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After adjusting for multiple variables, amphetamine users had prematurely aging hearts as measured by arterial stiffness (P<0.0001), according to the study published online in Heart Asia.
And the biological age-to-chronological age slope was steeper with amphetamines than among tobacco user, Albert Stuart Reece, MD, and colleagues of the University of Western Australia, and colleagues reported.
"The process seems to occur more aggressively than with tobacco smoking," they wrote. "It appears to follow a different time course to that of the positive methadone control group."
"The implication from the present work is that recurrent habitual amphetamine abuse ages the cardiovasculature, and likely the whole organism generally. It is therefore conceivable that stimulant abusers do physiological and cardiovascular harm," they suggested.
Most (94%) users used amphetamines such as "speed," "ice," and "ecstasy" in the previous week; almost half (47%) reported use the day prior.
"These results show that subacute exposure to amphetamines is associated with an advancement of cardiovascular-organismal age both over age and over time, and is robust to adjustment," Reece's group wrote, although they admitted that they lacked dosage data.
Accelerated aging declined with time since last amphetamine use.
Asked by MedPage Today to provide comment, Matthias Liechti, MD, MAS, of University of Basel in Switzerland, argued that this shows that at least part of the "so-called aging" is simply vasoconstriction.
"Although chronic amphetamine use seems unlikely to benefit the circulation, I am not convinced that these changes are chronically lasting -- at least not the ones shown in this study," he wrote in an email.
Reece and colleagues included 713 patients in their study: 55 amphetamine users, 107 tobacco smokers, 483 non-smokers, and 68 methadone patients. The investigators measured heart age by radial arterial pulse tonometry (the SphygmoCor monitoring system).
Liechti questioned whether it was possible to control for all the lifestyle and health factors associated with amphetamine use, such as tobacco smoking. "In a between-subject study, such as the present one, it is difficult to control for these factors. So the changes in the vasculature, if at all of a lasting nature, may rather be linked to factors associated with amphetamine use disorder rather than reflect a lasting problem of the substance itself."
"Also note, that ADHD children use amphetamine daily and for years and they do not seem to suffer from any vascular problems," he added.
He conceded that the same cannot be said confidently for d-amphetamine and mixed amphetamines, however.