News Release

Rare risk: Adolescent binging on marijuana linked to stroke

Research by Saint Louis University/SSM Cardinal Glennon doctor in 'pediatrics'

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Saint Louis University

ST. LOUIS -- Looking for another reason to convince your teenager not to try marijuana? Teenage boys who infrequently use marijuana but occasionally binge on the drug may face a greater risk of stroke than their peers, according to a study in Pediatrics by a Saint Louis University associate professor of neurology.

Thomas Geller, M.D., who also is a pediatric neurologist at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children Hospital, said the risk of stroke, while increased, remains extremely small. He examined the cases of three teenage boys who used occasionally marijuana and suffered strokes after consuming large doses. "The novice (marijuana user) may be at greater risk of stroke, especially if they use a lot at one time. It's another reason not to start using marijuana," Dr. Geller says.

Strokes in children and teens are extremely rare, occurring in about six cases per 100,000 young people a year. When Saint Louis University doctors saw three cases of strokes in male adolescents during a five year period, they became suspicious, Dr. Geller says. All three teens had strokes in the cerebellar hemispheres of the brain. Two of the adolescents died.

"Here were teenagers binging on marijuana, some of whom are inexperienced. It sounds like the typical way many teens use it," Dr. Geller says.

"Although reported strokes associated with marijuana use are few, marijuana use may represent a genuine risk factor for stroke, especially in the adolescent and particularly in the cerebellar circulation."


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