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Cocaine is one of the most widely used drugs of abuse. Chest pain is the most common side effect requiring emergency visits after cocaine use. Vasoconstriction and platelet activation are the main effects of cocaine in the vasculature. In this brief review, we consider the most important clinical effects of cocaine abuse on the heart, brain and kidney. Symptoms related to cocaine toxicity such as myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, aortic dissection, stroke, renal failure, are similar to the clinical picture of atherosclerotic vascular damage, even if the age of cocaine abusers is usually in the second and third decades. Clinicians (especially emergency department physicians) should consider substance abuse among the differential diagnosis of chest pain in young people.


A De Giorgi, F Fabbian, M Pala, F Bonetti, I Babini, I Bagnaresi, F Manfredini, F Portaluppi, D P Mikhailidis, R Manfredini. Cocaine and acute vascular diseases. Current drug abuse reviews. 2012 Jun;5(2):129-34

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PMID: 22455504

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