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Drugs: Can Drugs Cause Strokes?

We know drugs come with severe risks and consequences, but do drugs cause strokes? The symptoms that drug use causes are endless; individuals who take drugs often feel euphoric, have a heightened sense of awareness, and deal with increased blood pressure and heart rate. Other symptoms include red eyes, dry mouth, decreased coordination, and difficulty remembering things. Individuals may have slowed reaction times, anxious or paranoid thoughts, or yellow fingertips. But not all those symptoms are life-threatening. Granted, a lack of coordination while behind the wheel is undoubtedly dangerous. But red eyes and a dry mouth will only bother the drug user. When the word stroke comes into play, many people start paying attention. And yes, drugs can cause strokes. Keep reading to learn more!

How Do Strokes Happen?

Strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain are injured or when organs are impaired; this cuts off oxygen and nutrients from the rest of the body. A clot then develops or bursts, causing damage. That damage can be minor, or it can kill you. It all depends on how severe it is. An injured heart, kidney, or liver is most likely to lead to a stroke, and alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin are most likely to cause that kind of injury to your organs. Strokes are the number five cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States, but 80% are preventable. Not doing drugs is the best way to avoid having a drug-related stroke, but unfortunately, most drug users are too addicted to understand how much danger they may be in. That, or they know but don’t feel like they can stop. If you or your loved one is in this position, help is available. Just keep reading.

The Types of Strokes

While we have a generalized definition of a stroke, we can go into even more detail. Did you know that there are different types of strokes? Let’s look at each kind.

Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke happens when a clot prevents blood from flowing to the brain. Most strokes are ischemic; they account for 87% of strokes.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel ruptures and blocks blood from flowing to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are divided into two categories: aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). High blood pressure is the most common cause of hemorrhagic strokes.


Finally, a transient ischemic attack (TIA)—also known as a mini-stroke—is when there’s a temporary clot. A TIA is a severe, temporary clot that is a sign of a potentially more powerful stroke. Finally, a cryptogenic stroke means that you’ve had a stroke, but doctors can’t determine the cause.

Drugs and Strokes

Now that we understand the different types of strokes and how they happen, let’s look at what drugs can cause these strokes.


Although alcohol might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to drugs, alcohol abuse causes strokes all the time, so it’s worth discussing. Heavy alcohol intake is what can lead to a stroke. Drinking alcohol like red wine in small portions can help prevent a stroke. And having a fun night out with friends every now and then won’t hurt you. So, don’t feel like you or your loved one can never enjoy a drink! When you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you risk a hemorrhagic stroke and bleeding in the brain. High blood pressure and impaired blood cause the clotting that leads to strokes. How does this happen? The liver makes proteins that prevent spontaneous bleeding, but the liver gets compromised from too much drinking. A lack of those proteins dramatically increases the chance of bleeding and strokes.


Cocaine is one of the leading causes of strokes related to drug use. You can experience a stroke while using cocaine or soon after using it. Even if you don’t experience a stroke, you can develop cerebrovascular disease, a blood vessel disease that causes strokes. So, how does cocaine use cause a stroke? Using cocaine can cause sudden, extremely high blood pressure that causes your brain to bleed. It can also cause your blood vessels to narrow or spasm—if you use cocaine intravenously, you can develop an infection called endocarditis in your heart valve.


Heroin is often abused because it’s so highly addictive. It’s often taken intravenously, too, which can lead to endocarditis. Trust us, the last thing you want is bacteria to get into your blood and grow over your heart valves. If needles are shared for intravenous use, there’s the risk of developing septic emboli, which are tiny clumps of bacteria that can wind up in your brain, blocking a blood vessel. That, in itself, can cause a stroke. The dangers of heroin don’t end there, either. Users can suffer from inadequate respiration, where oxygen from the brain can’t get to the body. This most often happens during a drug overdose. And while the user might survive the overdose, they might suffer from irreversible oxygen deprivation or, in other words, be brain dead.


The most widely known amphetamine is methamphetamine, commonly abbreviated as meth. Meth can cause extremely high blood pressure, leading to an instant stroke. Even if the user doesn’t immediately suffer from a stroke, meth can still do damage. Prolonged use of meth causes abnormal blood vessel function in the brain, harming the rest of the body.

Other Drugs

While alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines are the most widely-known drugs to cause strokes, they’re not the only ones. Phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), herbal viagra, marijuana, and cigarettes can also cause strokes. Of course, you’ll want to avoid PCP, LDS, and herbal viagra. But many individuals take marijuana medically, and cigarettes are smoked by millions daily. Individuals should take extreme caution to prevent a stroke. Abstaining altogether is the only way to avoid a drug-related stroke entirely.

Ardu Recovery Center Can Help

As you can see, drugs cause strokes. It can be scary just reading about it, let alone worrying about yourself or a loved one suffering a stroke from drug use. Many drugs are highly addictive, so it isn’t as simple as stopping. Many users can’t help themselves, despite the risk they know are there. It’s a dangerous, deadly addiction. But there is hope! Drug abuse recovery centers exist to help individuals combat drug use and addiction. Ardu Recovery Center is a residential addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility located in northern Utah. No matter how you want to approach treating your or your loved one’s addiction, Ardu Recovery Center can help. We combine medical treatment with holistic techniques to help individuals heal from and overcome their addictions to get back to living a normal, drug-free lifestyle. Do you or your loved one need help? Ardu Recovery Center is here for you. Contact us today to get started on the road to recovery.