Doctors are facing an alarming rise in the incidence of strokes among young people who have taken cocaine, amphetamines or Ecstasy, researchers report in Saturday's issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
These drugs can trigger a cerebral hemorrhage among people who have underlying arterial problems, warn scientists from London's National Hospital for Neurology and Microsurgery.
"The growing pandemic of cocaine use in Western society is providing increasing evidence of its association with intra-cerebral hemorrhages," they write.
"It is becoming increasingly evident that misuse of cocaine in people with underlying vascular abnormalities may lead to hemorrhages."
The team said that in the past seven months, it had treated 13 drug users for strokes, 12 of whom had damaged or malformed cerebral arteries.
Four of the 12 died, one was left with severe brain damage, and the others eventually recovered after surgery.
Strokes are caused when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing surrounding brain cells to die from lack of oxygen. Depending on the size of the hemorrhages, memory loss, disability, coma or death can result.
They occur quite rarely among the young, mainly caused by a disease of the heart or blood system.
The authors urged doctors to be alert to early symptoms that could be caused by drug use. Youngsters who suffer severe headaches immediately after using amphetamines, Ecstasy or cocaine could be vulnerable to a stroke.
The report is the latest to highlight the potentially lethal effect of "designer" drugs on the cardiovascular system of the young and apparently healthy - (AFP)
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