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Cocaine Linked to Heart Problems

Chronic Cocaine Users Have Elevated Levels of Serum CRP

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Updated February 09, 2014

Cocaine abuse has been linked to heart problems including artery blockages and heart attacks. A study of cocaine abusers in Baltimore has helped determine exactly how cocaine use may contribute to heart disease.

Researchers found elevated levels of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) — a protein associated with inflammation — in cocaine abusers were associated with endothelial abnormalities and coronary artery calcification. Both are factors known to contribute to heart disease.

The Johns Hopkins University study included 53 African-American adults between ages 25 and 45 with a history of cocaine use. They were all given a variety of tests, including an echocardiographic examination, spiral computed tomography (CT) scans to look for coronary calcification, analysis of blood for serum cholesterol and CRP, and an evaluation of endothelial function.

The results of the tests showed that 45 percent of the participants had serum CRP levels above the normal range of the general population. Those with elevated CRP had greater endothelial abnormalities and more coronary calcification than those with normal CRP levels.

"The findings in this study suggest that many chronic cocaine users have elevated levels of serum CRP, which are associated with subclinical coronary atherosclerosis and cardiac abnormalities. This study provides more evidence that cocaine use may contribute to the development of coronary artery disease," according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study.

Source: The study was published by lead investigator Dr. Shenghan Lai at Johns Hopkins University in the International Journal of Cardiology.

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