Illicit drug-associated ischemic stroke in the Baltimore-Washington Young Stroke Study

Neurology. 1998 Jun;50(6):1688-93. doi: 10.1212/wnl.50.6.1688.


Background: Limited information exists on the frequency, trends in occurrence, risk factors, mechanisms, and outcome of ischemic stroke associated with illicit drug use among young adults in a geographically defined population.

Methods: We reviewed ischemic stroke in young adults (aged 15 to 44 years) in 46 regional hospitals for 1988 and 1991. We examined stroke mechanisms and outcome in patients with recent drug use.

Results: Recent illicit drug use was noted in 51/422 (12.1%) stroke patients. Patients with drug use were more likely than other stroke patients to be black (p=0.01), aged 25 to 39 years (p=0.004), and smokers (p=0.006), and were less likely to have hypertension (p=0.004) or diabetes mellitus (p=0.004). Drug use was the probable cause of stroke in 20 (4.7%) patients. Among 31 (7.3%) patients with drug use as a possible stroke mechanism, more likely diagnoses included cardioembolic stroke in 18, hematologic/collagen vascular in 6, nonatherosclerotic vasculopathy in 5, and atherosclerosis in 3. There was no difference in outcome between drug-associated and non-drug associated stroke.

Conclusions: Recent illicit drug use occurs in 12.1% of young adult stroke patients. Drug-associated young adult stroke seems to relate to vascular mechanisms other than those related to hypertension or diabetes. Case-control studies are needed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Brain Ischemia / chemically induced*
  • Brain Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Urban Population
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data


  • Illicit Drugs