Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2006 Jun;27(2):156-60
Department of Forensic Pathology, University Hospital Antwerp, Edegem, Belgium.
Amphetamines are popular drugs of abuse, particularly among youngsters and at dance scenes. Cardiotoxicity (manifested as cardiomyopathy, acute myocardial infarction/necrosis, heart failure, or arrhythmia) after the recreational (mis)use of amphetamine and its synthetic derivatives has been documented but is rather rare. Amphetamine-related cardiac fatalities are even more rare. We present 6 cases of young persons who died unexpected after the chronic abuse of amphetamines. Death was not attributed to a lethal intoxication but to an acute myocardial necrosis, a right ventricle rupture, a cardiomyopathy, or an arrhythmia. Two of the deceased persons presented prior to their death to the emergency department, but their complaints were not considered (probably due to their young age) to be of cardiac origin. One case was a sport-related fatality where medical screening failed to identify the underlying cardiac pathology or the amphetamine abuse, and 1 case was a so-called idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy where substance abuse was not considered by the treating physician. We think that amphetamine-associated cardiotoxicity is a rare but probably genuine entity that should be considered both in forensic and clinical/emergency medicine because of its potential medicolegal implications.