SYDNEY — Word of caution to all the Jesse Pinkmans out there: Young meth users are at an increased risk of getting a stroke, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney (UNSW) conducted a meta-analysis of 77 previous studies, allowing them to conclude that young speed users, particularly males, are the highest risk of stroke.
More troubling, 80 percent of strokes among young methamphetamine users are hemorrhagic (i.e., their brain bleeds), as opposed to ischemic (i.e., caused by a clot).
Young men were twice as likely as young women to experience a meth-related stroke, while the prevalence of hemorrhagic strokes, which are far more dangerous, were much higher in this demographic than in the general population.
“This could happen within hours of use, or after months or years of exposure,” says study co-author Dr. Julia Lappin in a university news release. “A stroke can cause death or devastating and long-lasting disability.”
Since meth use is particularly widespread in North America, Asia, and the Oceania region, these findings are highly relevant for shaping public policy.
Meth can be ingested, inhaled, or injected. Injection and ingestion were most commonly associated with developing the hemorrhagic variety, the researchers note.
Hemorrhagic stroke has been shown to be linked with higher blood pressure in many cases, and meth use can dramatically increase blood pressure levels even in those who have normal rates to start.
In the studies examined, a third of those who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke died as a result, compared to only a fifth who had suffered from an ischemic stroke.
“Methamphetamine users should be alert in both themselves and other users to early signs of stroke such as intense and severe headache, fits, and loss of feeling or function on one side of the body,” says Lappin.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.