Experts warn against ‘safe’ cocaine myth

No one should think that cocaine is a “safe party drug” experts say, following a new study showing even small amounts of the drug can be dangerous.

The study, which was carried out in Spain, investigated the post-mortem reports and circumstances surrounding sudden deaths between 2003 and 2006.

Of the 668 sudden deaths it examined, 3.1 per cent were related to cocaine use. All of these occurred in men aged between 21 and 45.

Most of the deaths involved heart problems and the majority were also smokers and had been drinking alcohol at the same time as taking cocaine.

Lead researcher Dr Joaquin Lucena, of the Institute of Legal Medicine in Seville, said: “The combination of cocaine with either or both of these habits can be considered as a lethal cocktail that promotes the development of premature heart disease.”

He also said: “Our findings show that cocaine use causes adverse changes to the heart and arteries that then lead to sudden death.”

The findings suggest any amount of cocaine could be toxic.

The European Heart Journal published the study.

Fotini Rozakeas of the British Heart Foundation said: “The reality is that there are risks every time you use it.

“Cocaine can have devastating effects on the user including heart attacks, life-threatening heart rhythms, strokes and even sudden death.

“The potential deadly consequences from cocaine use can happen to anyone who takes it even in previously young healthy people with no history of heart disease.”

In August figures revealed cocaine deaths increased by 20 per cent between 2007 and 2008 in England and Wales.

The increase was the fifth year in a row that the number of cocaine-related deaths had risen and experts blamed increased availability and celebrities glamorising drug use.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics show some 235 deaths related to cocaine in 2008, up from 196 in 2007.

A line of cocaine can now often cost less than a glass of wine, renewing concerns that the Government is failing to tackle the increasing drugs problem.

In May a report said the Government had wasted £10 billion of taxpayers’ money on a fruitless ‘harm reduction’ approach to drugs.

The numbers of addicts emerging from Government treatment programmes was at the same level as if there had been no treatment at all.

Harm reduction is an approach which parks addicts on prescribed substitutes rather than focusing on rehabilitation and abstinence.

The author of the report, Kathy Gyngell, said the Government’s strategy is trapping people in “state-sponsored addiction”.

Miss Gyngell, a drugs expert, added that the Government should do more to stop drug use, rather than simply addressing the harm it causes.

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