Illicit Substance Users Show Higher Risk of Developing Atrial Fibrillation

According to an analysis of 10 years of medical data presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021, adults who use methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates or cannabis may have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Researchers reviewed more than 23.5 million records of hospitalizations and emergency department visits in California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development database from January 2005 to December 2015. Among the records, 98,271 methamphetamine, 48,700 cocaine, 10,032 opiate, and 132,834 cannabis use disorder cases were identified during routine care.

The study calculated that people who used methamphetamine, cocaine, opiate, and cannabis had an 86%, 61%, 74%, and 35% increased risk of AFib diagnoses, respectively, when compared to participants who were not users.

“Our findings indicate there is still a lot to understand about cardiac arrhythmia and the associated risks with many substances,” concluded the lead author, Anthony Lin, MD, at UCSF’s department of medicine. They suggested that future research should examine the physiologic implications of these substances on the heart and further promote efforts to reduce substance abuse.