Heart failure in methamphetamine users: Could this be the next epidemic among vets?

November 14, 2017

ANAHEIM, California, Nov. 14, 2017 -- Heart failure associated with methamphetamine (meth) use has risen dramatically in recent years among U.S. veterans, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Meth abuse is a serious problem in America, with more than 4.7 percent of the population reporting that they've tried the highly addictive stimulant drug at least once.

"Methamphetamine (or meth) is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, and its use is on the rise. In addition to other health problems associated with the drug, clinicians are seeing more heart failure with meth use, suggesting heart failure due to methamphetamine use could be a new epidemic," said study author Marin Nishimura, M.D., internal medicine resident, University of California, San Diego.

Nishimura and colleagues studied 9,588 Veterans Administration (VA) patients at the San Diego VA Medical Center diagnosed with heart failure from 2005 and 2015. Among those, 480 were documented to have a history of meth abuse. They found: "The finding that meth users are more likely to be affected by psychiatric illnesses and tended to require more emergency department visits has important implications because they impact the cost of healthcare and healthcare utilization," Nishimura said. Addressing the increased healthcare needs of meth users with heart failure could mean establishing better relationships with primary care doctors who can check on whether these patients' health is stable to avoid emergency care and hospitalization, according to Nishimura.

More research into the association of meth use and heart failure is needed, according to the researcher. "Our finding is based on a single center and only is based on the very specific population of the veterans in San Diego, so this should be looked at in other populations," she said.
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Co-authors are Janet Ma, M.D.; Isac C Thomas, M.D.; Sutton Fox, M.P.H.; Avinash Toomu; Sean Mojaver; Derek Juang, M.D. and Alan Maisel, M.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract. There was no funding for this study.

Presentation location: Clinical Section, Science & Technology Hall

Additional Resources: Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke - the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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