Experts warn of yet another danger of opioids: the risk of infection-related stroke. According to reports from the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association, the rate of hospitalization for stroke rose 20 percent in the last 10 years. And it’s no coincidence that these numbers coincide with the current opioid epidemic.
“People need to be more aware that stroke can be a devastating complication of injecting opioids,” lead study author Dr. Setareh Salehi Omran, who is a fellow in vascular neurology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told HealthDay.
How does opioid use lead to stroke? Injecting heroin or other opioids can enable bacteria to get into the bloodstream and infect and inflame heart valves. Known as infective endocarditis, this condition causes clumps of infected tissue to break off and block the brain’s blood vessels, triggering a devastating stroke.
While stroke hospitalizations rose among all ages and genders, the largest increases were noted among white women under 45 who live in the North East or Southern United States. These statistics parallel “the rise in heroin overdose-related complications and deaths, which tripled between 2010 and 2015,” Omran noted in a news release.
Doctors say this study is a big “wake-up call” and shows that opioid abuse is lowering the age at which stroke hits.
IV Drug Use: Common Infections
The risk of drug abuse is compounded when drugs are used intravenously. When heroin is injected, for instance, it can cause the following infections due to shared needles, non-sterile injection practices and contaminated heroin.
- Staph infections
- Bacterial endocarditis
- Hepatitis C
Stopping the Side Effects of Addiction
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