Drugs, Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

alcohol and high blood pressure

High blood pressure is called hypertension. Hypertension is a common condition in which the long-term pressure of the blood against the walls of your arteries is high enough that it could cause health problems eventually. Hypertension is determined by both the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to the blood flow in your arteries. Therefore, the more blood your heart pumps + the narrower your arteries = the higher your chances of blood pressure. Because drugs and alcohol can impact one’s heart health and blood flow, drugs, alcohol and high blood pressure often go hand in hand. 

Drug-Induced Hypertension

Drug-induced hypertension is a type of secondary hypertension caused by a medication or a chemical substance. Secondary hypertension happens because of another disorder or it is drug-induced as a response to a chemical substance or medicine.

Chemical substances and medications that can cause hypertension include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Testosterone
  • Antidepressants
  • Phentermine (a weight loss medication)
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta

Illegal Drugs Causing Hypertension

Illegal drugs can raise your blood pressure (BP) by narrowing the arteries that supply blood to your heart. This increases your heart rate and causes damage to the heart muscle.

  • Amphetamines, including methamphetamine
  • Anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs
  • Cocaine
  • MDMA and its derivatives, including ecstasy

For adolescents and young adults, issues with drugs alcohol and high blood pressure are important health issues. When they present with high BP and other cardiovascular conditions, illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, and meth are potential causes of acute or newly diagnosed high blood pressure.

Risk Factors for Hypertension

Some of the risk factors for hypertension include:

  • Age – The risk increases as you age.
  • Race – Hypertension is common among people of African heritage.
  • Family history – High blood pressure runs in families.
  • Obesity or overweight – The more you weigh, the more pressure on your artery walls.
  • Physical inactivity – Inactive people usually have higher heart rates.
  • Tobacco – Chemicals in tobacco can damage artery walls.
  • Salt – Too much salt in your diet can increase BP by causing fluid retention.
  • Alcohol – Drinking too much can damage your heart.
  • Stress – High levels of stress can cause increases in BP.
  • Chronic conditions – Some chronic conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnea can increase your risk of high BP.
  • Pregnancy – Sometimes pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure.
  • Substance abuse – Regular use of illegal substances can raise blood pressure and cause heart damage.

Addictive Drugs and Effects on Blood Pressure

The Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is a powerful drug that narrows the blood vessels. It has been clearly proven to be related to: 

  • hypertensive emergencies
  • myocardial infarction (heart attack) 
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
  • sudden death
  • strokes and seizures

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

Drinking too much alcohol can increase BP to dangerous levels. Drinking more than three drinks in one sitting raises your blood pressure temporarily. Repeated binge drinking can increase your blood pressure in the long term. 

Binge drinking is when a woman consumes four or more drinks within two hours or a man consumes five or more drinks within two hours. Moderate drinking is consuming up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Heavy drinking is consuming more than three drinks a day for women and more than four drinks a day for men.

If you have high BP, you should avoid alcohol or only drink in moderation. Also, bear in mind that alcohol has a lot of calories and might cause unwanted weight gain, which is also a risk factor for high blood pressure.

Amphetamine (including Methamphetamine) and Hypertension

Amphetamine is known to have a strong influence on BP and heart rate in normal people.  But a surge that results in hypertension has been recognized as a cause of stroke when recreational doses are used.

Regular Use of MDMA (Ecstasy)

Although fatal overdoses on MDMA are rare, they can be life-threatening with these symptoms:

  • Hypertension
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures

One modest dose of MDMA can also reduce the efficient pumping of the heart in people who use it regularly, This is of special concern during periods of increased activity.

Anabolic Steroids and Hypertension

Anabolic-androgenic steroid use is linked to severe BP increases and hypertension. Studies done in 2016 provided scientific evidence that these steroids cause increases in hypertension and may be associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Ten Symptoms of Hypertension

Unfortunately, most people with high BP don’t have any signs or symptoms, even when blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Some people with high blood pressure may have headaches or shortness of breath, but not much else. Plus, even then, those symptoms don’t usually happen until high blood pressure has reached a severe stage. Thus, it’s important to be aware of any minor symptoms of high blood pressure. Some of the top symptoms of hypertension are listed below.

1. Headaches

Hypertension can cause headaches, especially if your BP is very high. Typically the headaches caused by hypertension are dull and persistent. Headaches caused by hypertension may feel more like stress headaches, except they occur more often.

2. Shortness of Breath

Older adults and individuals with lower fitness levels may feel a shortness of breath after climbing stairs, running for a bus, or other similar activities. Usually, this isn’t a cause for much concern, but people who tend to struggle with high blood pressure, especially those that also abuse substances, should know that exhibiting shortness of breath after minor physical activities can be a sign that one’s blood pressure is high. Thus, if you tend to struggle with high blood pressure and/or you abuse substances and are continuously exhibiting shortness of breath, you should have your blood pressure checked.

3. Chest Pains

Chest pains can signal high BP but not always. It’s also common to experience chests pains when having a heart attack or panic attack. Nevertheless, lasting chest pain should be a sign to get a medical determination.

