The drug abuse that ignites the pandemic threatens the heart and lives on

American Heart Association News
HealthDay reporter

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 (American Heart Association News) – Recently in his medical department in Denver, Dr. Eric Leonos was hit by another tragic violation.

“For a nine-hour shift, I took care of someone chest pain from cocaine, someone from opioids overdose who quit breathing, and anyone out methamphetamine use those who thought he was being haunted by form-changing demons, ”he said. – Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.

Lavonas, who is also a professor of ambulance at the University of Colorado, ranks first in what appears to be pandemicassociated surge of addiction, illegal drugs heart-damaging and life-threatening.

By the end of June last year, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing the use of substances as a way to combat them coronavirus-related stress or emotions, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In December, the CDC reported drug abuse and fatal overdoses began to rise at the start of the pandemic, presumably as blockades, financial tensions, and uncertainty about the future spurred an increase in drug use. A previous CDC summary published last week recorded nearly 90,000 overdose deaths in the 12 months ended September 2020, up 29% from the previous period. This exceeded the more than 80,000 deaths a year reported in May last year, which health officials estimated at the time were the highest in 12 months.

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Although there are no more recent statistics yet, Lavonas said: “Everyone’s imagination has increased this year. There are fewer people. stress like never before, and they are more socially disconnected than ever. ”

Last month, Lavonas helped the author of a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that warned of opioid overdose – now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 25 to 64 – and encouraged people who were not treated to learn to drive. naloxonethat counteracts opioid overdose.

Dr. Isaac Thomas, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego, reiterated concerns about opioid abuse, but no less concerned about methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant that is highly addictive.

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“I don’t think enough attention is paid to how big a problem this has become, especially in the cardiac space,” said Thomas, who helped conduct two recent studies linking methamphetamine use to heart failure. “A lot of young people are actually shortening their lives.”

The three drugs Lavonas encountered during the shift punish the heart in different ways.

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Cocaine has been called “perfect heart attack drug “by Australian researchers who presented their findings at a conference in 2012. Regular use of an illegal stimulant, the study showed, can increase the stiffness of the arteries and increase blood pressure and heart muscle damage – all risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Similarly, Thomas said, methamphetamine “has a direct toxic effect on the heart.” According to him, it causes dilated cardiomyopathy, weakening and enlargement of the heart muscle, which eventually leads to heart failure.

“We see a lot of young men and some young women coming in with shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue,” Thomas said. “We find that their hearts are badly damaged and just not pumping very well. It’s a pretty serious disease and it creates a pretty high risk of death for them despite their young age.”

More immediately methamphetamine can cause irrational, even psychotic behavior. “I’ve seen people suffering from methamphetamine die from collisions,” Lavonas said.

The effects of opioids on the heart are less direct but no less dangerous.

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“Opioids have become much more deadly as a previous epidemic of prescription drug abuse and heroin has been replaced by fentanyl, which is much more potent,” Lavonas said. “People die within minutes of an injection, and often they die alone.”

They die because fentanyl, produced illegally without control and proper dosing, can be so potent that users fall asleep and stop breathing.

“If oxygen doesn’t get into the brain and heart, then the brain and heart die,” Lavonas said. “I feel very sorry for people who can’t stop taking it, but you inject fentanyl every time you die.”

Injecting any drug, Thomas warned, can lead to endocarditis – a heart valve infection that can be fatal.

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Both doctors said there are no simple answers in the fight against drug addiction.

“We can tell patients about treatment plans, but in their lives we can only control so much,” Thomas said. “Once they are discharged, they often return to a propensity for addiction.”

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Facing the opioid crisis, Lavonas has a double message: “Seek help. There is a good system of support and treatment,” he said. “But recovery is gradual. For people who are not yet ready to take that step, at least never use naloxone alone and always available. As long as you are alive, there is hope.”

For people in need, the Emergency and Mental Health Helpdesk is available at 800-985-5990.

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all of the views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or maintained by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights reserved. If you have questions or comments on this story, please email [email protected]

Written by Michael Precker


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