Drugs and Your Heart: What You Need to Know

The effects of drug addiction are serious and far-reaching. The abuse of illegal and prescription drugs can destroy families, careers, and financial stability, while undermining your self-esteem and harming your health. Most substance abusers recognize that drug use can cause early or sudden death; however, not everyone is aware that substance abuse can cause serious health damage that is sometimes irreversible.

One of the worst side effects of addiction to substances is damage to the heart and cardiovascular system.

Many people are so consumed by the disease of addiction that they no longer care or pay attention to their own health. But your health does matter, and that’s why it is so important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible — before your heart suffers damage that can no longer be repaired.

Drugs and Heart Disease

Many illegal and prescription drugs negatively affect the cardiovascular system. Amphetamines of all kinds, including meth, Adderall, dexies and speed can cause rapid or irregular heartbeats that may lead to heart attack. All forms of cocaine can cause heart failure, arrhythmia, myocarditis, endocarditis and a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy or enlarged heart. Inhalants, steroids, hallucinogens and heroin are all known to have dangerous side effects that include severe increase in heart rate, infections of the heart lining or heart valves and heart failure.

Let’s take a closer look at the potential heart-related side effects of drug use:

Arrhythmia – The term “arrhythmia” is used to describe any change from the normal heartbeat: too fast, too slow, or an erratic rhythm. When the heart fails to pump blood as it should, damage can occur to the brain, lungs and other organs, potentially causing damage to the organs or even a full-system shut down. Types of arrhythmia include:

  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular contraction of upper heart chambers)
  • Bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
  • Conduction disorders (abnormal heartbeat)
  • Premature contractions (heart beating too early)
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Ventricular fibrillation (irregular contraction of lower heart chambers)
  • Cardiomyopathy – A variety of diseases of the heart muscle are referred to as “cardiomyopathy.” The heart may become weakened because it can no longer pump blood properly. Weakening of the heart muscle has a domino effect and can lead to arrhythmia, heart failure or heart-valve complications.

Heart Attack – When the blood flow is blocked to a section of the heart, that section may begin to die if blood flow isn’t quickly restored. Symptoms include sudden and intense chest pain, while less obvious symptoms such as discomfort in the neck, jaw, abdomen, shoulders or back may be warnings. Not all heart attacks are fatal, but they can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Heart Failure – Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes weakened by the body’s demands, such as when long-term amphetamine use consistently causes the heart to pump faster and harder than it should. There is no cure for heart failure, though it can be managed through lifestyle changes and medication. Heart palpitations, fatigue and edema are some of the signs of heart failure.

Recovery and Health

It’s difficult for most people to understand why it’s so hard to quit using drugs, especially when you know just how dangerous drug abuse can be. The most recent scientific research finds that addiction is a complex brain disease. Those with the disease are literally wired differently than others. The dysfunction overrides the brain’s normal reward system and drives the addicted person to seek dopamine release through the use of substances. The brain’s need for gratification outweighs all common sense and good intentions.

This does not mean recovery is not possible, but it does mean the chances of experiencing long-term recovery are greater when the neuroscience of addiction is addressed and treated. Cutting-edge centers like Bluff in Augusta include neuroscience-driven treatment along with medical management, counseling, mindfulness training, recovery planning and coaching and physical and spiritual wellness plans.

If you’re life has become unmanageable due to substance abuse, it’s time to seek addiction treatment before suffering permanent damage to the health of your heart. A recovery center that addresses all of your needs, including the science of addiction and medical wellness can literally heal your broken heart.