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Occasional cocaine users face unforeseen health risks

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 Occasional cocaine users face unforeseen health risks

Infrequent users of cocaine may be leaving themselves vulnerable to potentially fatal health complications as a result of their recreational habits.

Heavy cocaine use has been linked to an increased risk of cardiac arrest. However, international research now suggests that even infrequent users are greatly increasing their chances of suffering a heart attack, together with a host of other serious illnesses.

In the UK, doctors believe that cocaine is responsible for a quarter of all heart attacks in people under the age of 40, and are now regularly screening such patients for the substance when they are admitted to hospital.

Furthermore, researchers from the Institute for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in the US estimate that the risk of suffering a cardiac arrest increases 24 fold in the first hour after taking the drug, even in occasional users with no pre-existing health complications.

Attributed to around 200 deaths a year in the UK, cocaine is currently only directly responsible for a small proportion of drug related fatalities. However, in the US, where the use of the drug is more widespread, it is responsible for over half of all drug deaths – and medics fear that a similar situation could become a reality in the UK.

The warning has come following the latest figures from the British Crime Survey which indicates that cocaine is now the class A drug of choice for all age groups.

In particular, the Survey provides evidence that the use of the drug among middle aged professionals is on the rise, fuelling worries that its recreational use is becoming more acceptable across the entire spectrum of society.

Elsewhere, Dutch researchers have also recently established that even infrequent use of the drug can cause long term personality change. The drug is also a recognised trigger for suicide and schizophrenia and can cause other health complications including angina, depression, paranoia and impotence.

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