Young adults who misuse amphetamines are at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack, suggests a new study.
The researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Centre analysed the data from more than 3 million people between 18 and 44 years old hospitalised from 2000 through 2003 in Texas and found a relationship between a diagnosis of amphetamine abuse and heart attack.
Amphetamines are stimulants that can be used to treat medical conditions such as attention-deficient disorder. They are illegally used as recreational drugs or performance enhancers.
The researchers found abuse of methamphetamine, a type of amphetamine often sold illegally, is increasing in most major U.S. cities.
In Texas also they found greater amphetamine abuse in the north and Panhandle regions.
"This paper sounds a warning to amphetamine abusers, alerts emergency department personnel to look for amphetamine abuse in young heart attack patients, and it allows us to focus preventive efforts in geographical areas where the problems are greatest," said Dr. Robert W. Haley, chief of epidemiology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.
"We're also concerned that the number of amphetamine-related heart attacks could be increasing.
"We'd rather raise the warning flag now than later. Hopefully, we can decrease the number of people who suffer heart attacks as the result of amphetamine abuse," he added.
Amphetamines may contribute to heart attacks by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and by causing inflammation and artery spasms that limit blood to the heart muscle.
"We're talking about a state that is near the middle of prevalence of methamphetamine use in the United States, so it's possible that the number of heart attacks in young adults in other states with a much higher prevalence of amphetamine abuse may be higher as well," said Westover.
The study is available online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.