Horizon Blog

Know The Risk Factors Between Substance Abuse and Heart Disease

February 2nd, 2015

Red heart and a stethoscopeDuring the month of February, Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped candies, balloons, and chocolates. More importantly, the American Heart Association (AHA) has designated February as Heart Month, and encourages us all to spend the month raising our awareness of heart health issues, with the ultimate goal of lowering cardiovascular risk factors.

While there are many known factors that can negatively impact heart health, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research has identified a connection between substance abuse and a range of potentially life-threatening cardiovascular effects. Drugs with the potential to negatively impact the cardiovascular system include:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants (paint thinners, glues, spray paints, chloroform, nitrous oxide, etc.)
  • Ketamine (a club drug, often used by teens)
  • LSD, PCP, and other hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy)
  • Methamphetamines
  • Prescription Stimulants
  • Steroids
  • Nicotine and tobacco
  • Alcohol

Of these drugs, three that have the potential to most commonly impact heart health include tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

Tobacco
Cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing several serious cardiovascular conditions, including, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack.

Alcohol
According to WebMd both regular and high levels of alcohol consumption can be damaging to your cardiovascular system and can lead to cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking can even cause irregular heart rhythms. Those with existing heart conditions are more at risk for complications due to alcohol consumption. Talk to a health care professional regarding your ability to consume alcohol if you have one of these conditions:

  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rhythm

Recreational Drugs
Recreational drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, are defined as those that are used without medical justification for their psychoactive effects. According to the AHA, many such recreational drugs are often used in conjunction with other dangerous substances such as talc, poisons, or other particles, some of which don’t dissolve in the blood stream and may block blood flow. Cocaine in particular can cause several cardiovascular complications, such as:

  • Chest pain syndrome
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Aortic dissection
  • Fatal and nonfatal arrhythmias
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
  • Endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart)
  • Vascular thrombosis (blood clots in blood vessels)
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart)

By avoiding recreational drugs, cigarettes, and by consuming alcohol responsibly, you can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.


At Horizon Health we are dedicated to your overall well being. If you or someone you love needs help with addiction, call us, we can help (716) 831-1800.

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