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Cocaine Heart Attack

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It is long known that cocaine can trigger sudden heart attacks. Researchers at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts thing they have figured out why.

The research found that cocaine can narrow blood vessels, while at the same time increase blood pressure and heart rate.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes:

(Researchers)studied the effect of cocaine on blood factors that respond to inflammation by promoting clotting to initiate repair. They found that a component that promotes clotting -- von Willebrand factor (vWF) -- increases and remains elevated for hours after a single exposure to cocaine.

They found heavy cocaine users have elevated levels of vWF, a clotting factor called fibrinogen, and C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood protein that increases in concentration in response to inflammation and is an indicator of heart attack risk.

"These findings suggest that cocaine creates a temporary risk for heart attack or stroke by increasing clotting factors," said researcher Dr. Arthur Siegel. "Elevated CRP levels could indicate that long-term use of the drug is triggering inflammation in the cardiovascular system."

Dr. Siegel said cocaine disturbs the body's normal functions.

"With healthy subjects, it's not unusual to see a temporary increase in vWF after normal activity such as exercise," Dr. Siegel said. "But the increase is balanced by higher levels of factors that control clotting. The increases that followed cocaine administration were not accompanied by compensatory increases in protective factors."

He said the longer a person uses cocaine, the more the risk of heart attack increases.

"Elevated levels of CRP and clotting factors that we see in the heavy users suggest that repeated use of cocaine poses an exposure-related and cumulative risk for heart attack or stroke," Dr. Siegel said.