The use of controlled substances like cocaine increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and myocardial infarction (MI). However, outside of alcohol and tobacco, substance use is not included in CVD risk assessment tools. We identified the effects of using multiple substances (nicotine/cotinine, cannabis, alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and other opioids) on cardiac injury measured by high-sensitivity troponin (hsTnI) in homeless and unstably housed women.
We recruited 245 homeless and unstably housed women from shelters, free meal programs and street encampments. Participants completed six monthly study visits. Adjusting for traditional CVD risk factors, we examined longitudinal associations between substance use and hsTnI.
Median participant age was 53 years and 74 % were ethnic minority women. At baseline, 76 % of participants had hypertension, 31 % were HIV-positive, 8% had a history of a prior MI and 12 % of prior stroke. The most commonly used substances were cotinine/nicotine (80 %), cannabis (68 %) and cocaine (66 %). HsTnI exceeding the 99th percentile (14.7 ng/L) – a level high enough to signal possible MI – was observed in 14 participants during >1 study visit (6%). In adjusted analysis, cocaethylene and fentanyl were significantly associated with higher hsTnI levels.
Fentanyl use and the co-use of cocaine and alcohol are associated with myocardial injury, suggesting that the use of these substances may act as long-term cardiac insults. Whether risk counseling on these specific substances and/or including their use in CVD risk stratification would improve CVD outcomes in populations where substance use is high merits further investigation.

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