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Drugs of Misuse: Focus on Vascular Dysfunction

  • Middlekauff, Holly R
  • Cooper, Ziva D
  • Strauss, Sasha B
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2022
eScholarship - University of California
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Common drugs of misuse, including cannabis, opioids, stimulants, alcohol, and anabolic steroids, have strikingly disparate acute and chronic vascular effects, leading to a wide range of clinical cardiovascular presentations. Acute cannabis smoking has been associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke in otherwise healthy young people. However, it remains uncertain if people who exclusively smoke cannabis have increased risk for accelerated atherosclerosis similar to that found in people who exclusively smoke tobacco cigarettes. Cocaine and methamphetamines, both stimulants, increase risk for stroke, myocardial infarction, aortic dissection, and accelerated atherosclerosis, but only methamphetamine use is strongly linked to pulmonary hypertension. Chronic alcohol use is strongly associated with chronic hypertension and hemorrhagic stroke, but perhaps confers a lower risk for myocardial infarction. Finally, anabolic steroid use, presumably through adverse effects on circulating lipids and the hematopoietic system, is associated with increased risk for accelerated atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Physicians, especially cardiologists, emergency medicine, and internal medicine physicians, should be familiar with the short- and long-term vascular consequences of use of these substances, thereby ensuring appropriate, specific, and informed counselling and treatment.

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