New research has confirmed what David Smith and the Haight Asbury pioneers reported in the 60s: “speed kills”. Many clinicians have suspected, observed and reported on consequence of amphetamine use and binges for years. Amphetamine, cocaine and the abuse of methamphetamine and ecstasy are associated with premature biological aging that is even more robust than smoking cigarettes. These findings, according to Reese, et al, stood after adjusting for multiple variables, including all known cardiovascular risk factors. Amphetamine users had prematurely aging hearts as measured by arterial stiffness (P<0.0001)
Although the cardiovascular and aging effects associated with certain stimulant drugs are more likely than not a result of chronic use and addiction—a chronic multifaceted brain disease that effects every organ and system in the human body. It is also notable that the use of psycho-stimulants in children with ADHD is not associated with a prematurely aging vasculature. More research is needed.
Why Does This Matter?
The use and abuse of stimulant drugs is a serious public health concern. The fact that these drugs are easily manufactured domestically makes interdiction difficult. As a result, they remain relatively inexpensive, easy to attain and very dangerous.
Because cardiovascular issues are associated with amphetamine abuse and addiction, attaining a detailed, lifelong drug history and systems assessment is critical. In the treatment environment, a thorough and specific drug use evaluation is completed as soon as possible. If amphetamines are a drug or choice, or have been used in the past, a cardiovascular symptom screening is conducted. The screening and examination evaluates for chest pain, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, PND, orthopnea, edema, palpitations, faintness, loss of consciousness, and claudication. Addressing any positive findings during an evaluation or treatment event is associated with the highest quality patient care.