Methamphetamine use increases risks of artery tears and stroke

ST. PAUL, Minn -- Methamphetamine use may be associated with increased risks of major neck artery tears and stroke, according to an article published in the December 26, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"It appears methamphetamine use is toxic to large blood vessels," said the study's senior author Wengui Yu, MD, PhD, with the University of California, Irvine Medical Center and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The article reviewed the cases of two women, ages 36 and 29, who had sudden onset of speech difficulty and weakness following recent use of methamphetamine.

Brain scans showed both women had severe strokes from carotid artery dissection, which is a tear in the inner lining of one of the major arteries in the neck. On the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, the 36-year-old woman received a score of 21 and was treated with tissue plasminogen activator. The 29-year-old woman, who required a stent to treat the blockage in her common carotid artery, received a score of 17. Stroke Scale scores over 16 predict a high probability of death or severe disability.

"While methamphetamine use has been associated with aortic dissection, a tear in the wall of the aorta, the largest artery of the body, this is the first time there's been a possible link between methamphetamine use and carotid artery dissection, a tear in the neck artery," said Yu.

"Since cocaine has similar effects and has also been linked to aortic and carotid artery dissection, it's therefore likely that the tears in the arteries may be due to a drug class effect rather than a specific drug, like methamphetamine," he said.

Besides methamphetamine use, the women did not have any other significant risk factors for stroke. Both recovered with mild to moderate disabilities after acute stroke therapy.

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The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 20,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, restless legs syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, narcolepsy, and stroke.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.


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