How much meth gets you up
Severe heart damage from crystal meth
Crystal meth doesn't just damage the brain. Long-term consumption can also lead to serious heart problems and vascular damage. The situation of those affected does not always improve with abstinence.
Image: dioxin / photocase.de
Whether to party, at work or just to get everyday life on the line: Crystal is consumed by consumers for a wide variety of purposes. Because crystal can drive the body to peak performance by forcing it to exploit its energy reserves.
The stimulating effect is mainly due to the increased release of stimulating substances produced by the body such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Consumers suddenly feel awake and more productive. The mood rises and fears or doubts seem to be swept away. Consumers have the feeling that they can party or work without end.
Impact from the outside not always recognizable
In contrast to depressant drugs such as cannabis or alcohol, the effect cannot always be recognized from the outside. This is also the case with the executive Nadine. In the book "Crystal Meth", three journalists portrayed people like Nadine who consume crystal for different reasons.
The 28-year-old Nadine is described as a real bundle of energy. Customers would appreciate her sociability, which makes jokes easy to crack. If she went to work intoxicated, no one noticed. “I've been praised all the time,” she says. She often worked without a break and into the evening hours. She did not know any concentration problems. "Crystal users," says Nadine, "can maintain their bourgeois facade for years."
What crystal consumers like Nadine like to hide: Behind the facade not only lurk lows when there is no supply, they also exploit their bodies. Above all, your cardiovascular system is heavily stressed. Crystal and other amphetamines temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure. In the long run, however, amphetamine consumption can stiffen the vessels. Stiffening of the blood vessels is a process that normally only begins at an advanced age. The result is that the whole organism ages prematurely.
Analysis of deaths
At times, crystal consumption can also be fatal. A research team from Australia looked at around 900 deaths linked to methamphetamine. Study leader Shane Darke and his team viewed the autopsy reports that were created after the death of those affected.
According to the reports, some of the deceased crystal users had severe cardiovascular damage. A quarter of those affected had an abnormally enlarged heart and one in five suffered from cardiac fibrosis. Fibrosis is a pathological change in the connective tissue that hardens and restricts organ function. The change is considered irreversible. These organ changes can result in cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
It must therefore be assumed that crystal users have an increased risk of heart damage. But what chances of recovery do those affected have if they stop using them? To clarify this question, a research team from Leipzig and Tübingen followed the recovery of 30 crystal users. The participants consumed an average of 5 years.
Shortness of breath and chest pain
All suffered from a severely reduced pumping capacity of the heart. Four out of ten users had heart valve disorders. The result is that some of the blood flows back from the heart after it is ejected. The most common symptoms for those affected were severe shortness of breath and angina pectoris. Shortness of breath is a direct result of the heart's reduced pumping capacity because less oxygen circulates in the body. Angina pectoris is attack-like chest pain that is triggered by circulatory disorders in the coronary arteries.
All patients received medical treatment. Follow-up examinations were carried out on those involved about a year after treatment. 23 had stopped using, 7 continued to use. The comparison of the two groups made it clear that cardiac output improved in those who dropped out. People who continued to use showed no improvement at all.
Change in connective tissue
The extent of recovery, however, depended on how badly the heart muscle was already damaged. Because heart fibrosis was found in many consumers. The more advanced the cardiac fibrosis was in the crystal users, the less likely it was that the symptoms would improve. The fibrosis, in turn, was closely related to the duration and intensity of consumption. This means: the sooner a person stops consuming, the higher the chances of improving cardiac output.
Crystal drives the body to perform better. But this also means increased stress for the cardiovascular system. Especially with frequent consumption, the blood vessels can age prematurely and the heart can be severely damaged. If you exit early, the heart can partially recover. It must be assumed, however, that long-term crystal consumption can irreversibly lead to reduced cardiac output. This increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
- Baumgärtner, M., Born, M. & Pauly, B. (2015). Crystal meth. Producers, dealers, investigators. Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag.
- Darke, S., Duflou, J. & Kaye, S. (2017). Prevalence and nature of cardiovascular disease in methamphetamine-related death: A national study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 179, 174-179.
- Schürer, S., Klingel, K., Sandri, M., Majunke, N., Besler, C., Kandolf, R., Lurz, P., Luck, M., Hertel, P., Schuler, G., Linke, A. & Mangner, N. (2017). Clinical Characteristics, Histopathological Features, and Clinical Outcome of Methamphetamine-Associated Cardiomyopathy. JACC: Heart Failure, 5 (6), 435-445.
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