Cocaine use may cause increase in coronary calcium, an indicator of atherosclerosis

November 04, 2002

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Hygiene and Public Health found a significant association between cocaine use and the presence of calcium in the coronary arteries, a finding that suggests that cocaine use might promote subclinical atherosclerosis.The presence of calcium in the coronary arteries is a known marker for atherosclerosis.

In Baltimore, Maryland, researchers recruited 139 adults between the ages of 25 and 45 who had no clinical evidence of coronary artery disease or hypertension. Participants were interviewed about their drug use behavior, and 76 percent reported using cocaine.

A variety of tests, including an echocardiogram, spiral computed tomography (CT) scans, and blood tests, were performed on all of the subjects to measure coronary artery calcium. About one-third had detectable levels of coronary calcium.

After adjusting for age and sex, the researchers found a significant association between cocaine use and coronary calcium.

WHAT IT MEANS: These findings suggest that cocaine use may play a role in the development of subclinical atherosclerosis. Strategies to reduce drug abuse may be critical in the early prevention of cardiovascular disease.
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Dr. Shenghan Lai published the study in the August 1, 2002, issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse

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