Medical complications of cocaine: Changes in pattern of use and spectrum of complications

Rhonda B. Rubin, Joel Neugarten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We sought to determine whether changes in patterns of cocaine use, characterized by widespread abuse of cocaine alkaloid, have altered the nature and severity of medical complications over the past decade. Infectious complications, almost invariably associated with intravenous use, accounted for nearly all hospital admissions in the early 1980s. Cardiovascular, neurologic and psychiatric complications rose dramatically after 1987 both in absolute number and as a proportion of total complications. This rise parallelled increases in the absolute number and proportion of hospitalized patients smoking cocaine alkaloid or using intranasal cocaine, both disproportionately associated with non-infectious complications. While infectious complications were often local in nature, serious neurologic and cardiovascular sequelae were observed. These data indicate that changes in patterns of cocaine use have altered the nature and increased the severity of medical complications with a shift from infectious to cardiovascular, neurologic and psychiatric complications which may be life-threatening and associated with substantial morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


  • Cocaine
  • Cocaine alkaloid
  • Crack-cocaine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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