New Findings on the Staggering Toll of Meth Use

Plus: A faster way to treat opioid patients, and research on perfectionism’s association with alcoholism

By William Wagner

A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association adds to the mountain of information on the devastating effects of meth on the body. We also look at a breakthrough in treating patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) and the link between perfectionism and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

From the Journal of the American Heart Association:
The Impact of Meth Use on the Heart

A comprehensive new study from the University of California San Francisco indicates that meth use takes a massive toll on the heart. The researchers determined that meth users have a 32% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Men and people with kidney disease or high blood pressure are particularly vulnerable.

“Alcohol and cocaine are established risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” Nisha Parikh, MD, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco and the lead author of the study, says. “What was striking to me was that methamphetamine use is just as risky for the heart.”

“[W]e have to provide more resources for people who are using methamphetamines and want to stop.”

—Nisha Parikh, University of California San Francisco

To establish a correlation between meth use and cardiovascular issues, the researchers looked at the medical records of more than 20.2 million California residents over age 14 who received hospital care between 2005 and 2011 and had no history of cardiovascular disease. Approximately 66,000 of those patients were identified as meth users, and their medical histories were followed for three years to find out if they went on to suffer pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, a stroke or a heart attack.

The upshot of the study, Parikh says, is that public health officials have to step up their informational efforts surrounding meth. “And,” she adds, “we have to provide more resources for people who are using methamphetamines and want to stop.” According to the study, “methamphetamine misuse affects 27 million people worldwide.”

From Drug and Alcohol Dependence:
A Faster Way to Treat Opioid Patients

As opioids continue to claim lives at an unprecedented rate, scientists are scrambling to find solutions. A team from Johns Hopkins University thinks it has one: low-dose initiation (LDI) of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction.

Rosalyn Walker Stewart

Rosalyn Walker Stewart, MD, MBA, director of addiction medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, calls LDI a “game changer for people with opioid use disorder,” because the low intravenous doses circumvent barriers to administering buprenorphine early in hospitalization. For example, when buprenorphine is given to people with illicit opioids still in their system, they can become even sicker. LDI, the Johns Hopkins researchers contend, solves that problem, enabling patients to begin buprenorphine treatments within 24 to 48 hours of hospital admission without suffering adverse effects.

Stewart and her colleagues tested three different types of LDI on 72 patients at The Johns Hopkins Hospital over a six-month period. “We’ve learned that it’s possible to start treating patients in the hospital in a way that is fairly quick and does not interfere with other treatment, including for pain,” Stewart says. “With this approach, we can support patients the entire time they’re in the hospital so they are further along in their recovery process when they leave.”

From the International Journal of Drug Policy:
Perfectionism and Alcoholism

Perfectionism is a good quality, right? Not always. The authors of a new study in the International Journal of Drug Policy say that unrealistic performance standards can lead to despair and, in turn, AUD. The researchers evaluated 65 adults with AUD and 65 without the affliction. All the participants were given questionnaires centered on perfectionism. The participants with AUD were more inclined to report depressive symptoms associated with perfectionism.

The research team believes the findings can play an important role in treating AUD. A news release on the study issued by the Research Society on Alcoholism states, “In view of the potential role of perfectionism in developing and maintaining severe AUD, it may be a valuable treatment target, researchers. They recommend additional investigation of the varying dimensions of perfectionism in AUD, including whether high perfectionism reduces treatment effectiveness, and the causal links between perfectionism, impulsivity, and self-blame.”

Top photo: Shutterstock

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