How Cocaine, MDMA Affect Heart

Actress Carrie Fisher had a number of drugs in her system, including cocaine and MDMA, when she went into cardiac arrest before her death in December. But how do these drugs affect the heart?

Fisher experienced what appeared to be a cardiac arrest at the end of a long flight on Dec. 23. Toward the end of the flight, she vomited and then became unresponsive, according to a toxicology report released Monday (June 19). She was rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, but suffered another cardiac arrest, which is when the heart suddenly stops beating. Fisher died on Dec. 27 at age 60.

According to the new report, Fisher tested positive for cocaine, methadone, alcohol and opiates when she arrived at the hospital. Further tests after her death revealed that she had likely consumed cocaine no earlier than 72 hours before her arrival at the hospital, according to the report from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner. These postmortem tests also suggested she had taken heroin and MDMA (also known as ecstasy), but doctors could not determine the dose or timing of the use of these drugs. [9 Weird Ways You Can Test Positive for Drugs]

Ultimately, the medical examiner said it was difficult to determine the role drugs played in Fisher’s death. The cause of her death was listed as “sleep apnea and other underdetermined factors,” and the report also noted other that she had other health conditions, including heart disease. The manner of death was undetermined, the report said.

Many drugs can have harmful effects on the heart, which could lead to problems such as an abnormal heart rate and even a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

For example, cocaine, amphetamine and MDMA are stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system and can lead to increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate and changes in body temperature, the AHA says.

In particular, cocaine use has been linked with a number of harmful cardiovascular effects. A 2012 study found…

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