In South Africa, the Western Cape in particular has an alarming number of tik users, which has led to an increase in STDs, crime and the spread of HIV/Aids.
The problem is so severe that school children in Johannesburg, the Western Cape and possibly KZN were recently exposed to tik when they bought sweets packaged to look like sugar straws.
tik users who quit the drug may now get a break: New research suggests it's possible to reverse heart damage with proper medical treatment.
Research has previously linked tik use to heart problems that can contribute to death. But it hadn't been clear if stopping the drug use resulted in better heart health.
Prolonged use of tik may lead to a variety of cardiovascular problems, including arrhythmias, intracranial bleeding and congestive heart failure.
The small study found that after discontinuing tik use, participants were less likely to die, or suffer a nonfatal stroke or have to be hospitalised again for heart failure compared to those who kept using the drug.
"Due to the chance to recover cardiac function and symptoms at an early stage of the disease, early detection of heart problems in patients with methamphetamine abuse could prevent further deterioration," senior author Dr Norman Mangner said in an American College of Cardiology news release. He's a physician at Heart Center Leipzig in Germany.
However, the researchers also warned that their findings point to the dangers of tik use.
Breaking the habit
"The work presented today emphasises the fact that the growing drug epidemic will have long-term cardiovascular consequences in addition to the known short-term tragic events," said Dr Christopher O'Connor. He's editor-in-chief of the journal JACC: Heart Failure, which published the study.
The researchers tracked 30 methamphetamine abusers and measured their heart function to see if it improved after quitting. The patients were age 30 on average.
Most of the patients were male, and all had evidence of heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump well enough to supply the body with needed oxygen.
Dr James Januzzi is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. In a journal commentary, he said the study shows that heart function improves only after quitting. Instead of plying meth-using patients with heart medication, he said doctors should be encouraging them to break the dangerous habit.
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