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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
General Health Channel
Reported February 7, 2013

Could Marijuana Cause Strokes?


(Ivanhoe Newswire) –Marijuana is the most used illicit drug and in some states is used medicinally.  With half the nation pushing for its legalization, new research is suggesting that it may be associated with a higher risk of stroke in younger adults.  
"This is the first case-controlled study to show a possible link to the increased risk of stroke from cannabis.  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,” ," P. Alan Barber, PhD, MD, study lead investigator and professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, was quoted as saying.
Researchers in New Zealand examined ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients.  They found them to be 2.3 times more likely to have cannabis, or marijuana, detected in urine tests as compared to other clean patients.  
The study included 160 ischemic stroke/TIA patients between ages 18 to 55 who had urine screens.  Among these patients, 150 had ischemic stroke and ten had TIAs; 16% had positive drug screens, mostly men who also smoked tobacco.  About 8% of controls tested positive for cannabis.  
In previous studies, ischemic stroke and TIAs developed hours after cannabis use.  "These patients usually had no other vascular risk factors apart from tobacco, alcohol and other drug usage,” Dr. Barber said.
Studying stroke and control patients about cannabis use is challenging, but this study provides the strongest evidence to date of an association between cannabis and stroke.  However, the association is troublesome because all but one of the stroke patients who were cannabis users also used tobacco regularly. 
"We believe it is the cannabis and not tobacco.  This may prove difficult given the risks of bias and ethical strictures of studying the use of an illegal substance. However, the high prevalence of cannabis use in this cohort of younger stroke patients makes this research imperative.   People need to think twice about using cannabis because it can affect brain development and result in emphysema, heart attack and now stroke,” Dr. Barber said.
SOURCE:   American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, February 2013


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