Amphetamine Abuse Can Cause Serious Damage to Aorta in Young People
An aortic dissection, also known as dissecting aneurysm, is a serious condition involving a tear in the inner layer of the aortic wall, causing blood to fill between and separate the inner and middle layers. If blood makes its way to the outer layer of the aortic wall, the dissection is likely to be fatal. Because amphetamine abuse can lead to heart damage, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center investigated whether amphetamine abusers are at higher risk for aortic dissection.
Researchers Drs. Arthur Westover and Paul Nakonezny conducted a population-based controlled study using medical records from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample between 1995 and 2007 on 30,922,098 patients aged 18 to 49 years. The medical records included in the database were gathered from California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state, where amphetamine abuse has historically been more prominent. Of the study’s sample, 3,116 patients had thoracic and thoracoabdominal aortic dissections. Researchers discovered that patients who had a history of amphetamine abuse were three times as likely to experience an aortic dissection.
Typically, aortic dissection is considered to be more common among male adults aged 50 and older. However, in the researchers’ investigation, younger adults were more likely to experience aortic dissection than people 50 and older. The researchers compared the data on patients aged 18 to 49 years to the medical records of more than 49 million patients over the age of 50 during the same time period. As a result, younger adults displayed a higher frequency of aortic dissection than older adults, although the researchers could not confirm the cause of this disparity. They suggest, however, that the availability of amphetamines on the west coast may contribute to higher levels of amphetamine abuse, and therefore may have led to higher occurrences of aortic dissections among this population.
A similar study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released last year found that full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 were twice as likely to abuse Adderall—a prescription brand of amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy—as their peers who do not attend college full time. The study also found that amphetamine-abusing college students were three times more likely to abuse marijuana, eight times more likely to abuse cocaine, eight times more likely to abuse prescription tranquilizers, and five times more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers. Furthermore, 90% of these amphetamine-abusing college students were classified as binge drinkers.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.8% of 12-grade students had abused amphetamines in 2007, with Adderall as the most popular amphetamine of abuse (2.8% of 12-graders admitting to misuse of the medication). Based on these findings, amphetamines had become the third most abused drug among this age group for that year.
According to SAMHSA, amphetamine/methamphetamine abuse is on the rise nationwide. In a recent study, treatment admissions for amphetamine/methamphetamine abuse had risen from 13 admissions per 100,000 in 1993, to 56 admissions per 100,000 in 2003. SAMHSA also found that Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington were four of the top 12 states in 2003 to have a rate of treatment admissions for amphetamine/methamphetamine abuse that exceeded the national average.
Westover and Nakonezny suggest that amphetamine abuse or dependence among young adults may make them more susceptible to aortic dissection. The researchers recommend that physicians who screen patients with aortic dissection should consider amphetamine abuse as the possible cause of their condition, especially among younger adults. Their study was published this month in the American Heart Journal.
Source: Reuters, Maggie Fox, Amphetamines could damage heart artery: U.S. study, August 17, 2010