(HealthDay News) – Cannabis use may be associated with a significant increase in stroke risk, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference, held from Feb. 5–8 in Honolulu.

Noting that a temporal relationship has been reported for cannabis and stroke, Peter A. Barber, PhD, MD, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues conducted a case-control study to examine the recent use of cannabis in younger stroke patients. Urine screens for cannabis were conducted on 160 consecutive patients aged 18–55 years (100 men) with ischemic stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA). Urine samples were provided for 160 age-, sex-, and ethnicity-matched controls.

The researchers found that 15.6% of patients had positive cannabis drug screens, and they were significantly more likely to be male and tobacco smokers. Those with and without positive cannabis tests were similar with regard to age, stroke mechanism, and most vascular risk factors. Of the control participants, 8.1% tested positive for cannabis. Cannabis use was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of ischemic stroke and TIA (odds ratio, 2.3), after adjustment for age, sex, and ethnicity.

“Cannabis has been thought by the public to be a relatively safe, although illegal substance,” Barber said in a statement. “This study shows this might not be the case; it may lead to stroke.”

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