Cocaine Chief Cause of Cardiovascular Death In Young People Interview with:
Luis F. Callado M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology
University of the Basque Country

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Callado: Cocaine is the most commonly used illicit stimulant drug in Europe. The use of cocaine has become a major issue for drug policy, with also important health implications, including potentially lethal cardiovascular complications. In this way, several case series have suggested a relationship between cocaine use and cardiovascular diseases in young adults. Furthermore, cocaine use has been also associated with sudden and unexpected death.

Our results demonstrate that the recent use of cocaine is the main risk factor for sudden cardiovascular death in persons between 15 and 49 years old. Thus, persons that consumed cocaine recently presented a 4 times higher risk for sudden cardiovascular death than those who did not use cocaine. The morphological substrate of sudden cardiovascular death associated to cocaine use is a structural pathology not diagnosed in life. Usually, sudden death is the first manifestation of the disease.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Callado: According with our results recent cocaine use is a significant precipitating risk factor for sudden cardiovascular death. The possibility of cocaine abuse should be bear in mind in acute cardiovascular disease, including sudden cardiovascular death, in young and middle aged adults, mainly males.

Drug education campaigns about the potential cardiovascular risks of cocaine use should be promoted to reduce the mortality associated with cocaine.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Callado: It would be important to establish if concomitant use of another drugs could exacerbate the cardiovascular toxicity of cocaine. Moreover, future research must investigate the mechanisms involved in the risk increase for sudden cardiovascular death induced by cocaine use.


Morentin B.; Ballesteros J.; Callado L.F.; Meana J.J. “Recent cocaine use is a significant risk factor for sudden cardiovascular death in 15-49 years old subjects. A forensic case-control study”. Addiction 109: 2071-2078 (2014).

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Last Updated on December 17, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD