TUESDAY, April 20, 2021 (American Heart Association News) – A recent day in the Denver Health emergency room, Dr. Eric Lavonas hit another tragic traffic crash.
“On a nine-hour shift, I took care of someone who had chest pain from cocaine, someone with opioid overdose who stopped breathing, and someone who used methamphetamine who thought he was being chased by demons. that change shape, ”he said. “Unfortunately, this is no longer a rare fact.”
Lavonas, who is also a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado, has a front row seat in what appears to be an increase in pandemic-related, life-threatening and life-threatening addictive illegal drugs.
In late June last year, 13% of Americans reported initiating or increasing substance use as a way to cope with stress or coronavirus-related emotions, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In December, the CDC reported that drug abuse and deadly overdoses began to rise in the early days of the pandemic, likely as blockages, financial stress, and uncertainty about the future led to increased drug use. drugs.
A preliminary CDC summary released last week counted about 90,000 overdose deaths in the twelve months ending September 2020, 29% more than the previous period. This exceeded the more than 80,000 deaths reported last May, according to health authorities at the time, which were the highest number recorded in a twelve-month period.
Although more recent statistics are not yet available, Lavonas said: “Everyone’s perception is that they are increasing this year. People are more stressed than ever and more socially disconnected than ever.”
Lavonas helped last month write a scientific statement from the American Heart Association warning of opioid overdose – now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 64 – and encouraged non-medical people to learn how to administer naloxone, which counteracts opioid overdose.
Dr. Isac Thomas, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego Health, echoed concerns about opioid abuse, but is equally alarmed by methamphetamine, a potent, highly addictive stimulant.
“I don’t think enough attention is being paid to the big problem that has happened, especially in the cardiology space,” said Thomas, who helped lead two recent studies linking methamphetamine use to heart failure. “A lot of young people are really cutting their lives.”
The three drugs Lavonas found during his turn punish the heart in different ways.
Australian researchers who presented their findings at a 2012 conference called cocaine “the perfect drug to attack the heart.” The study found that regular use of the illegal stimulant can harden arteries, raise blood pressure and damage heart muscle, all risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
Similarly, Thomas said, methamphetamine “has a direct toxic effect on the heart.” He said it causes dilated cardiomyopathy, a weakening and an enlargement of the heart muscle which ultimately leads to heart failure.
“We see a lot of young men and some young women coming in with shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue,” Thomas said. “We find that their heart is severely damaged and just doesn’t pump very well. It’s a pretty serious disease and puts them at risk of dying despite their young age.”
More immediately, methamphetamine can cause irrational, even psychotic, behavior. “I’ve seen people die with methamphetamine because of traffic,” Lavonas said.
The effects of opioids on the heart are less direct, but no less dangerous.
“Opioids have become much more deadly as the previous epidemic of prescription drug abuse has gone and heroin has been replaced by fentanyl, which is much more powerful,” Lavonas said. “People die within minutes of the injection and often die alone.”
They die because illegally produced fentanyl without controls or a proper dose can be so potent that users fall asleep and stop breathing.
“If there is no oxygen reaching the brain and heart, then the brain and heart die,” Lavonas said. “I have great compassion for people who can’t stop using them, but you’re always a bad injection of fentanyl far from death.”
Injection of any medication, Thomas warned, can cause endocarditis, a life-threatening infection of the heart valves.
The two doctors said that in the battle against addiction there are no easy answers
“We can tell patients the treatment plans, but there’s only so much we can control in their lives,” Thomas said. “Once they are discharged, they often fall back into their addiction model.”
When faced with the opioid crisis, Lavonas has a double message: “Get help. There are good support and treatment systems,” he said. “But recovery goes in stages. For people who are not yet ready to take that step, at least don’t use it alone and always have naloxone available. As long as you’re alive, there’s hope.”
For people who need help, the Disaster Abuse Administration’s Mental Health Services and Mental Health Services helpline is available at 800-985-5990.
American Heart Association News it covers the health of the heart and brain. Not all opinions expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or owned by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights reserved. If you have any questions or comments about this story, please email us [email protected]
By Michael Precker