Cocaine-linked heart attacks on the rise -- cardiologist
Cocaine -- once known as the caviar of street drugs -- is causing an increasing number of sudden deaths and heart attacks in Ireland, a leading cardiologist warned yesterday.
Dr Brian Maurer of the Mater Hospital said that cocaine, which travels through the blood, was well known to have negative effects on the heart.
The drug increases heart rate and blood pressure, while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart, he explained.
The result can be a heart attack, even in people without any underlying condition. And the drug can also trigger a deadly abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia which can kill in three minutes, he pointed out.
"One of the worrying aspects about the growing use of cocaine is that it is abused across society by all classes of people," he told the Irish Independent.
"You don't need to be a regular user -- people can react after taking it once. People can have a heart attack and survive but end up with heart damage."
The long-term use of cocaine can also lead to depression, insomnia, extreme paranoia, weight loss and damage to nasal passages. It can also cause kidney failure and is dangerous for people with high blood pressure. Cocaine use has also been found to cause strokes and seizures and can cause violent and bizarre behaviour.
Emergency consultants in hospitals around the country are also seeing the growing peril of cocaine in the numbers of young people suffering from heart attacks after recreational use on a night out.
One-in-10 drug-related deaths registered in Ireland over 10 years were due to cocaine, according to the Health Research Board.
The annual number of deaths linked to cocaine use went up from five in 1998 to 63 in 2007. There were 3,465 drug-related deaths in total over that decade and, of these, 2,120 were due to poisoning.