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Pot Smoking May Raise Stroke Risk

Case reports aren't conclusive, but raise concern

TUESDAY, Feb. 22, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Regular marijuana smokers could be putting themselves at risk of a stroke, suggests the case of one cannabis user in Spain.

Doctors in the town of Vizcaya report the case of a 36-year-old primary school teacher who lost his ability to speak and suffered convulsions after smoking a considerable amount of marijuana in combination with three or four drinks. The man had no known risk factors for stroke, only used marijuana occasionally, did not use other drugs, and was a moderate drinker.

A year later, following another period of heavy pot use, the same man again lost his speech and experienced weakness on one side of his body. After another 18 months, the man again drank and used cannabis, and later found himself unable to recognize sounds.

Each time, brain scans revealed signs of bleeding and blood clotting.

"Cannabis is not as safe a drug as many believe," the study authors concluded, adding that "future studies will be to needed to clarify the role of cannabis as a stroke risk factor." They stress that, despite the widespread popularity of marijuana, there have so far been only 15 other reported cases of stroke linked to cannabis use.

The findings appear in current issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

In an editorial accompanying the case report, Dr. Dominique Deplanque, of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Lille, in France, said the findings should prompt health concerns among regular cannabis users, both for recreational and medicinal purposes.

"The therapeutic potential of cannabis and its derivatives should be rigorously evaluated and the benefit to risk ratio taken into account before authorising their medical use," Deplanque wrote.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on marijuana.

SOURCES: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, news release, Feb. 20, 2005
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