Pathophysiology and treatment of cocaine toxicity: implications for the heart and cardiovascular system. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • OBJECTIVE: To review the data on pharmacology, pathophysiology and treatment of cocaine toxicity, with particular relevance to the heart and cardiovascular system. DATA SOURCE AND STUDY SELECTION: Published epidemiology, laboratory and clinical studies on the pharmacology, electrophysiology and pathophysiology of cocaine toxicity and its treatment. MAIN RESULTS: Cocaine toxicity-related morbidity and mortality are frequent due to the potent pharmacological effects of the drug as an indirect-acting sympathomimetic agent and its class I antiarrhythmic property paradoxically inducing pro-arrhythmia. The cardiac and cardiovascular toxic effects of cocaine include various degrees of myocardial ischemia, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiotoxicity, hypertensive effects, cerebrovascular effects and a hypercoagulable state. Treatment of cocaine toxicity must be based on the multiple factors leading to the toxicity. Sodium bicarbonate appears to have an important role in the acute setting with conduction abnormalities, seizures or acidosis. Unopposed alpha-stimulation provided by beta-blockade should be avoided. Central nervous system hyperexcitability should be treated with diazepam. The use of calcium antagonists appears logical. CONCLUSION: Cocaine is an alkaloid with widespread illicit use. The rationale for treating acute cocaine intoxication has become clearer and more logical with increased knowledge of its mechanisms of action.

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publication date

  • December 1996