Cocaine-induced myocardial ischemia and infarction: pathophysiology, recognition, and management

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. Jul-Aug 1997;40(1):65-76. doi: 10.1016/s0033-0620(97)80023-0.


As cocaine abuse has become widespread, it has been associated with various cardiovascular complications, including angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. Cocaine's principal effects on the cardiovascular system are mediated via alpha-adrenergic stimulation and include (1) an increase in the determinants of myocardial oxygen demand (heart rate and systemic arterial pressure), and (2) a concomitant decrease in myocardial oxygen supply (caused by vasoconstriction of the epicardial coronary arteries). beta-adrenergic blocking agents may exacerbate cocaine-induced coronary arterial vasoconstriction, thereby increasing the magnitude of myocardial ischemia. In contrast, nitroglycerin and verapamil reverse cocaine-induced hypertension and coronary arterial vasoconstriction; therefore, they are the agents of choice in treating patients with cocaine-associated chest pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Cocaine / adverse effects*
  • Coronary Vessels / drug effects
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Infarction / drug therapy
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / chemically induced*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Myocardial Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / adverse effects*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Cocaine