News Release

Cocaethylene cardiotoxicity in emergency department patients with acute drug overdose

New AEM study shows that mixing drugs can increase risk of cardiac arrest

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Des Plaines, IL — When compared to cocaine exposure alone, cocaine and ethanol exposure in emergency department (ED) patients with acute drug overdose was significantly associated with higher occurrence of cardiac arrest, higher mean lactate concentrations, and lower occurrence of myocardial injury. This is the conclusion of a study titled, Cocaethylene cardiotoxicity in emergency department patients with acute drug overdose published in the February issue of Academic Emergency Medicine (AEM), the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM).


Cocaine use results in more than 500,000 emergency department (ED) visits annually across the United States and ethanol co-ingestion is reported in 34% of these cases. Combining cocaine with ethanol results in the metabolite cocaethylene (CE), which is metabolically active for longer than cocaine alone. Current literature on the cardiotoxicity of CE compared to cocaine alone is limited and lacks consensus. 


The lead author of the study is Siri Shastry, MD, MS, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. With this study Shastry, et. al aim to begin filling the gap in the literature and examine cardiovascular events in cocaine use as confirmed by urine toxicology versus CE exposure. 

This is the first study to clearly show that humans using recreational drugs who have the cocaethylene molecule in their blood have increased risk of death, coincident with evidence of acute heart injury. 





Academic Emergency Medicine, the monthly journal of Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, features the best in peer-reviewed, cutting-edge original research relevant to the practice and investigation of emergency care. The above study is published open access and can be downloaded by following the Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Laura Giblin at



SAEM is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of care of the acutely ill and injured patient by leading the advancement of academic emergency medicine through education and research, advocacy, and professional development. To learn more, visit 

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