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Cocaine can impact your heart health in many ways. Whether you take the drug recreationally or are struggling with a cocaine addiction, there are various short-term and long-term effects on the heart. Read more about these below.

Short-term effects of cocaine on the heart

Even the short-term effects of cocaine on the heart pose risks to your health, as it’s such a fast-acting drug. These include:

  • High blood pressure – also known as hypertension, you won’t be aware you have this without a test; however, it’s extremely important to be aware of as it can put extra pressure on your heart and lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes
  • Increased heart rate – you’ll feel your heart start to beat noticeably faster, which can lead to a range of complications over time – including heart failure, blood clots and cardiac arrest
  • Heart palpitations – this feels like an irregular heartbeat, and may last from a few seconds up to a few minutes; if it lasts for longer, gets worse or you start to feel chest pain, dizziness, fainting or severely shortened breath, seek emergency medical support
  • Constricted blood vessels – when blood vessels constrict and prevent blood from flowing properly, this can cause stomach pain, nausea, a decreased appetite, vomiting and constipation
  • Hardened arteries and capillaries – this can cause blood clots, which carry the risk of blocked blood flow to the heart. This can also result in heart attacks, heart disease and strokes
  • Aortic dissection (AD) – this serious condition can cause your main artery, the aorta, to be suddenly torn due to the unexpected pressure on the heart, causing blood to flow through and separate the aortic layers

Long-term effects of cocaine on the heart

There are a number of ways that cocaine impacts heart health in the long-term, including:

  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Increased risk of heart attacks from cocaine’s impact on blood pressure, arteries and the muscular wall in the heart
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of pulmonary embolisms
  • Increased risk of strokes
  • Increased risk of deep vein thrombosis
  • Inflammation and hardening of your heart muscle’s layers, which can lead to heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) from cocaine’s interference with your heart signals
  • Aortic ruptures
  • Angina
  • Permanently high blood pressure

In the situation of a heart attack, there is a chance that doctors may not be able to properly treat you as they would someone who hasn’t taken cocaine. For example, they may not be able to use a stent which helps to stimulate blood flow, as there’s an increased risk of blood clots from cocaine use. It’s also less likely that you’d be able to take beta blockers, as they slow the heart rate by blocking adrenaline, meaning that they could worsen this existing side effect of cocaine by lowering your heart rate to a dangerous level.

How to get help for cocaine addiction

Quitting cocaine is the best thing you can do for your short-term and long-term health. The longer you take cocaine, the worse the risks become and the longer the damage will take to reverse or reduce.

With the right support, you can break the dependence you have formed. Firstly, you may benefit from undergoing a detoxification programme, depending on how recently you took cocaine, how much you’ve been taking and the frequency of your cocaine use. This will help you to rid your body of the drug and manage the effects of your withdrawal, which can be difficult to do without support. It can be dangerous too, depending on the severity of your cocaine addiction.

Following on from detoxification, when your body is more physically stable, spending time within a therapeutic environment can help you to start your recovery journey.

As well as becoming physically healthier and relieving the symptoms of cocaine addiction, you’ll be able to address and come to terms with the root causes of your addiction. This can be done through an Addiction Treatment Programme, where you undertake rehabilitation on a residential basis for a recommended 28 days. During this time, you’ll attend regular therapy sessions, both in an individual and group format, with access to 24-hour support from a highly-qualified team of therapists and clinicians. This will help you to break your cocaine habit in the long-term, achieving inner peace and the brighter future you deserve. You can also benefit from aftercare for a year after your programme, which will give you access to regular support as you reintegrate into everyday life.

Contact Life Works Today

To discuss how the Life Works team can help to support individuals and families dealing with addiction and for further information on treatment and rehabilitation programmes, please call: 01483 745 066 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT.

Coronavirus information

While the current coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures are in place, we are offering online support to both new and current patients. We continue to offer access to inpatient services where this is required. For more information on our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect page or read our latest online therapy blog. For the latest information on how Priory are responding to coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness blog. You can also find out about our approach to addiction treatment during COVID-19 by accessing our dedicated page.

This blog was reviewed by Siobhan Ward (BA(Hons) Graphic Design, MSc in Addiction Psychology and Counselling, PgDip in Addiction Psychology and Counselling), Addiction Programme Lead at Life Works.

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