In considering the reasons why people need or want to use drugs on a regular basis, the answers run the gamut – be it logical or not. To provide a means for masking pain or heighten personal performance, ongoing drug use will compromise overall health of the mind, body and spirit. With the resurgence of cocaine use and the prescription opioid epidemic strengthening the misnomer of a squeaky-clean America, I thought to devote some time and effort into a repercussion from both addictions – heart disease. The risk of heart disease with prescription opioids or cocaine use exists and is of serious concern to those ages 35 years or more. What you may not know can kill you.

Misconceptions Kill Medicinal Benefits

Patients who are under a doctor’s care to help them handle the pain associated from a recent surgery, illness or injury will be prescribed prescription opioids to ease the hurt during the healing process. Unfortunately, there is a delicate balance between effective pain management and drug dependency, measured on an individual basis. The practitioner can only guestimate what that fine line is as each patient has a different threshold for drug intake based on family history, prior and current drug use, age, weight and mental health. How can a person assess their own balance, especially when numb to it?

Patient Trust Weakens Personal Empowerment

Much of today’s opioid epidemic can be pointed back to two factors:

  1. Overprescribing prescription pain medication
  2. Abrupt ending of prescription medication

People entrust their health in their doctors but when the practitioners fail to protect their best interests, the alternative to medical care is illicit drugs found on our streets. Hence, the uptick in heroin use. While many focus on the rate of opioid overdoses in our country, there beats another health hazard: heart disease.

Opioid and Cocaine Abuse Destroy Cardiovascular Function

Program Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, David Larimer, M.Ed, CADC, has seen what prescription opioids and cocaine abuse can do to people as it only takes a one-time experience to be your last.

SRC Program Director interview with ABC News.

Creating opposing effects to the body, opioids and cocaine use damage the cardiovascular system by putting pressure on its wellbeing in different ways.

Prescription opioids are depressants. Blood pressure and heart rate drop, slowing respiratory output. This is especially dangerous to a person with a sleep disorder or sleep apnea. Should a person taking opioids also be using other drugs, such as Valium or Xanax, the risks increase.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University examined prescription opioid deaths and whether there were other mitigating factors in mortality rates. Lead author of the study, Dr. Wayne Ray, stated “Long acting opioids was associated with increased cardiovascular and other non-overdose mortality adds to the already considerable known harms of the opioids and thus should be considered when assessing the benefits and harms of medications for chronic pain.”

Cocaine Short-Circuits Heart Function

risk of heart disease with cocaine useOften perceived as a glamor drug, cocaine is a preferred substance of the Hollywood elite and executive wannabes as it promises greater social skills by removing inhibitions while speeding up responsiveness. But that’s not all it quickens.

Cocaine use will increase blood pressure to the point of initiating a heart attack in the small vessels of the heart. In addition, users can develop arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. In people who already have heart conditions, the risks escalate because the efficacy of medications taken to minimize the incidence of heart attacks, such as beta blockers, are interrupted and minimized by cocaine.

Alcohol Consumption Further Complicates Cocaine Addiction and Heart Risk

Many cocaine addicts use alcohol to help soften the rush that cocaine use brings. A shot of tequila or a bottle of wine might sound like a good idea to help come down from cocaine but it’s a dangerous and potentially deadly partnership. Alcohol and cocaine in the bloodstream simultaneously produce what’s known as cocaethylene, formed in the liver when both substances are present. Cocaethylene increases the toxicity of how the drugs affect the heart, posing eminent risks for cardiac arrest or seizure.

Heart Disease with Alcohol Use Disorder on the Rise

Emerging information about research studies that monitor alcohol consumption in adults are often in conflict and create confusion to the American public. If you’re looking for statistics to support moderate consumption of wine or hard liquor, for example, you’ll find them as drinking one glass of wine per day can provide benefits to a woman (two per day for a man). Though the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) refers to binge drinking as four or more drinks in one session per month for women or five, respectively, for men. A glass of wine can differ in size from establishment to establishment or if doing a self-pour at home. With the misconception about healthy drinking intake vs. alcohol abuse, it’s difficult to gage the underlying truth.

The misconception or willful ignorance about alcohol consumption helps feed the associated health risks. Long term alcohol abuse will weaken cardiovascular health, as it can increase the level of triglycerides (unhealthy fat) in the blood, raise blood pressure, cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia and sudden death from a heart attack. Alcoholism brings about other risks to health and interpersonal relationships.

To Stop Health Risks Due to Prescription Opioids, Cocaine or Alcohol Abuse, Start Here

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.

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