Background: The cardiovascular impact of cocaine use in otherwise healthy individuals who consider themselves 'social' users is not well established.
Methods/results: Twenty regular cocaine users and 20 control subjects were recruited by word-of-mouth. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance was performed to assess cardiac and vascular structure and function. Cocaine users had higher systolic blood pressure compared to non-users (134±11 vs 126±11 mmHg, p = 0.036), a finding independent of age, body surface area, smoking and alcohol consumption. Cocaine use was associated with increased arterial stiffness - reflected by reduced aortic compliance (1.3±0.2 vs 1.7±0.5 cm2×10-2.mmHg-1, p = 0.004), decreased distensibility (3.8±0.9 vs 5.1±1.4 mmHg-1.10-3, p = 0.001), increased stiffness index (2.6±0.6 vs 2.1±0.6, p = 0.005), and higher pulse wave velocity (5.1±0.6 vs 4.4±0.6 m.s-1, p = 0.001). This change in aortic stiffness was independent of vessel wall thickness. Left ventricular mass was 18% higher in cocaine users (124±25 vs 105±16 g, p = 0.01), a finding that was independent of body surface area, and left atrial diameter was larger in the user group than controls (3.8±0.6 vs 3.5±0.3 cm, p = 0.04). The increased left ventricular mass, systolic blood pressure and vascular stiffness measures were all associated with duration and/or frequency of cocaine use. No late gadolinium enhancement or segmental wall motion abnormalities were seen in any of the subjects.
Conclusions: Compared with the non-user control cohort, cocaine users had increased aortic stiffness and systolic blood pressure, associated with greater left ventricular mass. These measures are all well known risk factors for premature cardiovascular events, highlighting the dangers of cocaine use, even in a 'social' setting, and have important public health implications.