The effects of smoking and drugs on young people

Most young people know that smoking and drugs are dangerous, but for heart patients, the risks can be much higher.

How smoking affects your heart

Smoking is one of the worst things a person can do for their health and smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who’ve never smoked.

Inhaling cigarette smoke increases the risk of getting heart disease, including having a stroke or a heart attack because it forces your heart to work harder than it should have to.

Smoking tobacco in cigarettes, roll ups or in any way at all:

  • damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material. This makes them narrower and harder to get blood through
  • reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure
  • causes your blood to clot more easily

Teenagers used to be drawn to smoking because they thought it was cool. However young people are now far more health conscious and two-thirds of teenagers say smokers are less attractive than non-smokers.

Each cigarette contains 4,000 chemicals. Smoking: 

  • kills someone every 6.5 seconds
  • increases your chances of getting cancer
  • increases your chances of getting gangrene and needing foot or leg amputation.
  • can make men impotent (unable to maintain an erection) and can reduce fertility in women
  • costs the average smoker £28 a week, or £90,000 in a lifetime.

If you have a heart condition, it is especially important to avoid putting your heart under greater strain. he good news is that these effects and the health risks start going right down the minute you’ve given up.

Useful links to help you quit

NHS Smokefree, 0800 022 4332

How drugs affect your heart

Illegal drugs and so-called ‘Legal Highs’ can have dangerous effects on your heart and body. Make sure you are armed with the facts so you can keep yourself safe.

Drugs that increase heart rate and blood pressure

The drugs that can put a strain on your heart causing irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and strokes are:

  • LSD (acid, blotter, liquid acid, micro dot, smilies, tabs, trips)
  • Cocaine (coke, charlie, crack, snow, blow)
  • Amphetamines (speed, fet, base, billy, whizz)
  • Ketamine (Special K, K, ket)
  • Crystal meth (Ice, glass, Christine, Tina)
  • Mephedrone (meow meow, miaow miaow, MCAT, meph)
  • Cannabis (hash, weed, grass, skunk, marijuana, dope, puff, ganja, pot, joint, reefer, kazoo, blunt, zoot)

Drugs that reduce heart rate and blood pressure

These drugs slow your breathing and possibly can stop your heart

  • GHB (GBH, liquid ecstasy)
  • Heroin (brown, skag, smack, gear, H)
  • Poppers (amyl nitrate, butyl nitrite, ram, thrust, liquid gold)

Drugs that increase risk of death from pulmonary oedema

The drugs that can cause a pulmonary oedema (when fluid flows back into your lungs causing extreme shortness of breath) are:

  • Amphetamines
  • Heroin

Drugs that increase risk of endocarditis

Endocarditis is a life-threatening heart condition caused by injecting drugs like:

  • Amphetamines
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine

Drugs that increase risk of irregular heart beats and black-outs

  • Sniffing solvents such as glue

This can possibly cause sudden death.

Drugs that increase risk of heart disease

  • Cannabis when mixed with tobacco and smoked

Legal highs can also cause many of the effects described above. Just because they’re not illegal doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. All drugs have many other side effects and affect everybody differently.

If you have a heart condition, make sure you support your health by avoiding illegal drugs, legal highs and any form of smoking.

Useful links

Talk to Frank, 0800 776 600

Do you want to meet other young people like you?

Are you over 13 and living with a heart condition in the UK? Join one of our young peoples support programmes.

They are a great way to get information, help and support, and meet other young heart patients at free events.

Find out more