The effects of meth on heart explained

Market Expertz   |     August 04, 2019


Illegal usage of methamphetamine can cause a build-up of tough protein fibers in heart muscle, which might lead to enlargement of heart and heart failure in users, as concluded by preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2019 Scientific Sessions. Commonly known as ‘meth,’ methamphetamine is exceptionally addictive and usually abused stimulant drug with nearly 1.6 million Americans reported to have used the drug in 2017. Previous autopsy reports of a few meth users have indicated injuries to heart cells, scarring of heart muscles, and heart enlargement. The existing studies were designed to systematically compare autopsy results in meth users and non-users and identify how the drug might cause cardiovascular issues.

In the study, the researchers used heart samples obtained at autopsy from 32 chronic meth users, out of which, most were Caucasian men with an average age of 38 years, who died due to meth overdose or from hanging, blunt force injury, gunshot wounds, or blood clots in the lungs. The use of meth was confirmed by their medical history and the results of toxicology reports. When compared to samples from non-users, samples from the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle) in meth users indicated high deposits of collagen (stiff protein fibers) around the blood vessels along with the build-up of collagen in the spaces between heart muscle cells. The researchers observed similarly higher collagen deposits in mice exposed to the drug compared to those who were not.

The studies on mice also indicated that meth might cause structural changes in heart muscles by blocking a particular receptor in the heart, which suggests a possible way to prevent meth-induced heart damage in the future. The research is conditional on autopsy samples, so the researchers were unable to determine how the structural differences they witnessed in methamphetamine users might unequivocally affect blood tests and heart function.