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Stroke Health Center

Cocaine Use May Spur Short-Term Rise in Stroke Risk

Within 24 hours of use, risk increases almost sevenfold, researchers report
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- In the 24 hours after using cocaine, a young adult's risk of a stroke increases almost sevenfold, according to a new study.

The risk for stroke associated with cocaine use is much higher than with other stroke risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking, said the researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Cocaine is not only addictive, but it can also lead to disability or death from stroke," said lead researcher Yu-Ching Cheng, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Cheng said physiological reasons might account for the increased risk of stroke.

"Cocaine use can result in the constriction of blood vessels; increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure; and decreased oxygen supply to the brain," said Cheng, who also is a research scientist at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "These physiological effects may boost the risk of stroke."

It is estimated that about 13,000 Americans aged 15 to 44 suffer a stroke each year, Cheng said.

"Based on the data in our study, we estimated that about 300 young stroke cases are associated with acute cocaine use each year, but the estimate may vary depending on the prevalence of cocaine use in different sub-populations," she said.

With few exceptions, every young stroke patient should be screened for drug abuse when admitted to the hospital, Cheng said. Only a third of these patients currently get tested for drug use, according to the study.

The findings were scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in San Diego. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said, "Cocaine is a very potent substance, and is often sought out by young adults for its thrills and extreme highs."

Some young adults battling anxiety, mood disorders or ADHD may attempt to use the drug to ease social anxiety, improve their mood or stay alert, he said.

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