Nov. 7, 2022 – At the urging of his cardiologist, JC joined San Francisco General’s Heart Plus, a 12-week outpatient program that combines cardiovascular follow-up care with drug rehabilitation support.

Stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, are known to cause and exacerbate cardiovascular problems, so the program’s goal is to improve patients’ health by addressing the two issues together.

“Stimulant use disorders complicate at least 15 percent of heart failure hospitalizations,” said Soraya Azari, MD, a UCSF associate clinical professor who cofounded Heart Plus.

“At San Francisco General, we found methamphetamine use was an independent predictor of readmission for heart failure. There’s separate medical evidence that if you stop using methamphetamine, your heart failure can improve in terms of how well your heart squeezes and whether you have to keep coming back to the hospital.”

Patients enrolled in Heart Plus saw a cardiologist and an addiction specialist during twice-weekly appointments where the doctors would monitor their heart health, as well as counsel them about their drug use.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the program is that the patients received rewards — either a $5 or $10 gift card or a positive affirmation — every time they showed up and every time they had a negative urine drug screen.


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