IV Drug Use May Cause a Serious Heart Condition

Most people are aware that injecting drugs can cause infections such as hepatitis and HIV. Another condition has become more common in recent decades as IV opioid use has become more common. Endocarditis is an infection of the heart. It typically occurs when bacteria enters your bloodstream and attaches to the lining or valves of your heart, causing an infection. Bacteria can enter your blood in any number of ways, including wounds, sores, tattoos and piercings, or certain medical procedures, especially catheters.

IV drug use puts you at particular risk for endocarditis for several reasons. First, many people share and reuse needles, greatly increasing the chances that a needle will contain potentially dangerous pathogens. Also, unlike a medical procedure, a piercing, or an injury, IV drug users might inject themselves many times a day for years, massively increasing their exposure. Finally, an IV drug addiction may seriously compromise your immune system. HIV is the big one, of course, but inadequate sleep, hygiene, and nutrition can all impair your immune system as well. Your immune system is your last line of defense when a pathogen is introduced directly into your bloodstream, so if it doesn’t function well, you are at greater risk for endocarditis.

The damage to your heart valves impairs circulation and causes flu-like symptoms, including fever and chills, fatigue, chest pain, heart murmur, swelling in your feet, legs, or abdomen, aching joints and muscles, and shortness of breath, paleness, blood in the urine, or any kind of strange spots. You should see a doctor if these symptoms persist. Endocarditis is treated with antibiotics. If the condition gets too bad, it may require surgery to repair damaged heart valves or to remove damaged parts of the heart lining. Endocarditis that is not treated or doesn’t respond to antibiotics is usually fatal.

Endocarditis has typically been more common among older patients or patients with congenital heart defects, but in recent decades, more younger people have contracted the condition because of IV drug use. Cases of endocarditis from IV drug use have doubled since 2009. And because one major risk factor for endocarditis is a previous case of endocarditis, it’s not uncommon for someone to have the condition treated surgically, then require surgery again after contracting it several months later. According to the CDC, IV drug users are 10 times more likely to die from endocarditis or require a second surgery.

This is just one more way addiction can damage your health. If you do contract endocarditis, you are at serious risk of contracting it again unless you quit using IV drugs. If you do need surgery to repair a damaged valve, it will detoxing under unpleasant circumstances. The good news is that it is also an opportunity to quit for good.

Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.