational cocaine users, who all reported they used cocaine at least once a month for the past year. According to the study, all of the users, 17 men and three women, were all healthy outside of the physiological effects of their cocaine use.

However, it was found that study participants showed a 30 percent to 35 percent increase in aortic stiffening, higher blood pressure, and an 18 percent greater thickness of the heart’s left ventricle wall than people who did not use cocaine.

All of these factors are linked to higher risks of having a cocaine-related heart attack or stroke. A cocaine heart attack can happen to first-time users or with any size dose of the drug. A cocaine overdose often leads to a stroke or heart attack, WebMD writes. In general, a heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is an event that permanently damages the heart muscle, WebMD explains. This is caused when blood cannot reach the heart, and when that happens, cells of the heart muscle don’t receive the oxygen they need, which means they will either become damaged or die.

The study’s lead researcher Gemma Figtree, an associate professor of medicine at Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, Australia, at the time, said in a news release:

“It’s so sad. We are repeatedly seeing young, otherwise, fit individuals suffering massive heart attacks related to cocaine use. Despite being well-educated professionals, they have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine. It’s the perfect heart attack drug.”

According to an article published on Verywell.com, “Most cocaine-induced heart attacks occur within one hour of using the drug, and they are particularly prevalent among younger people. In fact, cocaine use has been implicated in nearly 25 percent of heart attacks that occur in people under [age] 45.”

Cocaine Heart Damage Not Always Detectable

A study published in 2014 found that medical tests may not show damage to heart’s vessels related to cocaine use, according to an article in LiveScience. According to one study researcher, chest pain that occurs after cocaine use brings patients to the emergency room, but test results may show the heart’s main arteries appearing normal, which offers no cause of the chest pain. This means many users may not know how much closer they are to a cocaine-related heart attack

“The findings suggest that even when there’s no sign of damage to the arteries, cocaine users may have damage in their small vessels, leading to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.”

Other Heart Conditions Linked to Cocaine Use

The possibility of a cocaine-induced heart attack is not the only threat regular users face. There are other cardiovascular conditions that can come about from cocaine use, reports VeryWell. Among them are:

  • Aortic dissection. Cocaine use can cause a sudden tear in the wall of the aorta This condition is painful and life-threatening.
  • Coronary artery aneurysm. According to VeryWellMind.com, this condition, which happens when coronary arteries dilate in a balloon-like manner, is common among people who use cocaine and that it occurs in up to 30 percent of those who use it chronically.
  • Heart rhythm disturbances. Cardiac arrhythmias also are common in cocaine users. An arrhythmia happens when the heart’s electrical system is disrupted. This system regulates heart rate and heart rhythms. Some are life-threatening and dangerous while others are not.

Start Cocaine Addiction Treatment Today

Repeated cocaine use often leads to dependence and an addiction that can be difficult to quit without professional help from trained addiction specialists. Cocaine users are getting more than they may have bargained for with each hit and high they take. Cocaine-related heart attacks are possible, but it’s a risk many users may not know about.

Pathway to Hope, a Delphi Behavioral Health Group facility, specializes in helping people who are battling with substance addiction. We treat substance addiction and the thought patterns and behaviors that can prompt individuals to abuse substances. We do this by using effective treatments that focus on the roots of your addiction and mental health condition and help you or your loved one start healing from substance abuse.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine addiction, call Pathway to Hope at 844-557-8575 today or contact us online, so we can help you find the right treatment program. Don’t delay. If you need addiction treatment, now is the time to make that important step for your health and your life.

How Cocaine Affects Your Gums and Teeth

Dental health is probably the last thing cocaine users think about when they rub the drug on their gums or snort it through their noses.

But the gradual, damaging effects of chronic drug use will be nearly impossible to ignore when they one day look in the mirror and see stained, rotting, discolored teeth looking back at them. Some of their once-pearly whites may be broken off or missing. A less-than-stellar smile is a red flag of a health problem and a possible hit to self-esteem and self-image.

