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Bad News for Pot Smokers: Double the Stroke Risk

Posted on February 14, 2013 by in News, Parent Alert, Spotlight

By Charlene Laino, Special to Everyday Health
See article at journal-advocate.com 
Posted: 02/07/2013 10:51:56 AM MST

Marijuana plants are displayed for sale at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. (Reuters/Anthony Bolante)Here’s another compelling reason to think twice before lighting up a joint: Smoking pot may more than double your risk of stroke, according to a new study being presented here today at the International Stroke Conference.
In the New Zealand study, people aged 18 to 55 who had a stroke were 2.3 times more likely to test positive for marijuana in their urine than those who didn’t have a stroke.

The study doesn’t prove that smoking pot will cause a stroke. “But it provides the strongest evidence to date that a lifestyle that includes cannabis use is closely associated with a doubling of stroke risk,” says study lead author P. Alan Barber, MD, PhD, a professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland.

Dr. Barber says he became interested in the topic after treating a young man with none of the traditional stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure. The patient admitted he was smoking pot when the symptoms began. “That stimulated us to look at the medical literature where we found a sprinkling of case reports of one to three patients with no typical risk factors who were smoking cannabis at the time of their stroke. Among them was a patient who recovered and then had a second stroke when again smoking cannabis,” he says.

Barber and his colleagues then decided to test young stroke patients admitted to their hospital for the presence of cannabis in their urine. The current study included 160 patients, 100 of them men, with ages ranging from 18 to 55 years. Only about 10 percent to 15 percent of all stroke victims fall into this age category; most are older, Barber notes.