Great Way to Improve American Heart Health is Eliminate Cocaine and Alcohol Abuse

Every year, our country celebrates American Heart Month in February by promoting steps to keep your heart healthy, but what is not commonly known is that one of the most vital ways to keep your heart healthy is to avoid heart-damaging drug and alcohol abuse.

Across the nation, millions of people put their hearts at risk by using cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and alcohol, all of which create a risk for heart damage, heart attacks or cardiac arrest.

"Volumes of research exist that prove the risk of these drugs and alcohol," stated Ryan Thorpe, Director of Admissions at Narconon Arrowhead, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian, Oklahoma. "The cardiac arrest death of Len Bias, a healthy young basketball star, in 1986 from one of his first doses of cocaine illustrates the terrible and unknowing risk many people are taking. We are taking the opportunity presented by American Heart Month to advise people to avoid cocaine and crack cocaine for the sake of their hearts."

Cocaine and crack cocaine can cause heart damage, heart attacks and fatal arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) even in first time users by overstimulating the heart and narrowing the arteries of the heart or surrounding areas. The heart pumps harder as a result of the stimulation but the blood vessels are constricted; the strain on the heart can create a heart attack even in people under 30, some of whom may be using the drug for the first time.

Additionally, anyone injecting drugs intravenously runs the risk of a potentially fatal infection in the heart called endocarditis.  Endocarditis results in an inflammation of the innermost lining of the heart and the valves and can lead to heart failure or stroke.

"Cocaine and crack cocaine distribution channels stretch across our country to every corner," said Thorpe. "In most of our cities, it has been involved in more drug-related deaths than any other drug, whether you are talking about single-drug or multi-drug deaths. In 2004, cocaine was responsible for an estimated 383,350 Emergency Room visits, more than any other drug, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"Because it is not easy for many people to quit using drugs or alcohol when they want to," added Thorpe, "it's essential that they have access to a rehabilitation program with a proven track record. At Narconon Arrowhead, we provide service to many people who have been addicted to cocaine or crack cocaine. Seven out of ten people who come to us are still living clean and sober lives two years after they complete our program."