North Texas Sees Rise in Heart Infections due to Drug Misuse
By: Michael Rass
Published: August 18, 2017

Texas lost 2,601 people to drug overdoses in 2014, many of them to heroin and other opioid drugs. That year, Dallas County had the second-highest overdose rate for opioids in Texas, after Nueces County. Those are not the only fatalities of the addiction epidemic in Texas and the rest of the nation. Dallas TV station WFAA recently reported on the death of 31-year-old Jeremy Conlin, who developed endocarditis as a result of his unsafe intravenous drug use. Heart infections like Jeremy’s are on the rise nationwide. “Infective endocarditis is usually a result of a blood infection,” explains Bacteria or other infectious substances can enter the bloodstream during certain medical procedures or illicit drug use. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can infect healthy heart valves and is the most common cause of infective endocarditis in intravenous drug users. “The needle by nature of passing through the dirty skin takes bacteria on the skin into the veins, and then the bacteria travel on to the heart,” Dr. Mark Pool, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Texas Health Dallas, told WFAA. Endocarditis is an extremely serious condition, and Jeremy needed heart surgery. Cardiologists had to replace two of Jeremy’s heart valves. Jeremy also needed addiction treatment. Sadly, his attempt to achieve recovery failed. Within three years of his first surgery, and despite rehab and family support, Jeremy needed a second operation because of his continued drug use. Dr. Pool, who did not perform Jeremy’s first surgery, operated on him the second time, but some cardiologists would refuse to do so. “Every time we go back is more difficult because of the scarring and the nature of the re-do operation,” explained Dr. Pool. “We can’t just keep doing this over and over again. It’s not fair to other patients who may need resources from the hospital,” he told WFAA. Jeremy lasted 15 days on life support after the second operation, but never regained consciousness. Like many people with severe substance use disorder, Jeremy needed modern, comprehensive addiction treatment after his first heart surgery to turn his life around. Addiction is hard to overcome. The primary goal of achieving sobriety is difficult to achieve if the deeper causes of the substance use are not uncovered and addressed. Leaving the home environment can be beneficial as well in order to achieve a full recalibration. Lakeview Health in Florida employs five levels of care to give patients the best possible start into recovery. The medical team at Lakeview is prepared to treat not just the addiction but also the medical acuities that can be caused by long-term drug misuse. Additionally, they are ready to address the many co-occurring issues that accompany addiction. This comprehensive approach gives patients a better chance to achieve a sustained recovery from addiction.