Marijuana Use Could Be Related to Higher Stroke Risk, Study Says
According to a new paper presented during the International Stroke Conference of 2013 held by the American Stroke Association, marijuana could double the risk of stroke in young adults. The study, led by a research team from New Zealand, reveals that patients who had been tested positive for marijuana were 2 times more likely to suffer from transient ischemic attacks or even ischemic strokes, when compared to patients of the same sex and age.
The study, led by professor Alan Barber, is the first case-control study that links marijuana to an increased risk of ischemic stroke. “Cannabis has been thought by the public to be a relatively safe, although illegal substance. This study shows this might not be the case; it may lead to stroke”, noted Barber. A total number of 160 patients with a history of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attacks, aged between 18 and 55, were investigated in the study. Out of the 160 patients, 10 of them had transient ischemic attacks while 150 of them had an ischemic stroke. Almost 16% of the patients tested positive on drug screens upon hospital admission.
A little over 8% of the patients from the control group tested positive for marijuana. The research team discovered that there were no differences in the age and stroke mechanism of the patients, regardless of their marijuana consumption. Previous studies report that both ischemic strokes and transient ischemic attacks can occur a few hours after marijuana use. According to researchers, most of these patients show no history of cardiovascular diseases or other risk factors, excluding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The authors of the study mention that it’s almost impossible to conduct prospective studies on marijuana consumers due to the fact that patients might offer unreliable answers.
In order to conduct this study, the research team was allowed to test the urine samples of hospitalized patients. However, the researchers only had access to the urine sample, the sex, the ethnicity and age of the patients. Nonetheless, researchers were able to provide strong evidence towards the link between marijuana usage and stroke. On the other hand, the majority of stroke patients were also tobacco consumers, thus making researchers unable to be sure if the strokes were indeed caused by marijuana. Further research is needed in order to determine if marijuana is connected to stroke, independent of tobacco usage. Barber concluded that although progress will be difficult due to the biases that occur with the study of illegal substances, it is compulsory to continue research to the increasing number of young marijuana consumers.