The Impact of Substance Abuse on Cardiovascular Health
The cardiovascular system (which includes the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries) is perhaps one of the most essential organ systems in a person’s body. The heart, obviously, is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and maintaining blood pressure. Arteries, on the other hand, carry nutrients away from the heart and closer to other tissues in the body. Veins branch off throughout the body and carry blood back to the heart. Capillaries supply organs or tissues with the oxygen and nutrients they need while working to remove carbon dioxide and other waste from the body. As you can see, all of these parts work together to make one functioning system. If one part isn’t performing its best, the entire system could fail.
This system in particular is strongly affected by drug abuse and addiction. Drug abuse has the power to negatively impact many organs, especially the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system. The side effects that drug abuse may have on the heart could range from mild (like having an abnormal heart rate) to fatal (such as a heart attack). Essentially, everyone who abuses drugs is at risk for developing heart-related issues. The question we’re left with is: if someone beats their addiction, will their heart heal along with the rest of their mind & body?
How Addiction Affects Heart Health
Each type of drug could lead to different heart problems because of their effects on the body. Stimulants like cocaine and MDMA, for example, can cause heart-related issues because they increase adrenaline levels and hormones in the body. This action can also result in an irregular or increased heart rate, narrowed blood vessels, spasms, high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to certain parts of the body, and even heart attacks. In fact, cocaine is sometimes referenced as “the heart attack drug” because of its cardiovascular effects.
Opioids like heroin and codeine have the opposite effect on the heart than stimulants. They decrease sympathetic signaling in the body and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the “rest and digest” stage of various organs. When someone abuses opioids, they could eventually experience low blood pressure or a slowed/irregular heartbeat.
Combining stimulant or opioid drugs could increase one’s risk for cardiovascular issues. Additionally, injecting any type of drug may cause collapsed veins and bacterial infections in the blood vessels or valves.
These effects are very serious, but some are treatable and can be reversed with the right attention and care.
Can Quitting Drugs Reverse Heart Damage?
Yes, quitting drugs can reverse heart damage to an extent. Essentially, stopping is the first step toward repairing heart health. Quitting can reverse heart damage and improve its function when combined with appropriate medical treatment. While some effects of drug abuse are irreversible, others will go back to normal shortly after someone stops using and starts prioritizing healthier habits. But of course, nobody who has an addiction should quit alone. If you’re thinking of quitting to prioritize your heart health, talk to your doctor or another medical professional about your situation. They will help you find a drug addiction treatment program that will also focus on repairing cardiovascular functions and repairing other damage.
Addiction can be hard to beat, but it is much easier when you have a strong support system and the necessary treatment. In a rehabilitation program, people with addictions who have experienced heart-related issues will have the chance to learn more about heart health, record and write down any symptoms, and even start a light cardio-based exercise routine. They will also have access to medically-induced detox, quality medical care, and necessary medication.
How to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Ultimately, the only way to keep your heart healthy is to be aware of the risks and practice beneficial habits. Eat a balanced diet, keep an eye on your blood pressure, and continue with your daily routine. Over time, you should start feeling more like yourself again.
To learn more about how you can recover from substance abuse addiction, call us today at 267.719.8528.