Cocaine, like many other drugs, ruins smiles and wreaks havoc on users’ teeth and gums, sometimes permanently. Personal hygiene usually falls by the wayside when addiction is in the picture. All of a person’s time, energy, and focus goes into feeding their habit, so little, if any, thought is given to their health. That means things like regular dental check-ups, which include X-rays, cleanings, and cavity fillings, fall behind, and problems—some of them preventable— end up becoming bigger issues.

Cocaine, a strong stimulant, can deplete the body of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain healthy teeth.

Here’s a brief overview of how cocaine affects drug users’ teeth and gums.

  • Dry mouth. Dry mouth is when the mouth’s salivary glands are not working properly. Saliva, which is 98 percent water, is needed to clean teeth, help break down food, and perform other functions. Chronic cocaine use can cut down on the amount of saliva produced, which significantly increases the possibility of developing tooth decay.
  • Tooth decay. The acidity of cocaine, whether it is in powdered form or solid rock form (crack cocaine), can mix with saliva and coat the teeth with an acidic solution that breaks down the protective enamel on the teeth.
  • Brittle teeth. Cocaine can make users clench or grind their teeth, which eventually weakens the teeth to the point where they wear down and break. Clenching and grinding can also cause jaw pain.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Cocaine, a strong stimulant, can deplete the body of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain healthy teeth. It suppresses appetite, so people aren’t getting any nutrients that can be obtained from food if no food is eaten. People who use cocaine may benefit from supplements, the B vitamins, and Vitamin C.
  • Palatal perforation. Users who snort cocaine risk damaging the tissue between the nose and the roof of the mouth, the area known as the palate. When the substance is inhaled through the nose, the blood vessels in the nasal cavity narrow. Over time, a hole can form from such use and make it hard to talk or eat and drink. This condition is known as palatal perforation.
  • Ulcers. Rubbing cocaine on and over the gums (known as gingivae), which causes a numbing sensation, can cause ulceration of the gums and the underlying bone. These mouth sores are painful and can become infected. Spreading the drug on the gums also causes gums to recede.

Chronic gingivitis, which causes irritation, redness, swelling, and periodontitis, which damages soft oral tissues and destroys the bone that supports the teeth, are other dental diseases that can result from frequent cocaine use.

Drug Users Have Fewer Teeth, Study Finds

A 2017 report of 28 previous dental studies from places around the globe found that people who have a cannabis or cocaine habit have 3.5 fewer teeth than those who do not because the drug erodes the gums. According to a Daily Mail article, researchers reviewed data of nearly 4,100 people who had substance use disorders from using various drugs.

The study also found that people with an addiction have more tooth decay than the general population and are less likely to visit a dentist who can check for signs of decay, disease, and other ailments.

Ready to End Cocaine Addiction Today?

Poor oral health that results from drug use is a red flag that drug addiction is underway. Cocaine affects drug users’ teeth and gums in invasive and sometimes irreversible ways. Pathway to Hope can help you find you or your loved one end cocaine dependence and find a way back to sobriety.

Call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 557-8575 or contact us online and one of our call agents will assist you immediately with what you need. Get answers today to questions you have about cocaine addiction treatment, including how the detox process works and the medications used. Take your life back from addiction and begin your recovery today.

Fort Lauderdale and the Disappearance of Flakka

One question that many locals living and working in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area have been curiously asking is, “Why is Flakka disappearing?”

As it turns out, this issue might have a simpler answer than many might have assumed, and it all starts with a 10-hour flight over to the capital of Flakka and bath salts, the largest producer of the chemicals that compose it: China.

The “zombie” drug has made international news in the previous years, as cases from its use began to rise rapidly from 2011 to 2015. While this drug has been reported about throughout the country and the world, few places have taken such a heavy toll as South Florida has, more specifically Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Florida.

Known as the home for the “Flakka craze,” Fort Lauderdale law enforcement and mental health officials have long been talking about the dangers and issues that Flakka use has posed for the growing city by the water. One can hardly look up information about the drug itself without being flooded by news of some crazed and high individual getting shot on the sunny streets of South Florida.

However, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has reported a recent massive decrease in the numbers of Flakka-related cases, to the point that one deputy said in a Washington Post article, “This is incredible. I can’t find even one person,” when asked to comment about the radical disappearance of Flakka as he searched the alleys and dens where he used to find dealers and users alike.

Fort Lauderdale and China, an Unlikely Partnership

While it might seem abstract and out of place, South Florida’s severe Flakka problem—otherwise known as bath salts—actually has its origins in China.

According to a Washington Post article, buying Flakka online from Chinese vendors tended to be an “open secret,” which certainly contributed to the vast majority of reported Flakka incidents. With the click of a button, one could place an order of different bath salts and have it delivered to their front porch, all of which is legal. It was discovered afterward that sellers who bought the drug online later resold it on the streets with a markup value of nearly 300 percent.

Eventually, a special task force was created in partnership with the DEA and local law enforcement authorities to fight the growing Flakka epidemic across South Florida. Because it was on the streets, combating it was found to be ineffective, so another task force was created to push back against Chinese authorities in an effort to halt production on their end.

Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University quickly noticed the rising usage of the destructive drug and made sure to bring up the Chinese connection in several news interviews in an attempt to bring more national attention to it.

“We were in an emergency scenario”— Jim Hall, epidemiologist

With the support of the US Department of Treasury, several sanctions were imposed on one specific drug producer in China: Bo Peng. Throughout the investigation conducted by several agencies—led by the Drug Enforcement Agency—151 people were eventually arrested on counts of distributing lab-produced synthetic chemicals.

By November 2015, several Florida law enforcement officers—including local, state, and federal authorities—along with Jim Hall, visited China on a delegate mission to plead their case for the crackdown on several different drugs, from fentanyl (synthetic heroin) to Flakka.

After the visit to China, the Chinese government listened proactively and instilled many different bans and stricter laws regarding their regulations with synthetic chemicals. This resulted in an almost immediate effect on South Florida, mainly in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.

Lt. Ozzy Tianga, a deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Flakka expert, said that when he’s back on the streets, patrolling the Flakka dens he used to commonly search, he’s noticed they’ve all basically been abandoned. “They look like artifacts from a different time,” he said in the Washington Post article.

While Flakka is certainly still on the streets of South Florida, what remains is most likely the last batches of a dying trend. However, what exactly is Flakka?

What Is Flakka?

Flakka gains its name from a Spanish slang meaning “skinny female or girl,” not the rapper, Waka Flocka Flame, who many tend to believe its name originated from.
Also known as “bath salts,” it is a synthetic stimulant drug that comes mostly in crystallized form. The main component that causes the psychoactive properties in Flakka is alpha-PVP.

Due to its rock and crystallized form, Flakka can be snorted, smoked, eaten, injected, and more recently vaporized. Unfortunately, vaporizing the drug has been linked to the more commonly reported cases of psychotic episodes due to its immediate introduction into the bloodstream. These episodes are also known as “excited delirium.”

During the delirium suffered by Flakka, one of the first signs is unbearable heat, which causes users to remove all of their clothing. During these psychotic episodes, those who are high exhibit signs of aggression, deafness, paranoia, hallucinations, and even attempts at suicide.

While not everyone goes through an excited delirium from taking Flakka, chronic users of the drug often exhibit severe—sometimes terminal—damage to their kidneys. Heart attacks also remain common for first-time users.

Seeking Treatment

Drugs like Flakka and other bath salts are extremely severe in their immediate effects on a user. All it takes is using the drug one time for it to dramatically change the life of its user and those around them. When users exhibit the psychotic episodes tied to Flakka, the problem lies within their inability to act rationally. It is a time that users leave the plain of reality and “lose their minds.” During those episodes, murder, suicide, and cannibalism have been reported.

No two drugs are alike; some are critically worse than others. Flakka and bath salts are both higher on the list of “drugs that should be avoided at all costs” because of its drastic and life-altering effects.

If you or a loved is suffering from Flakka or any drug abuse and addiction, seek help immediately to avoid any long-term effects from becoming permanent. Don’t let yourself or a loved one become another statistic when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse. Our addiction specialists are available 24-7 ready to assist you immediately. Click or call us today at (844) 557-8575.