While marijuana has long been promoted as one of the more benign recreational drugs, evidence is mounting that this conception may be fallacious.
A recent study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand has been presented in Honolulu at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013 linking marijuana use to stroke in young people. The researchers involved in the study reviewed the urine samples of 160 ischemic stroke/TIA patients between the ages of 18 and 55 (average age: 45) and found that they were more than twice as likely to have smoked marijuana in the recent past as the control group subjects.
Ischemic strokes occur when there is an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying oxygen to the brain, while TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), often called “mini strokes,” involve a temporary blockage or reduction of blood flow to the brain.
Among the stroke subjects, 25 (16 percent) tested positive for cannabis, while only 13 (8 percent) of the control subjects tested positive. Those testing positive tended to be male and tobacco smokers, though no other illicit drugs were detected.
According to Dr. P. Alan Barber, the study’s lead author and a professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland, the regular use of tobacco among the vast majority of the stroke patients made drawing conclusions from the data problematic.
“We haven’t been able to tease apart the relationship between cannabis and stroke independent of smoking, because all the cannabis smokers but one who had stroke had smoked cigarettes. So we can say cannabis smoking including tobacco smoking is associated with a higher risk of ischemic stroke.”
Nonetheless, the study provides strong evidence of a link between marijuana use and the major health problems.
“We know people had strokes while using cannabis, meaning there’s a strong temporal association – so it suggested a cause,” Barber said. “We know that cannabis can lead to problems with the heart, such as heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation, and can lead to restriction of arteries in the brain… and reduced blood flow, that’s what happens with stroke.”
Barber told Fox News that he became interested in the possible link between stroke and marijuana use.
“I look after people with strokes and we had a patient come in with stroke; they were young, but they didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and they were reasonably fit and well. They were clean from a risk factor point of view, but they had a stroke while smoking marijuana. So we looked at the literature and saw sporadic stroke reports among marijuana users.”
Close to 130,000 Americans die from stroke annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most over the age of 65. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
- Hughes, Sue. “Cannabis-Stroke Link: First Case-Control Study.” Medscape. 06 February 2013. Web. 07 February 2013.
- Grush, Loren. “Smoking marijuana linked with higher risk of stroke in young adults, study finds.” Fox News. 06 February 2013. Web. 07 February 2013.
- Jaslow, Ryan. “Marijuana smoking may increase stroke risk for young adults.” CBS News. 06 February 2013. Web. 07 February 2013.
Filed under: Research, Substance Abuse · Tags: atrial fibrillation, Blood blockage, brain, cannabis, death, heart palpitations, Ischemic stroke, marijuana, Mini Stroke, pot, recreational drugs, Research, smokers, stroke, Temporal lobe, TIA, tobacco, Transient Ischemic Attacks, weed, young people