Meth use linked to heart disease
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
By Christie Wilson
A new University of Hawai'i medical study suggests a link between methamphetamine use and cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.
Use of the highly addictive stimulant, also known as crystal meth, batu and ice, killed 52 people in the Islands last year and brought notoriety to the state as one of the top methamphetamine trouble spots in the United States.
Dr. Khung-Keong Yeo, one of the researchers involved in the study, said the results were no surprise, as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of how the illegal drug can ravage the body and cause behavior and psychiatric changes.
"We just wanted to prove it, otherwise people will continue to pretend it's not a problem," he said. "This is a drug used by lots of people because it is so easily available and so cheap. It's very scary. I hope that people will recognize it as a problem and not use it."
Yeo is formerly of the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine but now works at the University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
He and his colleagues reviewed the charts of 107 Hawai'i patients age 45 and younger, who were discharged from a medical center between January 2001 and June 2004 with a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy or heart failure. They were compared with a control group of 114 patients similar in age and other characteristics who did not have heart trouble.
The study revealed a high prevalence of methamphetamine use within the first group, and that the risk of cardiomyopathy was 3.7 times higher for meth users.
Patients with the condition have enlarged or abnormally thick heart muscles. As the disease progresses, the heart grows weaker and is less able to pump blood through the body. This can lead to heart failure and other life-threatening ailments.
Yeo said this kind of cardiac damage is unusual in young people.
"It's possible to get heart failure in young patients, but it's usually due to viruses or genetics. Certainly cocaine can cause it, but by and large, heart failure is a disease of older patients," he said.
Researchers can't say for sure how methamphetamine affects the heart, but "this evidence is the best you're going to get," short of human experimentation, Yeo said.
The drug likely damages the heart by direct toxicity, he said, or indirectly by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure and causing heart muscle spasms that may impair the flow of blood.
Other UH researchers involved in the study include Hiroki Ito, Jimmy Efird, Kevin Tay, Todd Seto, Kavitha Alimineti, Chieko Kimata and Irwin Schatz.
The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
Reach Christie Wilson at email@example.com.