Can Meth Cause Heart Failure?

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Can Methamphetamine Cause Heart Failure?

The impact of methamphetamine use goes far beyond its addictive nature. With its widespread abuse and severe consequences, including the potential for heart failure, methamphetamine poses a significant threat to individuals and communities across the United States.

Methamphetamine Use

Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that increases the release and blocks the reuptake of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. This results in euphoria, increased energy, and heightened focus. However, using methamphetamine can lead to numerous physical and mental health problems, including heart failure.

Short-term Symptoms of Meth Use

Meth Use can cause a variety of short-term and long-term physical and psychological symptoms.

Methamphetamine use often leads to dry mouth and poor oral hygiene, resulting in persistent bad breath. Meth users can have blackened, rotting teeth, also known as “meth mouth.” Methamphetamine can cause severe dental problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Furthermore, meth-induced tooth grinding can lead to cracked or broken teeth.

Meth users may accidentally burn themselves while smoking or preparing the drug, resulting in burns on their lips or fingers. Methamphetamine is commonly snorted, leading to nasal irritation, nosebleeds, and damage to the nasal passages. People who smoke meth could have respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. Methamphetamine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause rapid or irregular breathing.

Meth can lead to profuse sweating, even in relaxed environments, and dilated pupils. Methamphetamine suppresses appetite, often leading to rapid and unhealthy weight loss.

Long-term Symptoms of Meth Use

Long-term methamphetamine use can cause auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations, distorting an individual’s perception of reality. A common hallucination among long-term meth users is the sensation of bugs or insects crawling on or under the skin, resulting in excessive scratching and skin damage. Some users become fixated on imaginary blemishes on their skin that they incessantly pick.

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that can induce restlessness and agitation. This often leads to paranoia, where individuals have irrational suspicions and unreasonable distrust of others, as well as extreme anxiety. Methamphetamine can significantly impair cognitive functions, leading to difficulties with memory, decision-making, and motor coordination.

When a frequent user has stopped taking meth, it can result in profound depressive symptoms and a persistent low mood. Prolonged methamphetamine use can destroy dopamine receptors in the brain, leading to an inability to experience pleasure, known as anhedonia.

Methamphetamine Use and Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes weak or damaged, leading to an inability to pump blood efficiently. Methamphetamine significantly increases heart rate and blood pressure, putting excessive strain on the heart. This continuous stress can lead to the weakening of the heart muscle over time.

Methamphetamine causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to vital organs, including the heart. This restriction can damage the heart muscle and decrease its ability to function correctly. Prolonged methamphetamine use can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell death within the heart, contributing to heart failure.

Symptoms of Methamphetamine-induced Heart Failure

Individuals experiencing heart failure caused by methamphetamine use may exhibit the following symptoms:

• Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
• Fatigue and weakness
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat
• Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
• Persistent coughing or wheezing
• Fluid retention in the abdomen

Long-term Effects of Methamphetamine Use on the Heart

Methamphetamine use poses immediate risks and can have long-term effects on the heart.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Methamphetamine use exerts stress on the cardiovascular system by elevating heart rate, blood pressure, and constriction of blood vessels. Combined with the drug’s potent stimulant properties, these effects can lead to chronic hypertension, a significant risk factor for heart disease.


Prolonged methamphetamine use can cause damage to the heart muscle, leading to a condition called cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is the weakening and enlargement of the heart, impairing its ability to pump blood effectively. As a result, the heart may struggle to meet the body’s oxygen and nutrient demands, leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid retention.


Methamphetamine use can disrupt the heart’s regular electrical activity, leading to irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias. These abnormal heart rhythms can manifest as tachycardia (rapid heart rate), bradycardia (slow heart rate), or atrial fibrillation (chaotic and irregular heartbeat). Arrhythmias compromise the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently and increase the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Heart Valve Damage

Methamphetamine abuse has been associated with heart valve damage, explicitly affecting the mitral valve. Chronic methamphetamine use can lead to thickening and scarring of heart valves, impairing their proper functioning. This can result in regurgitation (backflow of blood) or stenosis (hardening) of the affected valve, further compromising the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.

Increased Risk of Aortic Dissection

Aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition where the inner layer of the aorta tears, causing blood to flow between the artery wall’s layers. Methamphetamine abuse has been linked to an increased risk of aortic dissection because of the drug’s ability to elevate blood pressure and stress the arterial walls. Aortic dissection requires immediate medical intervention as it can lead to severe internal bleeding and organ damage.

Weakening of Blood Vessels

Methamphetamine use can weaken blood vessels throughout the body, including the heart. Weakened blood vessels are more prone to rupture and can contribute to cardiovascular complications, such as aneurysms and hemorrhagic stroke.

