Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and illegal stimulant that damages the body in many ways beyond physical addiction.
Perhaps some of the most damaging effects of methamphetamine use are those that affect the cardiovascular system.
Meth raises blood pressure and heart rate while dramatically reducing the blood flow and amount of oxygen that reaches the heart muscle.
If you are concerned about meth use and cardiovascular effects, here you’ll find more information about these effects and what you can do to help yourself or a loved one seek treatment.
Short-Term Effects Of Methamphetamine On The Cardiovascular System
Both during and after use, methamphetamine can hurt your cardiovascular system. The short-term effects of crystal meth include:
Narrowing Of The Blood Vessels
In addition to constricting blood vessels, methamphetamine can also cause them to become more rigid.
That is especially true in smaller blood vessels, such as those found in your central nervous system, kidneys, and heart.
These changes can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke or heart attack.
Irregular Heartbeat (Arrhythmia)
Use of methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, and cannabis may raise a person’s risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat.
This can have severe heart-related complications, such as stroke.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Crystal meth can cause dangerously high blood pressure and blood vessel spasms, which can be fatal.
Plaque buildup in blood vessels and the heart’s electrical system are also possible side effects of this drug. Hypertension and high cholesterol are linked to cardiovascular diseases.
Long-Term Effects Of Meth Use On The Heart
While a small amount of methamphetamine may not cause noticeable side effects, extended use of meth can lead to various cardiovascular problems.
Deterioration Of Heart Muscle
Long-term methamphetamine use can lead to hypertrophy of cardiac muscle, a thickening of the heart muscle that occurs in response to chronic stress.
Hypertrophy interferes with the blood flow through and out of your heart, leading to diminished oxygen supply throughout your body.
Methamphetamine elevates activity in the peripheral nervous system, which is in charge of maintaining heart rate and blood pressure.
People who use meth may experience increased catecholamine levels. High levels of this stress hormone are believed to be the cause of cardiotoxicity (damage to the heart muscle) in people who use meth.
This is because excess catecholamine levels in the body have been associated with tachycardia, hypertension, non-functioning cardiac muscle, and other heart health problems.
Coronary Artery Disease
Long-term methamphetamine use has been linked to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in your arteries, according to the American Heart Association.
This can lead to coronary artery disease and an increased risk of a heart attack. Additionally, methamphetamine abuse has been linked to sudden cardiac death.
Long-term methamphetamine use can lead to cardiomyopathy, a weakening of heart muscle that makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood.
You’re at increased risk of developing congestive heart failure when you have cardiomyopathy.
Risk Factors For Heart Complications While Using Meth
While it’s not possible to determine who will develop heart complications with meth drug use, there are a few factors that increase the risk for heart dysfunction.
The risk factors for meth-induced heart complications include:
- history of addiction
- prior cardiac issues
Most people with methamphetamine-related heart complications are under 40 years old; however, people of any age can experience problems.
People with a history of substance abuse or dependence have an increased risk of developing severe cardiovascular problems while using methamphetamine.
A person with pre-existing cardiac conditions may be at greater risk for developing additional problems while using methamphetamine than those without such issues.
Symptoms Of Heart Problems From Meth Abuse
Symptoms typically associated with heart attacks and other heart problems due to meth drug use include:
- chest pain or tightness
- shortness of breath
- pain and numbness in the limbs
Meth-related cardiac symptoms necessitate prompt medical attention or therapy to avoid permanent harm.
Left untreated, methamphetamine-induced arrhythmias can lead to sudden death.
Is Heart Damage From Meth Abuse Permanent?
Even if a person stops using meth, there could be some damage done to their heart, though experts say it’s likely that any damaged tissue can heal with time.
Many people have had cardiac issues from using cocaine, opioids, or alcohol. But when people stop using these drugs, their heart health returns.
This is true for methamphetamine as well. If you quit using meth, it shouldn’t affect your heart permanently.
The problem is that many people don’t quit using meth — they cycle on and off it due to drug addiction.
If you do that long enough, your heart can become damaged in profound ways that aren’t easy to repair, even if you stop using meth entirely.
Treatment Programs For Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine addiction, if left untreated, can lead to renal, liver, or mental health issues such as psychosis. Meth can potentially result in violent behavior or meth overdose.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people learn how to identify triggers and cope with stress without using drugs or alcohol.
Medication-assisted treatment is not available for meth use, but other therapies and interventions can help reduce cravings.
Meth addiction treatments will vary based on each individual’s situation, but they typically include psychiatric care, group therapy, and support groups.
Significant heart abnormalities due to methamphetamine abuse may necessitate a medical emergency in some circumstances.
Find Treatment For Meth Addiction At Bedrock Recovery Center
Our top priority at Bedrock Recovery Center is to help individuals fighting a substance addiction find suitable and timely substance use disorder treatment.
Meth addiction doesn’t just cause heart disease and other physical effects but also impairs judgment and critical thinking skills.
Reach out to us at Bedrock today to discover more about how we treat substance use disorders involving meth.
- Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.312461
- National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/TR.238.pdf
- National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31433698/