Triggering of myocardial infarction by cocaine

Circulation. 1999 Jun 1;99(21):2737-41. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.99.21.2737.


Background: Cocaine has been implicated as a trigger of acute myocardial infarction in patients with and those without underlying coronary atherosclerosis. However, the magnitude of the increase in risk of acute myocardial infarction immediately after cocaine use remains unknown.

Methods and results: In the Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study, we interviewed 3946 patients (1282 women) with acute myocardial infarction an average of 4 days after infarction onset. Data were collected on the use of cocaine and other potential triggers of myocardial infarction. We compared the reported use of cocaine in the hour preceding the onset of myocardial infarction symptoms with its expected frequency by using self-matched control data based on the case-crossover study design. Of the 3946 patients interviewed, 38 (1%) reported cocaine use in the prior year and 9 reported use within the 60 minutes preceding the onset of infarction symptoms. Compared with nonusers, cocaine users were more likely to be male (87% vs 67%, P=0.01), current cigarette smokers (84% vs 32%, P<0.001), younger (44+/-8 vs 61+/-13 years, P<0.001), and minority group members (63% vs 11%, P<0.001). The risk of myocardial infarction onset was elevated 23.7 times over baseline (95% CI 8.5 to 66.3) in the 60 minutes after cocaine use. The elevated risk rapidly decreased thereafter.

Conclusions: Cocaine use is associated with a large abrupt and transient increase in the risk of acute myocardial infarction in patients who are otherwise at relatively low risk. This finding suggests that studying the pathophysiological changes produced by cocaine may provide insights into the mechanisms by which myocardial infarction is triggered by other stressors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cocaine / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / adverse effects*


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Cocaine