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Substance abuse is the excessive or compulsive use of substances that can cause physical and psychological changes. The use of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth is considered abuse because it leads to significant impairment in the person’s ability to function in occupational or societal terms. It’s no secret that drugs are bad for your heart and other vital organs of the body. Many people with drug addictions end up with cardiovascular disease on top of other physical and psychological ailments. So today, we’re considering: can your heart recover from drug abuse, or is it permanent?
Cardiovascular disease refers to the dysfunction of or damage to the tissues of the heart or blood vessels that inhibits or prevents the heart from functioning to its full capacity. These functions include regular and consistent pumping of the blood throughout the body, supplying all organs with oxygen.
The vascular system, or the network of blood vessels in the body, also plays a role in the exchange of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood between veins and arteries. Without this, the body’s tissues would quickly become starved of oxygen, leading to cell death. Blood vessels are also responsible for transporting waste to the kidneys and harmful substances (including traces of drugs) to the liver to be removed from the body.
Cardiovascular disease can greatly reduce the heart’s ability to carry out these functions, interfering with basic and important capabilities like pumping blood throughout the body. This can lead to brain abnormalities, tissue starvation, tissue death (necrosis), and more.
Other types of cardiovascular disease may also cause blockages in blood vessels, making blood flow through the body difficult. These blockages can also lead to stroke and heart attack, producing ailments that may require surgery or even amputations to rectify.
Not only do drugs affect the heart by impacting nerve activity in the central nervous system, but their ingredients often block arteries in the heart, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and death. Common drug effects on the heart include:
Keep in mind that certain individuals are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than others. This may be indicated by a variety of factors, including diet, weight, lifestyle choices, and family history of cardiovascular disease.
Drug and alcohol abuse are also strong contributing factors to cardiovascular disease and may result in further deterioration of an existing illness.
Can your heart recover from drug abuse, or is the damage permanent? To an extent, yes, it is possible to reverse heart damage done by drugs and alcohol.
One study that examined heart health in participants who quit methamphetamine found that, combined with appropriate medical treatment, quitting meth use can reverse its damage to the heart.1 Researchers examined 30 patients abusing methamphetamine to assess whether their heart function improved after they stopped using the drug.
All patients had a left ventricular ejection fraction (EF) of 40%.1 Ejection fraction refers to how well your left ventricle (or right) pumps blood with each heartbeat. Most times, EF refers to the amount of blood being pumped out by the left ventricle each time it contracts.
EF is expressed as a percentage, and the normal percentage ranges from 55% to 70%. Patients in the study had an EF of less than 40%, which indicates some form of heart failure.2 Over 83% of participants in the study were symptomatic and suffered from labored breathing, and one-third had blood clots.
All patients received medical methamphetamine addiction treatment, including wearable and automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillators.1 Symptoms improved significantly in patients who discontinued methamphetamine use.
What’s more, patients who discontinued using meth also reduced their risk of death (in relation to heart disease), non-fatal stroke, and rehospitalization for heart failure by 57%, while those who continued to use the drug while receiving medical treatment only decreased these risks by 13%.1 Although this is just one study, other studies have been done on the improvement in the heart after quitting nicotine and other addictive drugs.
Considering how damaging meth is to the heart, it’s safe to use this study as hard evidence that recovery from drug-induced cardiovascular disease is possible. However, keep in mind that the level or form of improvement may vary depending on the person’s body, the drug in question, and the duration of their drug use.
The longer someone has used drugs, the more severe the damage to their body may be. Thus, recovery is different for everyone.
Experiencing a stroke or heart attack from drug use isn’t the only thing addicts should fear. Substance abuse can affect not only your physical health (in numerous ways) but also your mental health, relationships, careers, finances, and more.
Many people lose their families, friends, jobs, and health to drugs. If you or someone you care about has developed a drug or alcohol addiction, the sooner you find treatment, the better.
Our Texas rehabilitation center offers residential treatment for all kinds of substance use disorders. Patients work side by side with our team to work on their physical, psychological, and social recovery from drugs and alcohol so they may have the best chance of achieving and sustaining long-term sobriety.
From medically monitored detox to individual and group therapy, Banyan Treatment Centers offers all kinds of modalities that could work for you or a loved one. To learn more about our drug addiction treatment in Texas, call us today at 888-280-4763.