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Opioid’s Effect on Heart Health

Opioid’s Effect on Heart Health

three wooden hearts, opioids and heart health

We’ve written a lot of warning about the risk of overdose due to opioid use. In 2017 72,000 people died from a drug overdose and 30,000 of those cases were due to opioid use. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the nervous system reducing the perception of pain. Opioids can depress other systems of the body like the lungs where breathing may become so inhibited and slow it eventually stops leading to an overdose death. What we haven’t heard a lot about is opioid’s effect on the heart.

If there’s good news in the opioid crisis it’s that most opioids have little initial effect on the heart muscle’s operation. Why then are patients who use opioids at an increased risk to die from heart disease?

A study in 2016 showed opioid patients experience a 65% increased chance of death due to new heart complications. Other studies link an increase in heart disease among opioid users who also use other drugs, especially benzodiazepines, such Valium, either legally or illegally.

Other heart diseases related to use of opioids include:

  • Bradycardia
  • Vasodilation
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Infectious endocarditis

What all these long, complicated words have in common is they can lead to problems from lightheadedness to sudden death.

Withdrawals and Heart Conditions

Quitting opioids after prolonged use includes heart-related risks of its own. Withdrawal includes a faster than normal heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Other withdrawal side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea may lead to dehydration, low blood pressure and sudden passing out. For all these reasons and many more, we strongly suggest opioid users seek out professional help when detoxing from opioid use. Not only can a medical staff support you as you continue in your rehab, but they can provide physical help to ensure you move safely away from opioid use.

We’re working to remove the stigma of seeking help for an opioid addiction because we know professional care during opioid detox and recovery is the safest way for a user to get and stay clean. Opioids affect every aspect of your body. Save your heart (and other body systems) by contacting our behavioral health clinic for information on opioid recovery.

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