Cocaine, in either its powdered form or as crack, is abused by more than five million teens and adults annually in the US. The leaves of the coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, have been used since 3,000 BCE. Originally the ancient Incas chewed coca leaves to increase breathing and heart rate and, thus, oxygen saturation at high altitudes. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cocaine was chemically isolated. Eventually, it was used in medicine and even popular consumer products like Coca-Cola. When its addictive qualities were understood, it was named a controlled substance. At this point in time, this addictive stimulant is almost entirely used illegally to get high. Cocaine can have devastating effects on physical health, including the heart.
Since its dangers, including the high risk of addiction, have been understood, there have been countless studies to understand the effects of cocaine on the body and how best to treat people who abuse it. Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC) offers cocaine addiction treatment in Pennsylvania for those who wish to start recovery and begin to heal from their addiction as well as the side effects of cocaine abuse. Learn more about our cocaine addiction treatment program by calling 844.442.8673 or filling out this online form.
Cocaine and the Heart
What are the effects of cocaine abuse on the heart and cardiovascular system? Cocaine affects the heart by first working on the nervous system. It stimulates certain chemicals produced by the adrenal glands. One of them, a hormone called norepinephrine, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the body’s emergency response—fight or flight.
Under normal circumstances, norepinephrine gets to work in preparation for danger or to help people cope with high-stress situations, but cocaine stimulates its release regardless of the need for fight or flight. Norepinephrine delivers messages to the cardiovascular system, which, when activated, increases breathing, heart rate, and the delivery of oxygen to the cells of the body. However, cocaine does not permit the body to return gradually to its natural state. Because of that, cocaine binging is common—to ward off the inevitable painful crash. It is the repetition of binge cycles that leads to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
During a cocaine binge, the stress placed on the heart and cardiovascular system leads to:
- High blood pressure
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Rise in body temperature
- Spasms of the heart muscle
These side effects eventually subside when cocaine is out of the system, but there is a risk of long-term damage to the heart with regular use of this potent stimulant.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse on the Heart
Long-term abuse of cocaine can lead to changes in the heart’s structure. Combined with the short-term effects of cocaine high on the cardiovascular system, heart attacks are relatively common among people addicted to cocaine, especially while using.
Some of the dangerous long-term effects of cocaine abuse on the heart and cardiovascular system include:
- Damage to arteries
- Accelerated build-up of arterial plaque
- Chest pains
- Weakening of the cardiac muscle
- Increased risk of stroke
Fortunately, with professional treatment, it is possible in many cases to reverse the damage cocaine has done to the heart and related systems.
PAATC – Cocaine Addiction Treatment in Pennsylvania
In our cocaine addiction treatment center, you will receive top-quality, evidence-based treatment for your cocaine use disorder. Our staff and team of clinicians are knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate. Starting in our medically managed detox during which you can withdraw from cocaine safely, and with minimal discomfort, you will be in good hands as you begin your recovery under our care.
Reach out to get answers to all your questions about cocaine abuse, the interactions between cocaine and the heart, how to decide on what kind of rehab program works for you, and much more. Simply fill out this form and you will be contacted shortly. Or you can dial 844.442.8673 to reach someone right away.