Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) associated with pleasure and movement, in the brain’s reward circuit. It is highly addictive drug. Cocaine is usually used by three ways, snorting, injecting and smoking.  Cocaine abuse produces variety of adverse effects on the body. For example, dilates pupils, and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea.

The most adverse effect of cocaine is on heart. Cocaine increases heart rate and blood pressure while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The result can be a heart attack, even in young people without heart disease. Latest researches in Australia and America have found that even the recreational use of cocaine leads to heart attack. According to the findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012, when compared with non-users, the people using cocaine had an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Cocaine users were found to have:

  • 30 percent to 35 percent increase in aortic stiffening;
  • 8 mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure; and
  • 18 percent greater thickness of the heart’s left ventricle wall.

Australian researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the effects of cocaine in 20 adults who used the illegal substance. Compared with 20 non-users, cocaine users had higher rates of multiple factors associated with higher risks of heart attack and stroke. The study outcomes underscore the need for education about the short- and long-term use of cocaine and other illegal drugs as well. 


  • Christine Kearney
  • Harris DL et. al
  • Roxanne Dryden