In fact, "cocaine consumption doubles the risk of death of cardiovascular origin that can be attributed to smoking and becomes the main risk factor among subjects under 50," researchers found.

The joint research was conducted by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), the Basque Institute of Forensic Medicine and the Biomedical Research Centre Network into Mental Health (CIBERSAM) of the Carlos III Institute of Health links.

Cocaine increases heart rate, blood pressure, contractility of the left ventricle of the heart and myocardial oxygen demand. It also diminishes coronary blood flow and is related to the formation of clots.

For the study, Benito Morentin, Javier Ballesteros, Luis F Callado and J Javier Meana analysed the cases of 437 people who died owing to sudden cardiovascular death and whose death was not due to disease or acute intoxication.

The post-mortem examinations were conducted by the only service existing in the province - Forensic Pathology Service of Bizkaia of Basque Institute of Forensic Medicine.

The analysis of the data showed cocaine consumption multiplies the risk of dying by four compared with non-consumption.

Specifically, the percentage of cases among the deceased owing to sudden death in which drug consumption was detected was nearly 10 percent, while among the people who had died of other causes it was 2 percent.

Another risk factor detected was sex - the risk in men was higher than in women.

The authors considered that the effects of cocaine on the cardiovascular system could account for the increase in the risk of sudden death in the consumers of this drug.

Consequently, sudden death could be regarded as the first manifestation of a silent cardiovascular disease that has not been previously diagnosed.

The research was published in the journal Addiction.

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