With Canada joining the club of nations legalizing marijuana last week, a research physician is warning of increased risk of stroke linked to the drug.
The risk for any stroke could increase by 15 percent to 29 percent for an ischemic stroke – the most common kind – said lead investigator Dr. Krupa Patel with the Avalon University School of Medicine in Willemstad, Curacao.
While Patel cautioned her study can’t prove that using marijuana causes strokes, she says the two are associated.
“We can’t establish causation, but what we can say is that recreational marijuana users are at higher risk in terms of stroke,” she said.
In addition, the researchers don’t know if the risk is tied to smoking marijuana or ingesting it in other ways, and whether it depends on the amount of the drug used or if it is due to other psychoactive ingredients mixed in with the marijuana.
Patel said the risk may be exacerbated by chronic medical conditions of the marijuana users who had strokes, such as diabetes or obesity. Unclear also is whether tobacco or cocaine was also used in association with marijuana.
Still, more strokes occurred among marijuana users than nonusers, which leaves open the question of what accounts for the increase in risk.
“At this point we can just say there is this increased risk,” Patel said.
In the study, Patel and her colleagues found that among more than 2.3 million American recreational marijuana users who were hospitalized, the risk of stroke rose, compared with people who didn’t use the drug.