Intravenous cocaine decreases cardiac vagal tone, vagal index (derived in Lorenz space), and heart period complexity (approximate entropy) in cocaine abusers

David B. Newlin, Conrad J. Wong, June M. Stapleton, Edythe D. London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We assessed the effects of i.v. cocaine on parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity, and on the complexity vs. regularity of changes in heart rate over time. Fourteen otherwise healthy men with histories of i.v. cocaine abuse received bolus injections of cocaine (20 mg or 40 mg) and placebo (saline) on different days. Cardiovascular measures derived from the electrocardiogram, including heart rate, Porges' vagal tone (respiratory sinus arrhythmia), the 0.10 Hz rhythm, Toichi's vagal index, Toichi's sympathetic index, and approximate entropy (ApEn), were measured continuously. As predicted, cocaine produced tachycardia, accompanied by pronounced decreases in response to 40 mg cocaine in two different vagal tone indexes that precisely mirrored the increases in heart rate. The measure of sympathetic (and vagal) neural influences on the heart (0.10 Hz wave) also decreased in response to cocaine. Converging evidence from Toichi's vagal index supported the conclusion that the tachycardia from cocaine was due to withdrawal of cardiac vagal tone. These findings, and evidence that cocaine decreased cardiovascular complexity, contradict the prevailing assumption that the mechanism by which cocaine produces tachycardia is sympathetic (beta-adrenergic). We discuss implications for cardiac arrhythmias associated with cocaine abuse and death due to overdose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-568
Number of pages9
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2000

Keywords

  • Approximate entropy
  • Chaos
  • Cocaine
  • Heart rate
  • Parasympathetic
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Sympathetic
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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