Amphetamine use may ‘speed up’ heart aging

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AMPHETAMINE abuse is increasing internationally. While common sides effects of the drug include increased heart rate, headache, stomach pain, and mood changes, little is known about the drug’s effect on the heart. Now, new research published in Heart Asia reports that using amphetamines recreati-onally may accelerate aging of the heart.
Using amphetamines recreationally could accelerate aging of the heart. Recreational amphetamine, commonly known as “ice,” “speed,” and ecstasy, is a central nervous system stimulant. Amphetamine sends the part of the nervous system that functions to accelerate heart rate, constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure, and produce the “fight or flight” hormone adrenaline, into overdrive.
Given the effect of amphetamine on heart rate, blood vessels, and blood pressure, the abuse of stimulants is likely to have a stressful effect on the cardiovascular system over time. However, there have previously been few studies that explore these processes.
It is known that prolonged stimulant use causes premature aging of the skin. Following on from this knowledge, researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) aimed to find out whether amphetamine use prematurely ages the heart.
Albert Stuart Reece, associate professor of medicine at UWA, and collaborators measured levels of blood flow through the brachial artery in the upper arm, as well as the radial artery in the forearm, of 713 study participants.
Arteries harden as the body ages, and so the researchers aimed to assess the degree of artery stiffening in order to determine how the heart was aging in this population. The participants were in their 30s and 40s and attending a clinic for substance misuse.
The team used a standard blood pressure cuff on the upper arm of participants and a noninvasive monitoring system, called SphygmoCor, on the forearm to gather data.
SphygmoCor uses software that can calculate the biological vascular age of a person by matching the age, sex, and height of an individual with the extent of arterial stiffening.
The participants were divided into four groups depending on their drug use. There were 483 people who did not smoke, 107 people who did, 68 individuals who used the heroin substitute methadone, and 55 users of amphetamine. Of the 66 times that the amphetamine group was monitored with the SphygmoCor, 94 percent of individuals had used the drug within the previous week, and almost half of the people in the group had used it the day before.

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