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Smoking Pot May Raise Stroke Risk in Young Adults

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"Even though it's tiny -- they did this assessment on a relatively small number of patients -- it's still possible to at least start talking about the topic. I don't think you can draw any hard conclusions," Labovitz said. "What we know from prior work is that some studies have shown an association with stroke. The finding of this article is not really news. It's another brick in the wall. It lends credence to the concept that smoking marijuana is a stroke risk."

Labovitz, as well as author Barber, also noted that the study didn't tease out the details of tobacco use -- how long and how much the young stroke patients had been smoking and how big a role that might have played in stroke risk.

Dr. Carl Lavie, a professor of medicine and medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, had similar concerns about the small study size.

"Obviously, this is a very small study and is only an abstract presentation, so we do not have the full details," Lavie said, but he added that the connection between marijuana use and stroke isn't far-fetched.

"A paper from a colleague of mine, Dr. Murray Mittleman, published in Circulation in 2001, showed that the heart attack rate increased by 4.8-fold during the hour after smoking marijuana," Lavie said. "Therefore, since the risk factors of heart attack and stroke are similar, it makes sense that both could be increased by pot smoking."

With drug studies, some also wonder if the researchers have an ethical bias, but the author said his concern lies with the drug's high popularity level.

"I don't have any moral position, but it's important people know there are potential risks," Barber said. "There's a perception out there that cannabis is a natural substance and what's the problem about? For medicinal reasons, it's different. For cancer, it stimulates the appetite. But if you use it for recreation, you need to know the risks," Barber said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about the health effects of marijuana.

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