Health Watch -- Drugs and Heat

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Summer heat can make a dangerous drug even more deadly.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas discovered a couple of years ago that cocaine raises the body temperature by interfering with the ways the body uses to cool itself. Normally, the body reacts to heat by increasing blood flow to surface areas and by sweating, but cocaine keeps it from doing that properly. To make matters worse, the mental impairment caused by cocaine keeps people from realizing how hot they're getting and makes them less likely to do anything to cool themselves down.

Dr. Craig Crandall, a UT Southwestern doctor who has researched the effects of cocaine, says people who abuse cocaine in hot environments or while being active won't realize that they're becoming overheated. They won't know they need to drink water and find a cool spot. That just makes matters worse because cocaine already raises body temperatures and keeps the body from cooling itself.

The result is serious - and even life-threatening - heat-related injuries. These include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death.

Even in cool environments, cocaine isn't safe, and now in the midst of summer, drug abusers face additional dangers. 


Aug. 2004

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