Cardiologist Questions Cardiologist

Can substance abuse lead to a heart attack?

My brother is addicted to prescription medications and I'm worried he will have a heart attack. Can substance abuse lead to a heart attack?

5 Answers

There is 2 parts regarding you question:
1. Over dose the prescribed pain medication like opioid can cause breathing shallow, and then lack of enough oxygen to your lung and to your heart, cause your heart attack if you have underlying cardiac condition .It is said abusing Marijuana increase heart attack 5 times.
2. Addict to prescription also has tendency to abuse other street drug like Cocaine, that is high risk cause cardiovascular problem like hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia and sudden heart attack . It is said Cocaine abuse increase heart attack 10 times.
So it is no joke we are dealing with so many epidemic regarding substance abuse. Seeking help in rehabilitation program.
The broad answer is yes. For example, even a single use of cocaine can cause a stroke or heart attack in all patients.
It is possible for substance use to lead to a heart attack. If someone is using stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines or methamphetamines regardless of whether they are prescribed medications or illegal substances it can lead to a heart attack. There are times too when overuse of drugs that are depressants can lead to a person's heart slowing down so much that it can be fatal as well. If you have concerns for your family member, it is best to let him know you are concerned and seek help for him and your family through a licensed professional.  


Whether a drug of abuse can cause a heart attack depends upon which substance. Cocaine and meth: definitely yes. Alcohol: can directly damage the heart, and it causes hypertension that increases the risk. Marijuana: increased risk is due to inhaling smoke. Tobacco: definitely yes, all forms. Opioids: not unless one overdoses and has trouble breathing, dropping blood oxygen levels. Sedatives like benzodiazepines.
Yes substance abuse can significantly increase risk of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. It can lead to an increase risk of heart attack.