(HealthDay News) – Regular social cocaine users have increased systolic blood pressure (SBP), stiffer arteries, and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users.

Rebecca Kozor, MBBS, from Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues enrolled 20 regular cocaine users and 20 non-users with similar age, gender, and self-reported history of dyslipidemia, diabetes, and hypertension to examine whether cocaine-related cardiovascular abnormalities are present in social cocaine users and detectable on cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers found that cocaine users had elevated body surface area (BSA) and increased likelihood of smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking other recreational drugs. Compared with non-users, cocaine users had significantly higher SBP (independent of age), BSA, and smoking, but there were no significant differences between the groups with respect to diastolic blood pressure or heart rate. There was significantly reduced compliance and distensibility of the proximal descending aorta for cocaine users, as well as significantly increased stiffness index and pulse wave velocity compared with non-users. Compared with non-users, cocaine users had a significantly greater (18%) left ventricular mass, independent of BSA. There was no difference between the groups for either left ventricular peak filling rate or time to peak filling rate. No evidence was found for silent myocardial infarction in any study participants.

“Stiffer vessels are known to be associated with elevated systolic blood pressure. As a result, the heart is required to work harder, and its walls become hypertrophied or thicker,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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