Rates of drug use have been found to be dependent on gender and are associated with risk factors for cardiometabolic disease. These study findings were presented during the Psych Congress 2020 Virtual Experience, held online from September 11 to 13, 2020.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2018 (N=10,032) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were analyzed in this study. Drug and alcohol use was correlated with cardiometabolic disease risk factors (hypertension, triglyceride levels, high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, serum cotinine levels, C-reactive protein levels, hypercholesterolemia, body mass index, and waist circumference).

Overall, 51% of respondents reported ever using drugs (50.4% marijuana, 14.5% cocaine, 6% methamphetamines, and 2% heroin). Current drug users reported using marijuana (14.8%), cocaine (1.5%), methamphetamine (0.5%), and heroin (0.3%). This observed rate of current marijuana use was higher than what was reported in a 2013 survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA; 9.5%).

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Men were significantly more likely than women to report using drugs (P <.001), specifically marijuana (56% vs 45%; P =.01), cocaine (19% vs 10%; P =.01), and heroin (2.8% vs 1.2%; P =.01), respectively. Men were more likely to be current drug users (marijuana: 19% vs 11%; cocaine: 2% vs 1%; heroin: 0.4% vs 0.1%; P =.002) and more likely to report consuming more than 12 alcoholic beverages per year (87% vs 74%; P <.001) compared with women, respectively.

The investigators did not observe a correlation between drug use and 3 or more cardiometabolic disease risk factors.

Previous drug use compared with no drug use was associated with abnormal HDL cholesterol levels among men (odds ratio [OR], 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58-0.82; P <.0001 vs OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.06-1.54; P =.009) and increased waist circumference among men (OR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.06-1.68; P =.014 vs OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.95-1.55; P =.118) and women (OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.11-1.67; P =.003 vs OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.02-1.54; P =.026), respectively.

This study was limited both by the cross-sectional design of the NHANES data, which makes longitudinal comparisons between drug use and disease risk factors impossible, and by the self-reporting nature of the data. It may be possible that respondents are not providing honest answers, which would cause an underestimation of effects.

The conclusions drawn from these data were that gender differences exist in alcohol and drug use and that a trend of increased use is occurring in the United States. Clinicians should be aware of the relationship between cardiometabolic disease risk factors, especially increased waist circumference and abnormal HDL cholesterol among men, when assessing health of drug users.


Chaudhari G, Bodicherla KP, Singh R, Malik F, Shrestha S, Shah K. Association of opioid use with cardiometabolic disease risk factors: evidence from the 2009-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Presented at: Psych Congress 2020 Virtual Experience; September 10-13, 2020. Poster 211.

This article originally appeared on The Cardiology Advisor