February 2, 2006

Cocaine can cause major stomach problems -surgeon

LONDON (Reuters) - Cocaine can cause serious abdominal
problems as well as chest pain and breathing difficulties, a
leading surgeon said on Friday.

"Abdominal complications from cocaine abuse are
life-threatening and require emergency surgery," said Luke
Meleagros, of North Middlesex University Hospital, in Britain's
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

With an estimated 344,000 people using cocaine and 17,000
taking crack cocaine each month in Britain, Meleagros and his
colleagues fear health problems in drug users will increase,
particularly in London where drug abuse is more common.

"As the number of cocaine abusers rises, we expect the
accompanying health problems to spread across the country,"
Meleagros said in a statement.

Cocaine is an addictive stimulate drug. Crack is a form of
cocaine that comes in a rock crystal. The name derives from the
crackling sound it produces when heated.

The drug can increase heart rate and blood pressure, as
well as constrict blood vessels. Many cocaine-related deaths
result from cardiac arrest or seizure.

"Abdominal complications are more common with users of
crack cocaine and in poor, inner city areas," said Meleagros.

"However, we suspect that there is an under-reporting or
misrecognition of the problem in other areas, particularly
affluent areas, as these complications occur in cocaine users
as well."

Symptoms of abdominal problems, which can occur within an
hour of taking the drug, include pain, tenderness, nausea,
vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.