The effects of drugs on your heart health

The Effects of Drugs on Your Heart Health

Most of us know that, in general, recreational drugs aren’t good for our health. They can cause weight fluctuations, sleep disturbances, sinus damage, and a host of other problems. But some of the most serious damage drugs can do is to your heart and your circulatory system.

Drug abuse can make your heart race, your blood pressure go up, your arteries narrow, and your heart rhythm change. Your risk of having a heart attack or going into congestive heart failure also goes up. Read on to learn more about the health effects of drugs and what to do if you’re fighting addiction.


Opioids are a tricky subject, since some opioid use is safe and legal, while opioid abuse can be tremendously dangerous. Prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine can be safe when used as prescribed. But abusing these drugs or using drugs like heroin can be extraordinary dangerous for your heart.

In general, opioids can increase your risk of atrial fibrillation, the irregular heartbeat we mentioned earlier. The more opioids you take, the more danger you’ll be in from this condition. And as we’ll discuss more later, injecting opioids can also increase your risk of developing an infection in your heart.


Continued alcohol abuse can be hard on a number of systems in your body, beginning with your liver. But there are also studies showing that alcohol abuse can increase your risk of developing three heart conditions: atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure.

Atrial fibrillation is a heartbeat that quivers or doesn’t have a regular pattern. This can increase your risk of blood clots, strokes, and heart failure.

You’re familiar with myocardial infarctions, but you probably know them as heart attacks. Consistent alcohol abuse can increase your risk of developing a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack.

Congestive heart failure is a condition in which your body is unable to pump blood out to the other areas of your body. This can happen when your ventricles stiffen up or you get too much fat in your blood. Both of these can happen as a result of prolonged alcohol abuse.


Aside from cocaine, methamphetamines probably cause the most damage to your heart of any drug on this list. In fact, heart disease is the second-largest killer of methamphetamine users after accidental overdose. The longer you use meth, the more strain you put on your heart and the more you increase your risk of a heart attack.

Meth use causes your blood vessels to get thicker and narrower, especially around your lungs. It can increase the amount of plaque in your blood vessels, which can raise your risk of a heart attack. You’re more likely to develop an arrhythmia, and your heart becomes weaker over time, making it harder for it to pump blood out to all parts of your body.


It should come as no surprise that cocaine is hard on your heart. One of the first things to happen after you take cocaine is your heart rate rises, along with your blood pressure. The arteries around your heart also get smaller, and you aren’t able to get as much blood flowing through your heart.

If you continue using cocaine, you could develop a number of cardiac diseases, all of which could increase your risk of having a heart attack when you do use cocaine. You could develop an irregular heartbeat, the time between your heartbeats could increase, and you could develop blood clots. Plaque may start to build up in your arteries, your blood vessels will become damaged, and your arteries might shrink.


Although meth is overall more dangerous for your heart, amphetamines can pose some heart health risks, especially if you abuse them. One of the most common amphetamines on the market today is Adderall. This medication can be helpful and relatively safe for ADHD patients if used as prescribed, but there’s a huge black market for this drug that can lead to amphetamine abuse.

Amphetamines can immediately raise your heart rate and blood pressure, placing more strain on your heart. Over time, they can cause your blood vessels to narrow and may even interfere with your heart rhythm. This can put you at a greater risk for a heart attack, especially if you abuse these drugs for a long time.


Overall, marijuana is relatively low risk when it comes to how drugs effect your heart. However, it does still have some negative effects on your heart, even at low doses. Like all the drugs we discuss here, the more you use and the more often you use, the more severe your side effects are likely to be.

When you take a low or moderate dose of marijuana, your heart rate and blood pressure go up. As you get a larger dose into your system, your body may actually reverse course, and your blood pressure and heart rate drop out. Some marijuana users experience a dangerous decrease in blood flow and oxygen to their hearts.

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are some of the most dangerous substances on the market today. Spice is a type of synthetic marijuana that can cause dangerous increases in heart rates. Between 33 and 75 percent of spice users had a dangerously elevated heart rate, and some teenagers have even had heart attacks after using spice.

Bath salts are a type of synthetic cathinone that are supposed to be a substitute for cocaine. 79 percent of users experienced a rapid heart rate, and 74 percent had high blood pressure. A quarter of bath salts users had chest pains, and one in five experienced heart palpitations, making this drug even more dangerous than cocaine.


In general, nicotine itself actually isn’t tremendously bad for your heart. It becomes more dangerous when it’s burned, but non-combusted nicotine doesn’t cause an unreasonable amount of damage to your heart. For the most part, doctors recommend patients who are already at risk for cardiovascular disease avoid any form of nicotine.

Cigarettes, however, are a completely different story; among other dangerous health effects, cigarettes can cause significant damage to your heart. Over time, smoking can cause your blood vessels to narrow and become thicker, as well as increasing the amount of fat in your blood. It can lower your good cholesterol, increase your risk for blood clots, cause more plaque buildup, and generally make you into a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen.

Injection Drug Risk 

No matter what sort of drugs you’re using, injecting drugs can cause additional complications for your heart. For the most part, these risks come from using injection equipment that hasn’t been sterilized the right way. The more often you inject with this equipment, the higher your risk gets.

Injecting drugs can cause severe damage to your veins, including scarring them or even collapsing them. Worse yet, there’s a chance you could inject bacteria directly into your veins, where they can make their way to your heart. You could get a bacterial infection in your blood vessels or even in the valves and lining of your heart, potentially leading to you needing a partial heart transplant.

What to Do If You’re Fighting Addiction

The physical effects of drugs can be terrifying, but if you’re fighting addiction, you may not know how to stop using. The first thing to know is that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t beyond help. Fighting addiction is hard, but it can help you to take back control and live a healthy, happy, long life.

If you’re fighting addiction, the first thing you need to do is to reach out to someone you trust and ask for help. This could be a family member, a friend, a partner, a pastor, or a therapist. With their help, find a rehab facility, treatment center, or other such program that can help you get through withdrawal safely and establish new life patterns outside of your addiction.

Learn More About the Health Effects of Drugs 

Drug use impacts your body in a number of different ways, but your heart takes some of the most severe damage. Your blood vessels get narrower, your heart rhythms change, and your risk of a heart attack goes up exponentially. The more often you use, the higher your risk of developing a serious condition, especially if you use injection drugs.

If you’d like to learn more about the health effects of drugs, check out the rest of our site at Cenikor. Our substance use disorder treatment programs are available throughout Texas and have been helping people for more than fifty years. Get help today and discover how you can be well beyond recovery.

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