The American opioid pandemic has physically broken our hearts.
According to a recent study, the chance of young adults dying in the US from a fatal heart infection has increased by 2 to 3 times over the past 20 years.
Researchers attribute the rise in deadly heart infections on the expanding population of injecting opioid drug users between the ages of 15 and 44.
Infective endocarditis mortality among drug users have increased during the past 20 years, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Polydoros Kampaktsis, an assistant professor at the cardiology department of Columbia University in New York City.
The younger people is more aware of this, he continued.
Endocarditis develops when bacteria, usually, enters the bloodstream and infects the endocardium, the lining of your heart valves and heart chambers.
According to Dr. Georgios Syros, director of arrhythmia services at Mount Sinai Queens in New York City, the infection can “destroy the heart” if left untreated.
“Strokes can happen to you. There could be leaking valves. To replace such valves, you might need major heart surgery, Syros said. It’s catastrophic.
The researchers’ review of federal mortality data revealed that the death rate for infective endocarditis among adults aged 15 to 44 quadrupled from 0.3 to 0.6 per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2020.
The data showed that the fatality rate from endocarditis increased for those aged 15 to 34, going from 0.1 to 0.3 per 100,000 persons.
This happened even though the overall U.S. death rate from endocarditis decreased from 2.1 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 1.8 in 2020.
In total, young people accounted for 10% of all endocarditis deaths in 2020, up from less than 7% in 1999, according to the researchers.
The research team came to the conclusion that the opioid epidemic is probably to blame for the spike in endocarditis fatalities among young people after carefully examining the numbers.
Injecting drug users will make up a growing portion of all endocarditis fatalities, increasing from 1.1% in 1999 to 3% in 2020.
According to the research, intravenous drug users made up over 20% of endocarditis deaths among young people in 2020, up from roughly 10% in 1999.
“This is a continuation of the previous tale of despair-induced death. Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said: “It is regrettable that these data and findings confirm what we have been witnessing clinically for years.
According to Syros and Kampaktsis, drug users who shoot up bypass all of the epidermal and immune defences that humans have to keep viruses from freely moving through the bloodstream.
According to Kampaktsis, intravenous injections can transfer bacteria directly into the bloodstream. “Both the skin and the needle can contain bacteria. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move to the heart once the needle enters the vein.
Given that drug users frequently inject themselves on a regular basis, Syros continued, the risk is significantly higher.
“These individuals breach the barrier constantly,” Syros added. “They don’t inject only once throughout their lifetime. They constantly inject, and they also exchange needles. The chance of being exposed to something that can cause infectious endocarditis increases as a result.
The specialists noted that the available treatments are few and frequently involve high doses of intravenous antibiotics.
As Jaber noted, “‘sterilising’ the bloodstream is frequently challenging and the danger of infection recurrence is considerable, especially with ongoing antibiotic use.”
He highlighted that if the infection has harmed the heart valves, high-risk open-heart surgery may be required to replace them with artificial valves.
This heart condition can’t actually be “cured,” according to Jaber.
Syros asserted that the only effective approach to instantly address this risk to heart health is through needle exchange programmes.
If you want to use, please use a clean syringe, Syros instructed. “We should definitely attempt to provide them clean syringes.”
According to Syros, drug consumption increased dramatically during the COVID pandemic, with a nearly 30% rise in fatal drug overdoses in the first full year of the crisis.
Syros stated, “I have seen this firsthand in the hospital.” “There were folks lingering there who were on the cusp of using drugs or abstaining from using them before the outbreak. It was like a slap when the epidemic hit, and then we noticed the numbers rapidly increasing.
Syros predicts that the number of endocarditis cases among teenage drug users will keep rising unless the US makes cultural and policy adjustments to effectively reduce opioid usage.
Following the rise in opiate use during COVID, Syros predicted that there would be a surge in the upcoming years. “I think that in the years following the pandemic, there will be a surge of infectious endocarditis affecting the young. It will increase.
The new study was released in the Journal of Internal Medicine on November 9.
Endocarditis information can be found at the Cleveland Clinic.
SOURCES: Wael Jaber, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; Polydoros Kampaktsis, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of cardiology at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center in New York City; Georgios Syros, MD, the director of the Mount Sinai Queens hospital’s arrhythmia services