(Reuters Health) – With the right treatments, some methamphetamine users who kick the habit might be able to undo heart damage linked to abusing these drugs, a small study suggests.
Some previous research in animals and humans has tied meth abuse to a variety of serious or potentially fatal cardiovascular problems including heart failure, as well as damage to blood vessels in the brain, stroke, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. But research to date hasn’t offered a clear picture of what happens to the heart once methamphetamine use stops.
For the current study, researchers examined data on 30 meth users in Germany with evidence of heart failure. After an average follow-up of almost three years, the 23 users who quit during the study were less likely to die, have a stroke or be hospitalized for heart failure than the seven continuing meth users, although the study was too small to rule out the possibility that these differences were due to chance.
“We can see that suspending use of methamphetamine appears to lead to a reversal of heart failure in a good number of patients that are affected in this way,” said Dr. James Januzzi, Jr. of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center in Boston.
“This recovery is a most important finding, and illustrates the importance of abstinence, not only in the short term to improve heart function, but also longer-term to avoid risk for return of heart dysfunction and death from heart failure,” Januzzi, author of an editorial accompanying the study in JACC: Heart Failure, said by email.
At the start of the study, patients were typically around 30 years old and had been abusing meth for almost six years, though the duration of drug use ranged from one to 15 years.
Imaging tests done at the beginning of the study found that all of them had what’s known as severely impaired left ventricular ejection fraction, a reduced ability to send blood out…