Increased Blood Clot Formation

Methamphetamine use can increase the risk of blood clot formation, known as thrombosis. Stimulant drugs like methamphetamine can alter blood composition, promote platelet aggregation, and disrupt standard clotting mechanisms. This heightened clotting risk can lead to cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, or ischemic stroke.

A Comprehensive Approach to Treating Methamphetamine-induced Heart Failure

We at Defining Wellness Centers, a trusted addiction treatment and rehab facility in Mississippi, understand the unique complexities associated with methamphetamine addiction and its impact on heart health. With evidence-based treatments and a supportive environment, we offer various services to help individuals overcome addiction and manage the health consequences, including heart failure. Treatment options for methamphetamine-induced heart failure may include several modalities.


The first step in treating methamphetamine-induced heart failure is often detoxification. This process involves safely managing the withdrawal symptoms when the body eliminates methamphetamine. Under the supervision of medical professionals, individuals undergo detoxification in a safe and controlled environment, ensuring their physical and psychological well-being throughout the process.

Medication-assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may address the physiological and psychological effects of methamphetamine addiction. Medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and medications that target the cardiovascular system may be prescribed to manage symptoms, reduce cravings, and support overall health. MAT is often combined with other therapeutic approaches to provide a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to each individual’s needs.


Psychotherapy is crucial in addressing the underlying causes of methamphetamine addiction and developing effective coping mechanisms. Individual therapy allows individuals to explore their experiences, triggers, and motivations behind drug use. Through evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing, clients can gain insight into their addiction, learn healthier coping strategies, and develop relapse prevention skills. Group therapy provides a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, gain peer support, and learn from others facing similar challenges.

Lifestyle Modifications

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is essential in supporting heart health and overall well-being during methamphetamine addiction recovery. Treatment programs at Defining Wellness Centers emphasize the importance of regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques. Physical activity improves cardiovascular health, boosts mood, and reduces stress. Nutritional counseling helps individuals restore proper nutrition and address any deficiencies from methamphetamine use. Learning stress management techniques, such as mindfulness meditation and relaxation exercises, equips individuals with healthy ways to cope with stressors without turning to substance use.

Ongoing Support

Recovery from methamphetamine addiction is a lifelong journey, and ongoing support is crucial in maintaining long-term sobriety and managing the effects of heart failure. Aftercare programs, such as outpatient counseling and support groups, provide continued support and guidance as individuals transition back to their daily lives. These programs offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, receive encouragement, and learn valuable relapse prevention strategies. Counseling sessions help clients address ongoing emotional or psychological challenges, ensuring their overall well-being as they recover.

Harm Reduction Strategies for Methamphetamine-related Heart Failure

Harm reduction is a public health approach recognizing that complete abstinence may not be immediately achievable. Harm reduction strategies, services, and benefits can include the following.

Support Engagement in Treatment and Recovery

Harm reduction acknowledges that recovery is a unique and individual process. While some individuals may choose abstinence as their goal, harm reduction programs support those who are not yet ready or able to stop using substances completely. By offering nonjudgmental support, harm reduction helps individuals stay connected to care, reduces risky behaviors, and increases their readiness for treatment and recovery.

Increase Access to Health Services

Harm reduction programs serve as a bridge to comprehensive healthcare services by engaging individuals who use drugs in nonjudgmental and supportive ways. These programs provide opportunities for education, counseling, and referrals to medical, mental health, and substance use treatment services. By meeting individuals where they are and offering various services, harm reduction supports their overall health and well-being.

Prevent Overdose Deaths

Harm reduction programs prioritize the distribution of naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, to individuals at risk of overdose and their loved ones. By providing naloxone and overdose prevention education, harm reduction initiatives save lives and create opportunities for individuals to access treatment and support.

Address Social Determinants of Health

Harm reduction recognizes that various social determinants, such as poverty, homelessness, stigma, and discrimination, influence substance use and related harms. Effective harm reduction programs address these underlying factors by offering social support, housing assistance, employment services, and advocacy. By addressing these broader social issues, harm reduction improves health outcomes and quality of life.

At Defining Wellness Centers, individuals struggling with methamphetamine addiction and its associated heart complications receive comprehensive care tailored to their unique needs. Our experienced and compassionate team of professionals combines evidence-based treatments, therapeutic modalities, and holistic approaches to support clients on their journey to recovery. Through detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, lifestyle modifications, and ongoing support, individuals can regain control of their lives and work towards a healthier, substance-free future.

If you or someone you know is battling methamphetamine addiction and experiencing heart failure, remember that help is available. Reach out to Defining Wellness Centers to start the journey to recovery. With proper support and treatment, overcoming addiction and improving heart health is possible, ultimately leading to a better quality of life.

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