Cocaine-related sudden cardiac death: a hypothesis correlating basic science and clinical observations

J Clin Pharmacol. 1994 Sep;34(9):902-11. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.1994.tb04003.x.


Sudden, unexpected death due to cocaine in young otherwise healthy individuals occurs in an idiosyncratic manner and is commonly felt to be arrhythmogenic in nature, although the exact cause of death is rarely documented. In addition to indirect sympathomimetic actions, cocaine is a potent sodium channel blocking drug and, in this regard, most closely resembles agents such as flecainide. We suggest that sudden death due to cocaine is proarrhythmic in nature, occurring under similar circumstances as that due to specific antiarrhythmic drugs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced*
  • Cocaine / adverse effects*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Ischemia / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications


  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Cocaine