Cocaine use has been associated with a number of cardiovascular complications, including artery blockages and heart attacks. In a recent study, NIDA-funded scientists have helped to identify the effects of cocaine use that may lead to heart problems. They found that in cocaine abusers, elevated levels of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) — a protein associated with inflammation — were associated with endothelial abnormalities and coronary artery calcification, which are factors known to contribute to heart disease. Fifty-three African-American adults from Baltimore, Maryland, between 25 and 45 years of age with a history of cocaine use were recruited to participate in the study. The researchers conducted a variety of tests, including an echocardiographic examination, spiral computed tomography (CT) scans to look for coronary calcification, analysis of blood for serum cholesterol and CRP, and an evaluation of endothelial function. The researchers found that 45 percent of the participants had serum CRP levels above the normal range of the general population. Those with elevated CRP had greater endothelial abnormalities and more coronary calcification than those with normal CRP levels. CRP may be a marker of future cardiovascular events. The findings in this study suggest that many chronic cocaine users have elevated levels of serum CRP, which are associated with subclinical coronary atherosclerosis and cardiac abnormalities. This study provides more evidence that cocaine use may contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.