Speed increases risk of stroke within hours or days of use

Using methamphetamine – sometimes called `speed,’ `ice,’ or `meth’ – increases the chance of stroke, a study has found.

And while users may expect damage from taking the stimulant long-term, it was discovered the risk emerges as soon as within hours or days of use.

The drug can raise blood pressure and weaken blood vessel walls, making them more prone to rupturing and causing a hemorrhagic stroke.

Meth abuse is also linked to heart failure and irregular heartbeat.

‘Methamphetamine users and their communities should be aware that stroke can occur in young people within hours or days of use, and also as a long-term consequence,’ said lead study author Dr Julia Lappin of the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Methamphetamine can raise blood pressure and weaken blood vessel walls, making them more susceptible to rupturing and causing a hemorrhagic stroke (file photo)

‘A key feature to look out for is the sudden development of a headache, which is often extreme,’ she told Reuters by email.

‘Other signs include confusion, numbness or loss of function down one side of the body, and problems with speech and vision.’


Haemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischaemic strokes.

They occur when a blood vessel within the skull bursts and bleeds into and around the brain.

The main cause of haemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure, which can weaken the arteries in the brain and make them prone to split or rupture.

Things that increase the risk of high blood pressure include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • A lack of exercise
  • Stress, which may cause a temporary rise in blood pressure

Haemorrhagic strokes can also occur as the result of the rupture of a balloon-like expansion of a blood vessel (brain aneurysm) or abnormally formed blood vessels in the brain.

Source: NHS Choices 

Key findings 

Dr Lappin’s team analysed results from 77 previously published studies of strokes associated with meth. They discovered that most were a type known as hemorrhagic strokes, which is caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.

These are the less common form – only 15 per cent of all strokes are hemorrhagic, but they are responsible for about 40 per cent of all stroke deaths, according to the National Stroke Association.  

The review – which focused on strokes in people under 45 – found 81 were hemorrhagic strokes and 17 were ischemic strokes, which can strike at any age but are far more common in the elderly.

This means 80 per cent of strokes associated with the use of methamphetamine were the more deadlier hemorrhagic strokes.

Usually, hemorrhagic strokes account for only 40 per cent of strokes in people under the age of 45. 

Both types of stroke were roughly twice as common in men as in women, according to the paper published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.   

Rising meth use 

The researchers said risk of death was higher after a hemorrhagic stroke: one in four people made a full recovery, but one in three died. 

In one third of the cases there were vascular abnormalities, such as high blood pressure and inflamed blood vessels.

Repeated use of methamphetamine can drive up blood pressure even in those who had a normal level before. 

An expert has warned methamphetamine could become a growing cause of stroke in young adults as use of the drug rises worldwide.

‘Stopping the abuse and more efforts in the prevention of abuse could prevent fatal consequences,’ Dr Stephan Schurer of the University of Leipzig in Germany, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.

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