University of Maryland School of Medicine Researchers Find Association Between Stroke and Cocaine Use

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Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center have found a significant increase in the risk for ischemic stroke in young adults within 24 hours after cocaine use. The researchers presented their findings today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

“When examining stroke risk factors in young adults, our analysis showed cocaine use had a strong association with ischemic stroke, the type of stroke caused by the blockage of a blood vessel in the brain,” says Yu-Ching Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and research scientist at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.

She adds, “This increased risk was associated with recent cocaine use (within 24 hours). Furthermore, the risk after using cocaine was higher than for other known risk factors, including smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure.”

The investigators looked at the cases of 1,101 young adults (ages 15 to 49) in the Baltimore-Washington area who had a stroke between 1992 and 2008. They compared the stroke patients to a control group of 1,154 people, interviewing both groups about stroke risk factors and illicit drug use. In the stroke group, 28 percent reported a history of cocaine use compared to 26 percent in the control group; about 2.4 percent of the stroke cases and 0.4 percent of people in the control group reported acute cocaine use within 24 hours.

“Cocaine is not only addictive, but seems to significantly increase the risk of disability and death from stroke. In our analysis, we found that only about one-third of young stroke patients had a drug screening when they were first put in the hospital for stroke treatment, so the percentage of cocaine use may actually be higher. With few exceptions, we think that every young stroke patient should be screened for drug abuse when they are hospitalized,” adds Dr. Cheng.

Investigators found the association between increased ischemic stroke risk and acute cocaine use in both Caucasians and African-Americans. The participant pool was about half men, half women.

“Ischemic stroke in young adults can limit their productive years and decrease quality of life. University of Maryland School of Medicine neurologists are leading the way to evaluate preventable and modifiable risk factors to help prevent strokes in all age groups,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

This study received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Veterans Affairs.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Established in 1807, the University of Maryland School of Medicine is the first public medical school in the United States, and the first to institute a residency-training program. The School of Medicine was the founding school of the University of Maryland and today is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. On the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine serves as the anchor for a large academic health center which aims to provide the best medical education, conduct the most innovative biomedical research and provide the best patient care and community service to Maryland and beyond.

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