Marijuana, the most widely used illicit drug. Regular marijuana users may want to think twice before taking another puff .
Marijuana may trigger strokes in young adults, according to preliminary research presented today at an international medical conference.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, taken by 7 percent of Americans according to a government survey. The American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found an increased risk of stroke among those smoking marijuana compared to those who did not, while research published in the American Heart Journal said marijuana users who had heart attacks were no more likely to die than those those hadn’t smoked cannabis.
Drug test results showed that 16 percent in the test group had marijuana in their system shortly after suffering a stroke, versus eight percent in the control group. Researchers found that middle-aged stroke patients were about 2.3 times more likely to have used marijuana before falling ill, but they were careful to note that the study did not directly link marijuana use to stroke.
Researchers lamented that they were not able to eliminate tobacco users from the test group of about 160 stroke patients, and noted that most of the patients who tested positive for marijuana also smoked cigarettes, which can double one’s risk for stroke, according to the National Stroke Association.
The drug is illegal in the United States on a federal level, however, Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing recreational pot use.
Strokes, or brain attacks, are caused by disruptions of blood flow to the brain. About 85 percent of strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots or plaque deposits in linings of blood vessels that stop blood flow to the brain. That’s different from a less-common hemorrhagic stroke that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Symptoms of strokes include severe headache, sudden numbness or weakness of the face or limbs, sudden confusion or trouble speaking, vision problems, dizziness and loss of coordination.
People may also experience a TIA, also called a “mini” or “warning” stroke, a temporary blockage that causes stroke symptoms that go away after a few minutes without causing lasting damage. About one-third of people who have a TIA go on to have a stroke within a year, according to the American Heart Association.
The stroke study, which incorporated preliminary data, is the first trial of its kind to study a possible connection between marijuana use and stroke. It included 160 patients aged 18 to 55 who had suffered a stroke connected to a blood clot in the brain, and who agreed to have their urine tested for marijuana within 72 hours of the stroke. These results were compared to those from 160 controls who had not had a stroke but came to the hospital for other reasons. They were matched on age, gender and ethnic background, all of which can also affect the risk for this type of stroke.