Stroke Risk Up with Recent Cocaine Use

Stroke risk significantly increased in young adults who used cocaine in the last 24 hours

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The risk of a stroke in a young, health person is usually quite low. New research shows that when cocaine is used, the risk increases greatly. 

Findings from a new study, which investigated the association of gender and ethnicity on stroke risk in cocaine users, were presented this week at a national scientific meeting.

The results showed that stroke risk may be increased within 24 hours of cocaine use. The risk was similar in Caucasians and African-Americans, but higher in females.

"Seek treatment for drug abuse problems."

Yu-Ching Cheng, PhD, from Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System and University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, led a team of researchers who investigated the association between cocaine use and stroke risk.

Between 1992 and 2008, this research team recruited 2,255 people ages 15 to 49 to participate in their study. There were 1,101 case subjects and 1,154 control (comparison) subjects. Interviews with all people in the study were conducted to obtain history of drug use and determine risk factors for stroke.

Similar percentages of study participants in each group reported using cocaine, at 28 percent of the case subjects and 26 percent of the control subjects. Significantly more men than women reported a history of cocaine use, at 36 percent of the men versus 18 percent of the women.

The researchers found over a seven times greater increased risk of stroke in people who had used cocaine within the last 24 hours. 

Caucasians were 6.1 times more likely and African-Americans were 6.7 times more likely to have a stroke within 24 hours of using cocaine compared to people who had not used the drug.

“Our data suggests that acute cocaine use significantly increases [ischemic stroke] risk in young adults, and that the effect appears to be stronger in women despite the lower frequency of cocaine use in this subgroup,” the authors reported. 

After adjusting for age, ethnicity, and cigarette smoking status, the risk difference between men and women was not statistically significant, meaning those results could have been due to chance.

Dr. Cheng commented, “Cocaine use is one of the risk factors we investigated and we were surprised at how strong an association there is between cocaine and stroke risk in young adults. We found the stroke risk associated with acute cocaine use is much higher than some other stroke risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.”

The researchers presented their findings in February at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference.

Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and The National Institutes of Health.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2014
Last Updated:
February 12, 2014