Does Marijuana Cause Strokes?

By Valerie Tejeda 02/07/13

Researchers say pot raises risk of strokes, but concurrent tobacco smoking may also be to blame.

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Smoking pot increases risk of strokes in young adults, according to a new study from the University of Auckland; but concurrent tobacco smoking may also be to blame. Dr. P. Alan Barber and his colleagues studied 160 stroke patients between the ages of 18 to 55, against 160 control subjects who were admitted to the hospital for other medical reasons. Based on urine tests, 16% of the 160 stroke patients tested positive for marijuana, compared to 8.1% of the control subjects. The majority of the young stroke victims "didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and they were reasonably fit and well," says Barber. "They were clean from a risk factor point of view, but they had a stroke while smoking marijuana." He asserts that the study provides the strongest evidence to date linking cannabis with stroke. However, of the 16% of stroke patients who tested positive for pot, "all but one" had also smoked cigarettes. “We haven’t been able to tease apart the relationship between cannabis and stroke independent of smoking,” Barber admits. “So we can say cannabis smoking including tobacco smoking is associated with a higher risk of ischemic stroke.” Still, Barber insists that, based on the study's findings, marijuana users should be wary of potential risks. “There’s a perception by the public that cannabis is relatively benign and a natural high," he says, "but this study suggests it may not be benign as you think.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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