Cocaine use and cardiovascular complications

Gabriella Vasica and Christopher C Tennant
Med J Aust 2002; 177 (5): 260-262.


  • In Australia, the lifetime use of cocaine is rising, with 3% of the population aged over 14 using cocaine in 1991, increasing to 4.5% in 1998, and cocaine use accounting for 10% of all deaths secondary to illicit drug use in 1998.

  • Cocaine is prepared from the leaves of the plant Erythroxylon coca, and is available as cocaine hydrochloride (a water-soluble powder or granule which can be taken orally, intravenously or intranasally) and as "freebase" or "crack" cocaine (heat stable, melting at high temperatures, thus allowing it to be smoked).

  • Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is the most commonly reported cardiac consequence of cocaine misuse, usually occurring in men who are young, fit and healthy and who have minimal, if any, risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

  • The mechanism by which cocaine induces AMI is largely not understood.

  • Cocaine effect should be seriously considered in any young patient with minimal risk factors for cardiac disease presenting with AMI, dilated cardiomyopathy, myocarditis or cardiac arrhythmias.

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  • Gabriella Vasica
  • Christopher C Tennant

  • 1 Department of Aged Care and Rehabilitation, Hornsby Kur-Ring-Gai Hospital, Hornsby, NSW.
  • 2 Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW.


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