Risk of stroke in prescription and other amphetamine-type stimulants use: A systematic review

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2018 Jan;37(1):56-69. doi: 10.1111/dar.12559. Epub 2017 May 8.


Introduction and aims: Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) are a putative cause of stroke with high abuse potential. We aim to systematically review the association between use of ATS and stroke.

Design and methods: To assure a sensitive search strategy, a broad definition of ATS was used. Cochrane Plus, EMBASE, IBECS/Lilacs, ISI WOK, Medline and Scopus were searched through 2016. Three researchers independently reviewed studies (Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses). Validity and bias were appraised.

Results: Of 3998 articles, four cohort studies and eight case-control studies (CCS) were selected; 11 focused on prescribed or over-the-counter ATS. Current ATS users showed a higher ischaemic stroke risk than non-users in two cohort studies {adjusted rate ratio = 1.6 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.1, 2.4] and 3.4 [95% CI = 1.1, 10.6]}. One study observed increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke in former users versus non-users [adjusted rate ratio = 2.3 (95% CI = 1.3, 4.1)]. Higher haemorrhagic stroke risk was seen in two CCS among women using ATS [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 16.6 (95% CI = 1.5, 182.2) and 3.9 (95% CI = 1.1, 13.1)]. All-stroke was negatively associated with ATS in another CCS [aOR = 0.4 (95% CI = 0.2, 0.8)] and positively associated in the only study on non-medical ATS [aOR = 3.8 (95% CI = 1.2, 12.6)]. Selection bias and uncontrolled confounding were common.

Discussion and conclusions: This is the first systematic review on ATS and stroke. Limited epidemiological evidence suggests that ATS use increases stroke risk. Possible disparities in ATS effect across stroke type and higher effect in women deserve further clarification. Studies on non-medical ATS use should be a priority. [Indave BI, Sordo L, Bravo MJ, Sarasa-Renedo A, Fernández-Balbuena S, De la Fuente L, Sonego M, Barrio G. Risk of stroke in prescription and other amphetamine-type stimulants use: A systematic review. Drug Alcohol Rev 2018;37:56-69].

Keywords: amphetamine-type stimulant; phenethylamines; review; stroke; substance-related disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamines / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs / adverse effects
  • Prescription Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Stroke / chemically induced
  • Stroke / epidemiology*


  • Amphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Prescription Drugs