Drug, alcohol abuse tied to early-life strokes: study

Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:45am IST

A man lights up a joint during a protest march against a ban on selling cannabis to foreigners, in front of the town hall in Maastricht May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Kooren/Files

A man lights up a joint during a protest march against a ban on selling cannabis to foreigners, in front of the town hall in Maastricht May 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Kooren/Files

Related Topics

REUTERS - Younger adults who suffered a stroke were often smokers or had abused drugs or alcohol, according to a U.S. study that looked at over 1,000 patients.

Strokes are often thought of as a condition of the elderly, but researchers said long-term changes in the heart, arteries or and blood as a result of drug abuse or heavy drinking may put users at higher-than-average risk earlier in life.

"Substance abuse is common in young adults experiencing a stroke," wrote lead researcher Brett Kissela from the University of Cincinnati in the journal Stroke.

"Patients aged younger than 55 years who experience a stroke should be routinely screened and counseled regarding substance abuse."

It's also possible that some drugs, particularly cocaine and methamphetamines, may trigger a stroke more immediately, according to S. Andrew Josephson, a neurologist from the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied drug use and stroke but was not involved in the study.

"We know that even with vascular risk factors that are prevalent - smoking, high blood pressure... most people still don't have a stroke until they're older," he added.

"When a young person has a stroke, it is probably much more likely that the cause of their stroke is something other than traditional risk factors."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and they are the most common cause of serious long-term disability. One study of 2007 data found that almost five percent of people who had a stroke that year were between ages 18 and 44.

The current study involved people from Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky who'd had a stroke before they hit 55.

The researchers reviewed medical charts for blood or urine test results of other records of substance abuse for close to 1,200 stroke patients.

In 2005, the most recent year covered, just over half of young adults who suffered a stroke were smokers at the time, and one in five used illicit drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. Thirteen percent of people had used drugs or alcohol within 24 hours of their stoke.

"The rate of substance abuse, particularly illicit drug abuse, is almost certainly an underestimate because toxicology screens were not obtained on all patients," said Steven Kittner, a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore who also wasn't part of the research.

The rate of smoking, drug use and alcohol abuse - defined as three or more drinks per day - seemed to increase among stroke patients between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s.

But Kissela and his team said they can't be sure whether more people were actually using those substances or doctors were just getting better at testing for and recording drug abuse.

The study also can't prove that patients' drug or alcohol use directly contributed to their strokes. It's possible, for example, that people who abuse drugs also see their doctors less often or engage in other risky behaviors that increase the chance of strokes, Josephson explained.

He added that the study emphasizes the need to learn and quickly recognizing the signs of strokes, even in young people, since some treatments can only be used in a short window of opportunity after the stroke. SOURCE: bit.ly/TVQvpi

(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Middle East Conflict

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Final Journey

Final Journey

Train carrying MH17 bodies on final journey reaches Ukraine city.  Full Article 

New President

New President

Indonesian president-elect Jokowi calls for unity after bitter election.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crash

Ukraine Crash

Putin says will use influence on Ukraine rebels, denounces West.  Full Article 

Death of a Spy

Death of a Spy

Britain does U-turn on ex-KGB agent Litvinenko murder inquiry.  Full Article 

Soured Ties

Soured Ties

Turkey's Erdogan acknowledges strains with Obama.  Full Article 

Ferry Disaster

Ferry Disaster

Korea ferry businessman's body found next to book, alcohol bottles.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage