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Amphetamine use increases risk of aortic tears in young adults, UT Southwestern researchers report
Date:8/16/2010

DALLAS Aug. 17, 2010 Young adults who abuse amphetamines may be at greater risk of suffering a tear in the main artery leading from the heart, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

In the study, published in the August issue of American Heart Journal, researchers examined medical records from nearly 31 million people between 18 and 49 years old hospitalized from 1995 to 2007 and found that amphetamine abuse was associated with a threefold increase in the odds of aortic dissection.

"Aortic dissection in young people is rare, but it frequently can lead to death," said Dr. Arthur Westover, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and the study's lead author. "Doctors should screen young adults with aortic dissection for amphetamine abuse in searching for a potential cause."

Individual case reports have suggested a link between aortic dissection and amphetamine abuse, but this is believed to be the first epidemiological study of a large group of people on the issue, Dr. Westover said.

The aorta stems from the heart and is the largest artery in the body. Dissection occurs when a tear develops in the inner layer of the aorta, allowing blood to separate, or dissect. The blood can eventually cause a rupture in the aortic wall, often resulting in death.

Amphetamines are stimulants that can be used to treat medical conditions such as attention-deficit disorder. They also are abused illegally as recreational drugs or performance enhancers. Researchers note that the abuse of amphetamines including methamphetamines, or "meth" significantly increased among hospitalized young adults from 1995 to 2007.

Amphetamines act on the body in similar ways as cocaine, which also is associated with adverse effects on the heart. Medically, amphetamines are known to increase blood pressure, and hypertension is a known trigger of aortic dissection.

Researchers also analyzed medical data fo
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Contact: LaKisha Ladson
lakisha.ladson@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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