4. Exhaustion

On its own, exhaustion doesn’t indicate high blood pressure, but it could be a symptom. If you feel tired frequently, the extra work the heart is doing to pump blood could be the reason. This is especially the case for individuals that abuse substances as chronic substance abuse often causes people to develop heart issues. 

5. Nausea

If there is no history of diseases that affect the gallbladder or ulcers or there are no changes in diet that could cause nausea, but you feel nauseous or you repeatedly vomit, blood pressure could be the cause. Individuals with high blood pressure that experience nausea and vomiting should seek medical attention. 

6. Poor Vision

Hypertension that goes untreated can lead to problems with vision and other eye diseases.

7. Ringing in the Ears

Constant ringing or buzzing in the ears that has no outside cause could be a symptom of dangerously high blood pressure.

8. Confusion

Extreme hypertension can cause lightheadedness or confusion. It can even distort the ability to speak. Some people have problems with memory and problem-solving from dangerously high BP.

9. Nosebleeds

Although high blood pressure doesn’t directly cause nosebleeds it can make one worse if it happens. 

10. Kidney Damage

The kidneys can suffer damage if high BP becomes severe or goes untreated. This is because high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels that feed the kidneys, making them less able to carry out the job that they need to do. Kidney damage has many of the same symptoms as hypertension along with pressure or pain during urination.

Complications of Hypertension

Excessive pressure on artery walls caused by high BP can damage blood vessels as well as organs. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it goes untreated, the greater the damage. 

Uncontrolled high BP can cause:

  • Stroke or heart attack
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Narrowed and weakened blood vessels in your kidneys
  • Narrowed, thickened, or torn blood vessels in the eyes
  • Metabolic syndrome (disorders of the body’s metabolism)
  • Dementia (blocked arteries to the brain

Treatment for Addictive Drug-Induced Hypertension

The National Institute on Drug Abuse believes that the best treatment for drug and alcohol addiction includes therapy and medications. However, there is evidence that there isn’t a single best approach for everyone. Thus, scientists and treatment specialists constantly find new addiction treatment possibilities. The suggested form of substance addiction treatment though includes the following treatment programs. 

Detox

Detoxification in a detox center is often the first step in addiction treatment. Clearing your body of drugs or alcohol is necessary to prepare the body and mind for therapy and further treatment. This is especially true for those that suffer from issues with drugs, alcohol and high blood pressure. 

Withdrawal symptoms during detox can be extremely painful both emotionally and physically. Therefore, depending on the level of hypertension an individual is experiencing, he or she can be prescribed withdrawal medications to help. Ultimately, drug-induced hypertension is not only manageable, but also reversible.

Therapy

After drug toxins are eliminated from the body, many of the physical effects of addiction can be reversed. Still, there are mental and emotional challenges that need to be addressed. To treat these issues, professional addiction treatment facilities offer different types of psychotherapy that are evidence-based. Some of these forms of psychotherapy are described below.

Behavioral Therapy

There are several approaches to behavioral therapy that have been shown to be the most effective treatment for addiction. Examples of such behavioral therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, etc. 

Group and Individual Therapy

Although group therapy is the most common, some individuals are more effectively treated with the combination of both individual and group therapy.

Medication

Occasionally, doctors may prescribe medication to individuals to help prevent them from relapsing. This is common for people that are recovering from opioid addiction. 

Although opioids don’t cause hypertension, thorough medical screening should be done before prescribing methadone for relapse prevention or any other medication. In addition, Doctors may prescribe people Acamprosate to help prevent them from experiencing alcohol relapse. 

Isradipine for Addiction and Hypertension

A recent study was completed that showed positive results for blood pressure medication in the treatment of addiction. The drug, Isradipine, is a prescription medication that is usually given to patients who have high BP. 

A study was conducted at the University of Texas, Austin using Isradipine to determine how effective it was at handling substance abuse problems. It was believed that the drug would help the addicted brain become “de-addicted.”

The results of the study and testing showed that the BP medication stepped in to eliminate the hard-wired memories that cause the brain to trigger a craving. When Isradipine is taken for high BP, it also blocks calcium channels in the heart. This is the same mechanism that makes the drug effective for addicts because there are also calcium channels in the brain. Therefore, it is believed that the Isradipine is successfully blocking the channels and allowing the brain to re-wire itself.

Finding Treatment in California

Do the symptoms of hypertension sound familiar to you? Are you or someone close to you experiencing some of the effects? Do you struggle with issues with drugs alcohol and high blood pressure? If you are taking prescription medications, as prescribed by your doctor, you are probably being checked regularly for signs of hypertension. But, if there are illicit drugs or alcohol involved, it is up to you to take care of yourself. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, CA is prepared and experienced in treating many types of addictions and the negative health effects that they cause in a multitude of situations. Our professional medical staff will supervise you and help you throughout the treatment process.  

Your mental and physical health is our top priority. Contact us today and find out, in a confidential chat, just what we have to offer you.

References:

www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11416624/

www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdm