Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Marijuana And Stroke Risk

Interesting article that CBS (of all places) carried about a recent study in New Zealand that found stroke patients were twice as likely to test positive for marijuana as the control group. From the American Heart Association press release:
In a New Zealand study, ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients were 2.3 times more likely to have cannabis, also known as marijuana, detected in urine tests as other age and sex matched patients, researchers said.

“This is the first case-controlled study to show a possible link to the increased risk of stroke from cannabis,” said P. Alan Barber, Ph.D., M.D., study lead investigator and professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “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.”

The study included 160 ischemic stroke/TIA patients 18-55 years old who had urine screens upon admission to the hospital. Among the patients, 150 had ischemic stroke and 10 had TIAs. Sixteen percent of patients had positive drug screens, mostly male who also smoked tobacco.

Only 8.1 percent of controls tested positive for cannabis in urine samples. Researchers found no differences in age, stroke mechanism or most vascular risk factors between marijuana users and non-users.

While effectively all the pot smokers also tested positive for tobacco, there are other connections between marijuana and cardiovascular problems that suggest that marijuana is the causative risk:
"For starters, this is a young age group to be having strokes, and many didn't have any of the traditional risk factors. And some patients had a stroke while actually smoking cannabis," he told EverydayHealth. "We know cannabis can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate that are associated with increased stroke risk. Importantly, it can also cause heart palpitations, [a sign of atrial fibrillation]. And atrial fibrillation is very strongly associated with stroke," he added.
Hey, so what if it doubles your risk of stroke?  You don't mind dying, spending months in rehab, or becoming permanently paralyzed, do you?

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