California hospitalizations for meth-related heart failure spike in recent years, study finds

Hospitalizations for methamphetamine-related heart failure in California increased 585 percent between 2008-18, according to research published July 13 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Researchers conducted a retrospective review of the state's hospital data, including more than 1 million patients who were discharged with heart failure during the 11-year period. 

Overall, 42,565 of the patients (4 percent) were diagnosed with meth-related heart failure. While heart failure hospitalizations not associated with meth use declined by 6 percent, those related to the drug saw a 585 percent jump. 

At the same time, costs for meth-related heart failure saw an even larger increase of 840 percent: Costs rose from $41.5 million in 2008 to $390.2 million by 2018. Researchers attribute the jump to longer hospital stays and more procedures, compared to patients with heart failure unrelated to meth use. 

Most meth-related heart failure cases occurred among adults younger than 65 — a concerning trend given heart failure typically occurs among adults older than 60, researchers said. 

“The methamphetamine epidemic is often overshadowed by the surge in opioid-related death and illnesses," said Susan Zhao, MD, lead study author and cardiologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. “The long-term health consequences associated with methamphetamine use require recognition from the public as well as the clinical communities. This study was intended more as a public health alarm: the urgency of methamphetamine use disorder cannot be overstated.”

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