Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter products, increase the heart rate. Sometimes people take medications for the purpose of increasing the heart rate, but other times a rapid heart rate is a negative side effect of the drug. Often other symptoms accompany a rapid heart rate such as feelings of anxiety, heart palpitations and blood pressure changes. Knowing if a medication will cause a rapid heart rate can improve drug tolerance and prevent serious complications.
Norepinephrine bitartrate works on alpha-adrenergic receptor sites in the body and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, causing effects similar to what a person experiences when frightened or in danger. The National Institutes of Health says the heart rate increases dramatically. Palpitations and extra heart beats can occur. Along with a rapid pulse, the blood pressure increases. Patients receive norepinephrine in the hospital setting to treat life-threatening conditions, such as shock, heart attack or cardiac arrest.
According to “Pearson Nurse’s Drug Guide 2010,” aminophylline, isoproterenol hydrochloride and albuterol sulfate are examples of bronchodilators used to treat various respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Bronchodilators relax the smooth muscles in the lungs to cause bronchodilation, or relaxation and widening of the airways in the lungs. An adverse effect of a bronchodilator is a rapid heart rate. Tachycardia, or a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute, palpitations and irregular heart rhythms occur.
Thyroid Hormone Replacement
A synthetic drug that replicates thyroid hormone function, levothyroxine sodium causes tachycardia and palpitations. Drug dosages of levothyroxine should be taken exactly as prescribed to achieve a therapeutic effect and to avoid serious complications. Irregular heart rhythms like ventricular tachycardia can occur. A fast heart rate should be reported to a physician for further evaluation.
Many anti-depressant medications increase the heart rate. For example fluoxetine, amitriptyline and doxepin hydrochloride cause tachycardia, palpitations and irregular heart rhythms. Patients often feel anxiety as well. If the heart rate remains elevated, patients should consult with a physician to either adjust the dose or stop the medication.
Amphetamine sulfate and derivatives are present in many brand-name medications used to treat attention deficit disorder, narcolepsy and obesity. Amphetamine stimulates the central nervous system and raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Children and adults react differently to amphetamine. Individual response should be monitored during initial therapy. A prolonged fast heart rate should be reported to a physician since dose changes may be required.
Illicit street drugs like cocaine, crack, methamphetamines and ecstasy cause effects similar to amphetamines and stimulate the central nervous system. These drugs increase the heart rate and cause lethal arrhythmias.