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The Link Between Heart Disease And Substance Abuse

Heart Disease & Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a term that describes excessive use of chemical drugs that induce changes in a person. These drugs don’t need to be illegal – many people have developed substance abuse problems with medications that have been prescribed by their doctors. Substance use typically becomes substance abuse when a person begins using compulsively, at higher doses, and despite the emergence of problems in their life.

Substance abuse is notorious for being the catalyst to innumerable health problems. Depending on the drug of abuse, excessive intake can cause mental health problems, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, and can lead to a higher chance of developing heart disease. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

A Bit About Heart Disease

Cardiovascular diseases affect the heart or the body’s blood vessels. Various cardiovascular diseases make it more difficult for the heart and the circulatory system to function at a healthy level, which can lead to a large number of problems. Since the cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting blood and oxygen throughout the body, it’s important to keep it in good shape.

When the cardiovascular system is struck by a disease or begins to function at a suboptimal level, the body isn’t able to provide oxygen to its tissues and organs. This can result in many negative consequences, all of which emerge as a result of your body being unable to operate at a healthy level.

Cardiovascular problems can lead to all sorts of other complications. These are just a few examples:

  • Brain hemorrhages – caused by disrupted blood vessels in the skull that cause bleeding in the brain
  • Hypertension – the medical term for  high blood pressure, a very common issue among users of stimulant drugs
  • Thrombosis – a condition caused by excessive blood clotting that can clog a person’s blood vessels

How Substance Abuse Can Trigger Cardiovascular & Heart Disease

Different drugs of abuse can have different effects on a person’s cardiovascular health, and it’s important to understand the different ways that different drugs will affect you. A study done on 73 patients with heart failure showed that almost 20% had some sort of experience with alcoholism or drug addiction.


Alcohol is particularly notorious for increasing the chance that a person may have a brain hemorrhage. It’s also commonly associated with increases in blood pressure, which can become chronic if alcohol is consumed on a regular basis.

The line between abuse and use is important here. It’s also been shown that mild amounts of alcohol can actually increase cardiovascular health. Small amounts of wine are known to decrease the chances of developing atherosclerosis by helping to keep blood vessels clear.  However, anything over a minimal amount of alcohol causes far more harm than good.


Cigarette smoking is one of the most dangerous habits that a person can develop if they’re hoping to keep their heart in good shape. Regular cigarette smokers are more at risk to develop diseases of the arteries like atherosclerosis, as well as having a higher chance of hemorrhaging.


Amphetamines, which can be acquired legally, through a doctor with a prescription, or illicitly on the street – most often in the form of crystal meth, which can be smoked, snorted, injected, and eaten – are very dangerous for the heart. Legally prescribed amphetamines include Dexedrine and Adderall. These drugs are often used to treat conditions like ADHD.

Amphetamines are known to increase heart rate by causing stimulation of the adrenal glands. They’re also known to drastically increase blood pressure. These things together put a lot of strain on the cardiovascular system, which can lead to damage over the long-term.


Cocaine affects the cardiovascular system in a very similar manner that amphetamines do – by causing extreme increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Cocaine is generally considered to be among the riskiest drugs to take in regards to a person’s cardiovascular health.  Since cocaine causes the blood vessels to constrict and the heart to work harder, more oxygen is required by the body, but less is able to be delivered.

Cocaine also affects the delivery of calcium in a person’s cells, which is important for maintaining the health of tissues into the cardiovascular system. This makes a person more likely to suffer from strokes or aneurysms.


Steroids are very popular among bodybuilders and athletes. Anabolic steroids are drugs that imitate the body’s natural hormone – testosterone. Interfering with the natural levels of testosterone can cause a wide variety of side effects, as well as increasing the risk of developing heart disease.

Anabolic steroids are known to negatively affect blood pressure, as well as causing abnormalities in blood circulation. Using these drugs without the aid of a doctor can cause drastic side effects, and can increase the chances of having a stroke or heart failure.

In Conclusion

Most people know that drugs are dangerous for us, but not everyone knows exactly how or why. Hopefully this article has clarified the dangers that various drugs and alcohol can pose to your cardiovascular system, and will help you make a good decision in the future.

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