Cerebrovascular complications of methamphetamine abuse

Neurocrit Care. 2009;10(3):295-305. doi: 10.1007/s12028-008-9177-5. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Objective: Methamphetamine is a stimulant widely abused in the United States. The objective of this study was to demonstrate an association of methamphetamine use and ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and intracerebral hemorrhage and to further reveal the underlying vascular pathology using neuroimaging and pathology.

Methods: This was a retrospective study based on medical chart review of admissions to the neurovascular service of a tertiary care medical center from January 2003 to July 2007. Cases included patients who used methamphetamine as documented by history or urine toxicology screening.

Results: From 1,574 records, 30 cases were identified. The mean age of patients was 43 years and the discharge diagnoses included ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. All subarachnoid hemorrhages were aneurysmal with the majority of the aneurysms located in the anterior circulation. The majority of strokes were located in the anterior circulation. In many cases, radiologic imaging confirmed arterial stenoses in the vascular distribution of the stroke. One patient who presented with ischemic stroke had severe atherosclerosis of bilateral common, internal, and external carotid arteries. On pathology, there was no evidence of inflammation or necrosis to suggest vasculitis as a possible etiology.

Conclusions: Methamphetamine use is associated with ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, especially among young patients. We showed no evidence that the ischemic stroke associated with methamphetamine use is due to an inflammatory etiology but may be due to a process of accelerated atherosclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / mortality
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine