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Synthetic cannabis could increase stroke risk

Friday June 8th, 2018

Young users of synthetic cannabis, also known as ‘spice’ or ‘k2,’ could increase their risk of a stroke, doctors have warned after a 25-year-old was left with a permanent disability.

A group of US doctors have called for greater awareness of the dangers of synthetic cannabis use after a prison inmate, who had no family history of heart disease or traditional cardiovascular risk factors, was left with significant right-sided weakness after suffering a stroke and swelling in the brain after taking the substance.

Writing in BMJ Case Reports, the doctors say that he was taken to emergency care in a state of severe confusion, with weakness on the right side of his body and double incontinence, after warders had found him collapsed on the bathroom floor, next to a ‘suspicious’ looking substance.

Tests for traditional cardiovascular risk factors were all within the normal range but a scan revealed he’d had a stroke and suffered swelling in the brain, while a heart trace showed evidence of a previous heart attack.

His doctors attributed his stroke and heart attack to his use of synthetic cannabis, although the active ingredient of cannabis (THC) did not show up in a urine test because, say the authors, standard tests cannot detect synthetic variants.

They also say that they were unable to establish if genetic factors might have been involved and they also found the young man had high levels of factor VIII, which may have increased his risk of cardiovascular problems.

Nevertheless, the authors say several studies have linked synthetic cannabis use with a heightened risk of heart attack/stroke - and that its low cost and ready availability are fuelling an increase in popularity.

“The development of immunoassays aimed at detecting these drugs in serum or urine will also help in stratifying the population at risk,” they write.

“However, the diversity among different drugs under this common umbrella of ‘synthetic marijuana’ will remain a barrier to successful testing of all chemicals with a single battery of tests,” they conclude.

Khan S, Hanif A, Wilson M. Ischaemic cardiomyopathy and embolic stroke in a young adult with suspected synthetic cannabinoid use. BMJ Case Reports. June 2018. doi 10.1136/bcr-2018-224755

http://casereports.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bcr-2018-224755

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Heart Health | North America

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