Stroke is a deadly threat to young meth users

Sept. 13, 2017—Methamphetamine (meth for short) is an addictive drug that can take a serious toll on the bodies of people who use it. Now a new study suggests another dangerous health risk to users: an increased chance of having a potentially deadly or disabling stroke at a young age.

Study finds deadly link

Meth is a white, bitter powder that sometimes comes in a white pill or is made into a clear or white "crystal." It can be eaten, snorted up the nose or injected. "Crystal meth" can even be smoked in a glass pipe. The drug increases hyperactivity, speeds up breathing, raises blood pressure and causes other dangerous side effects.

In a review of 77 previous studies that was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, researchers looked at the link between meth use and strokes in people younger than 45. Meth is known to increase the risk of stroke, and the use of illicit drugs is highest among younger people.

The researchers found 98 cases of stroke in younger people who used meth—81 of them had hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by bleeding in the brain, and 17 had ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots.

The percentage of strokes that were hemorrhagic (80 percent) in the younger meth users was strikingly higher than in people who typically have this type of stroke, the researchers say. In the general population, only about 10 to 15 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are far more common in most people.

Other findings from the study:

  • Men were twice as likely as women to have either type of stroke.
  • Stroke was more likely if meth was taken orally or injected, instead of inhaled.
  • Symptoms of stroke occurred within a few minutes to several hours after using meth. Headache was usually the earliest symptom. Other symptoms included nausea, vomiting and confusion.
  • One-fourth of meth users who had a hemorrhagic stroke completely recovered, but a third died. One-fifth of meth users who had an ischemic stroke completely recovered but a fifth died. The rest of the people in either stroke group experienced a range of disability.

Take action now

While meth is most likely causing more young people to have damaging strokes, it's not the only drug that comes with poor health outcomes. Substance abuse of any type can lead to a lifetime of health problems and heartache. Fight back by learning how to identify the signs of substance abuse.

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.