Deaths related to the recreational use of cocaine in the United States have increased to epidemic proportions within the last decade. Frequently, persons with cocaine toxicity present to the emergency room, require critical care nursing, and are admitted to the intensive care unit. This article outlines the cardiovascular effects of recreational cocaine abuse. Initially, the historical perspective of the drug is outlined. The mechanism of action, administration, absorption, and excretion are discussed. Details regarding the cardiovascular effects of cocaine are described. Although no uniform treatment plan has been developed for every complication of cocaine overdose, the current therapeutic modalities are outlined. Finally, the clinical implications for clinical practice are addressed. The recreational abuse of cocaine presents new patient care challenges for the critical care nurse. With increased knowledge, the health care provider may assist in meeting the clinical needs of this emerging patient population.

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