Methamphetamine, or meth, is a drug that falls in the stimulant category of substances, much like cocaine. It causes racing thoughts, hyperactivity, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and feeling no need for sleep among other things. Meth also has a tremendous impact on the brain and neurological system, causing, in significant usage, damage to nerves, blood flow, and areas of the brain itself. In short, meth will eventually cause brain damage. But what can this lead to? Can meth use be so bad as actually to cause a stroke? Or can it mimic stroke-like symptoms?
Chronic meth use brings about many risks, and a stroke is one of them. First, a stroke is also called a “brain attack,” and it happens when blood flow to the brain is cut off. After this begins to happen it’s a short matter of time before brain cells begin to die, areas of the brain die off, and important parts of functioning like muscle control, walking, speech, and memory get destroyed. The amount of damage done depends on the severity of the stroke, and the amount of time before medical intervention can be applied. More than 2/3 of people who suffer from a stroke will have some form of permanent disability.
Strokes can be caused by a blockage in blood vessels, or it can be caused by a brain bleed, both of which deprive the brain of critical blood flow and oxygen which it needs to function. Chronic meth use most often causes strokes that come from brain bleeds, also called hemorrhagic strokes, and what is being seen more and more are strokes happening in younger people, which are statistically the least likely age group to have a stroke.
Hemorrhagic strokes happen more in meth use, likely because of the impact of the drug as a stimulant on the central nervous system. The functional and molecular changes caused by chronic usage decay and destroy neurological connections in the brain, and damage blood vessels, leading to hemorrhagic strokes, among other possible outcomes. Due to the nature of the stroke itself, the damage done to the brain, and the damage done by long-term drug use, the prognosis is often poor for people suffering from strokes after meth abuse.
It is vital to point out that strokes, as tragic as they are, may have worse outcomes. Hemorrhagic strokes will have higher chances of paralysis, loss of cognitive abilities, like memory, reasoning, and speech, and a higher risk of coma, or death. Chronic meth use, in other words, damages and kills brain activity.
While it may sound overly dramatic, meth use is linked to a greater risk of strokes in young adults, one of the least likely groups to experience one. And the type of strokes caused by meth give some of the worst possible outcomes, with worse chances of permanent brain damage or disability. That makes it realistic to say that chronic meth use can cause strokes, and can serious, permanent brain damage to those who use.