Sudden cardiovascular death is a term sometimes used to describe fatal cases of the abrupt heart stoppage associated with cardiac arrest. The stimulant drug cocaine is known for its ability to significantly alter heart function in both experienced and inexperienced users. In a study published in the journal Addiction, a team of Spanish researchers explored the role cocaine plays in elevating the risks for sudden cardiac death. The researchers concluded that recent cocaine consumption is clearly associated with heightened chances of this fatal heart function change.
Sudden Cardiac Death
Sudden cardiac death is also known as sudden cardiovascular death. People affected by this condition develop fatal, unpredicted cases of cardiac arrest; cardiac arrest happens when the network of natural electrical impulses that powers your heartbeat loses its ability to keep your heart actively pumping blood to the rest of your body. Within minutes, a person in cardiac arrest will lose vital blood flow to the brain. Unless cardiac function is quickly restored through emergency medical treatment, the affected individual will die. In most cases, the immediate underlying cause of cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death is a severely irregular heartbeat.
Known contributing factors to the risks for cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death include:
- A history of heart attacks
- Having a history of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Being a survivor of a previous episode of cardiac arrest, having diminished heart function (i.e., heart failure)
- Having diabetes
- A history of unexplained fainting
- Consumption of illicit/illegal drugs is also a known potential contributing factor
Cocaine and Cardiac Health
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that substantially increases the baseline level of activity in your central nervous system. Since your central nervous system controls the basic function of your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), cocaine consumption will invariably lead to significant changes in your cardiac health.
Short-term changes associated with intake of the drug include increases in your:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure during your heart’s active phase and resting phase
- Amount of oxygen needed to keep your cardiovascular system running properly
Other symptoms include:
- Decreases in the amount of oxygen supplied to your cardiovascular system
- An irregular heartbeat
- Reduced contraction strength in your heart muscle and atherosclerosis
Longer-term use of cocaine brings additional cardiovascular alterations that can include an enlarged heart and slowed release of blood from the heart’s two pumping chambers.
Link to Sudden Death
In the study scheduled for publication in Addiction, researchers from three Spanish institutions used an examination of 437 Spanish residents between the ages of 15 and 49 to explore the connection between cocaine use and sudden cardiac death. Of these individuals:
- 311 died from sudden cardiac arrest at some point between the beginning of 2003 and the end of 2009
- 126 died from causes unrelated to the status of their cardiovascular health
The researchers used toxicology reports to detect any recent substance use in the members of both of these groups. In addition to cocaine, substances under consideration included alcohol, marijuana/cannabis, opioid drugs or medications, amphetamines and sedative-hypnotic medications called benzodiazepines.
The researchers also looked at basic demographic information (age, gender, etc.) and the presence of any other known heart-related risk factors. The researchers found that roughly 9% of those individuals who died as a result of sudden cardiac death had recently consumed cocaine before going into cardiac arrest. Conversely, only 2% of those individuals who died from non-cardiovascular-related causes had recently consumed the drug.
Study Points to Dangers of Recent Cocaine Use
When the researchers assessed the relative importance of all of the known heart-related risks factors for the people affected by sudden cardiac death, they concluded that recent cocaine consumption was the single most important variable. Intake of the drug increased the odds of dying suddenly from cardiac arrest by more than 300%.
The researchers also compared the frequency of cocaine use in the 15- to 49-year-olds affected by sudden cardiac death to the frequency of cocaine use in the same-age general population of the region of Spain under consideration. They concluded that the people who died from cardiac arrest were at least 13 times more likely to use cocaine than their age contemporaries in the general population. In fact, they concluded that these people were possibly as high as 58 times more likely to use the drug.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Can Reclaim Your Life
Cocaine addiction is a serious problem that can ruin your life. If you’re struggling with an addiction to cocaine, getting treatment can help you get your life back on track.
There are many different types of treatment available for cocaine addiction, and the right option for you will depend on your individual situation. However, some common treatments for cocaine addiction include:
- Behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help you identify and change the behaviors that lead to drug use.
- Support groups: Support groups can provide you with emotional and social support as you recover from cocaine addiction.
- Medication: Medications can be used to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Detoxification: Detoxification is a process of allowing your body to rid itself of the cocaine and other drugs in your system.
If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction, treatment can help you get your life back on track. There are many different options available, so call us today at 844.875.5609 to find the right one for you.