Drug abuse takes an immense toll on the body and mind. The heart is no exception. Nearly half of all drug users in the U.S. report experience with cannabis and prescription stimulants. Over a third have used opioids and meth, and 15% have used heroin. According to the U.S. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the most commonly used drugs are:
- Opioids like oxycodone
- Prescription stimulants like Adderall
Long-term substance abuse can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and heart disease. The damage may be permanent, but the good news is recovery is possible.
This article will explore if your heart can heal from drug abuse, and what you can do to speed up the recovery process.
What Drugs Do To The Heart?
Drugs do a number on your heart. Many of the chemicals in recreational drugs impact nerve activity in your central nervous system, but their ingredients often block arteries in your heart, increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and even death.
Common ways drugs damage your heart are:
- Myocardial infarction (heart attacks): Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants constrict blood vessels, limiting oxygen to the heart.
- Arrhythmias: Many drugs alter the heart’s electrical activity, causing abnormal heart rhythms like tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) or bradycardia (slow heartbeat).
- Atherosclerosis: Drugs containing nicotine, like cigarettes, accelerate plaque buildup in arteries. Marijuana may also contribute to arterial hardening.
- Cardiomyopathy: Long-term cocaine use can cause the heart muscle to enlarge, weaken and eventually fail. Other drugs like phencyclidine (PCP) and anabolic steroids may also lead to various heart muscle diseases.
- Coronary artery disease: Narrowing of the arteries supplying oxygen to the heart. Cocaine, amphetamines, and nicotine are major contributors.
- Hypertension: Many stimulants cause dangerous increases in blood pressure, as do some synthetic cannabinoids. High blood pressure kills.
- Ischemia: Inadequate blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. Cocaine, nicotine, and other vasoconstrictors are frequent causes.
Read more: What Is An Illicit Drug?
Can Your Heart Heal From Drug Abuse?
The good news is that quitting drugs can heal your heart over time. One study found that stopping meth use, along with proper medical care, can reverse damage to the heart. Essentially, quitting is the first step to repairing your heart health.
While some effects of drug abuse are permanent, others will improve soon after you stop using and start healthier habits. For example, high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms may go back to normal ranges within a few months of quitting. The heart muscles can strengthen again, and heart disease risks may be reduced by up to 60-70% after 1-2 years of sobriety.
Repairing Past Damage
Unfortunately, any scarring to the heart muscle from long-term drug use cannot be reversed. However, quitting can prevent further scarring and allow your heart to compensate. The heart may develop new blood vessels to bypass blocked arteries. The remaining heart muscle cells can get stronger and more efficient. Medications and lifestyle changes can also help manage any lasting damage.
The sooner you quit, the faster your heart health can rebound. But no matter how long or how much you used, quitting drugs and maintaining sobriety is critical for reversing and preventing life-threatening heart problems. A healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and medical follow-ups are also key.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes To Help Your Heart Heal After Addiction
Making healthy lifestyle changes can help repair your heart after overcoming addiction. Your heart has been through a lot, so it’s time to show it some TLC. Here are some steps you can take:
Eat A Heart-Healthy Diet
A balanced diet with many fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will work wonders for your heart health. Focus on foods high in nutrients but low in saturated fat, sugar, and salt. Some great options include:
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as chia and flax seeds, brussels sprouts, walnuts, and algae, perilla, and hemp oil.
- Fresh or frozen vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, and bell peppers
- Fruits high in antioxidants, such as berries, citrus fruits, and melons
- Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa
- Lean and healthy proteins like tofu, chickpeas, tempeh, lentils, and legumes.
- Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is also important for your heart.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is the best medicine for your heart. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Walking, jogging, biking, and strength training are all great options. Start slowly and build up as you get into better shape. Exercise will help strengthen your heart muscle, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and release feel-good hormones that boost your mood.
Managing stress and taking good care of yourself emotionally and mentally will aid your heart health recovery. Try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or deep breathing. Get enough sleep every night, limit alcohol, and avoid tobacco products. Connecting to a strong support system of people who care about your well-being can help you stay on track. Loving yourself and being kind to yourself will make the biggest impact.
Seek Help for Drug Addiction To Start Your Healing Journey
The road to recovery from drug addiction and healing your heart begins with seeking help. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can repair the damage. The first step is connecting with professionals who can properly assess your condition and determine the best course of treatment.
Reach out to Launch Centers to explore your options. Inpatient or outpatient? Detox followed by therapy? Medication-assisted treatment? A customized plan will give you the best chance at success.
The road ahead won’t always be easy, but by facing your addiction and prioritizing your health, you can heal your heart from the effects of drug abuse. Help and hope are out there—you have to take that first courageous step. Call us at Launch Centers today to start your journey towards a healthier, happier life.