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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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"They do not realize the paradoxical effects it may have, including worsening mood, anxiety and behavior," Krakower said. "In addition, it may lead to serious consequences at any time, like acute stroke."

For the study, Cheng's team compared more than 1,000 people aged 15 to 49 who had strokes between 1991 and 2008 with a similar number of people in the general population.

More than 25 percent of the people in both groups said they had a history of using cocaine. Men were twice as likely to have used the drug as women, the researchers said.

Although a history of cocaine use was not linked with the risk of having a stroke, using cocaine in the previous 24 hours was associated with an increased risk of having a stroke, they found.

The risk of having a stroke was six to seven times higher within 24 hours of using cocaine. The risk was similar for both whites and blacks, the researchers said.

Although the study found an association between using cocaine and an increased risk of stroke in younger adults, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

One expert, however, noted the strength of the association.

"Cocaine comes up over and over as being implicated in stroke in people of all ages," said Dr. Richard Libman, vice chairman of neurology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Cocaine wreaks havoc on the heart, Libman said. "It can cause all kinds of abnormal rhythms that can cause blood clots to form and cause a stroke," he said.

"In addition, cocaine may also have a direct effect on blood vessels in the brain, causing them to go into spasm and narrow, resulting in a decrease of blood to the brain," Libman said. "Cocaine may even cause inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain, and cause stroke."

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