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Recreational Amphetamine Accelerates Cardiovascular Aging

Recreational Amphetamine Accelerates Cardiovascular Aging

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  • Amphetamine causes adverse cardiovascular effects which include palpitations, high blood pressure, stroke, ruptured aneurysms (excessive localized enlargement of an artery) and even death
  • A research team hasfound that recreational amphetamine accelerates cardiovascular aging
  • The effects of amphetamine on stem cells could be responsible for accelerated cardiovascular aging.

Amphetamine can accelerate the aging of the heart and blood vessels in drug abusers, finds a research team from Australia. Their research was published in the Heart Asia.


Amphetamine is a central nervous stimulant that is used both as a medication as well as for recreation. As a medication, it is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is also sometimes used in the treatment of obesity that does not respond to other treatments as well as narcolepsy, a condition associated with an irresistible desire to sleep. The drug causes side effects like palpitations and high blood pressure, and can even cause stroke ruptured aneurysms and death in patients with an underlying cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is contraindicated for use in those with an underlying heart disease.

The stimulant and high abuse potential of amphetamine is responsible for it being used as a recreational drug to cause euphoria and as an aphrodisiac. It is popularly known by the names of 'speed,' 'ice,' and 'ecstasy' among abusers. The amount used for recreational purposes is much higher than that used for treatment, and can have serious consequences.

The research team conducted an experiment to test whether recreational amphetamine can cause premature biological aging of the cardiovascular system. For their experiment, the researchers recruited 713 people attending therapy for substance misuse over a period of five years between 2006 and 2011. The people were divided into four groups: The largest group consisted of non-smokers, while two other groups consisted of smokers and methadone users. The amphetamine users' group consisted of 55 individuals. Among these, 94% had taken amphetamine in the previous week and around half had taken it the previous day.

They assessed the thickening of the arteries of the arm and forearm indirectly by measuring blood flow. They considered the thickening as an indicator of heart aging. The blood flow in the brachial artery (the artery of the arm) was measured with the usual blood pressure cuff, while that of the radial artery in the forearm was measured with the help of an instrument called the SphygmoCor (a light weight portable device to obtain cardiovascular data) on 66 occasions. They used SphygmoCor to calculate the biological age of blood vessels based on arterial stiffening which was matched with the chronological age, sex, and height of the individual.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that amphetamine accelerates the aging process of the cardiovascular system which is faster in comparison to smoking or using methadone. This aging could predispose to some of the serious cardiovascular side effects of amphetamine. The research team suggest that the adverse effects of amphetamine on stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that give rise to other cells, could be responsible for the early aging.

The study was conducted in a small number of individuals. Therefore, a larger study could help confirm the findings of this research.

Reference :
  1. Reece AS, Norman A, Hulse GK Acceleration of cardiovascular-biological age by amphetamine exposure is a power function of chronological age Heart Asia 2017; 9: 30-38. doi: 10.1136/heartasia-2016-010832
Source: Medindia

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