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Can Methamphetamines Cause a Stroke? And Other Cardiovascular Repercussions

Methamphetamine (meth), a widely abused illicit drug, significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular issues, including strokes and heart attacks, across individuals of all ages and usage levels. Between 2015 and 2019, methamphetamine use surged across the United States, exacerbating these health risks.

Strokes occur when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients, leading to the death of brain cells. Methamphetamine use can trigger both types of strokes:

  • Ischemic Stroke: This is the most common type and occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel supplying the brain. The clot may form in the brain itself or travel from another part of the body, such as the heart, often associated with conditions like atrial fibrillation.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, leading to bleeding in or around the brain. High blood pressure, a common consequence of methamphetamine use, can cause these vessels to weaken and rupture.

Heart attacks are another severe consequence of methamphetamine use. Methamphetamine stimulates the release of stress hormones like adrenaline, which can cause the heart to work harder and faster. This increases blood pressure and can lead to the formation of blood clots, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks.

How Does Meth Use Cause Strokes?

Methamphetamine profoundly impacts blood flow, heart rhythm, and blood pressure, significantly affecting the delivery of blood to the brain and potentially triggering a stroke. Methamphetamine can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure, inflammation of blood vessels, and direct damage to blood vessels. These effects can lead to fatal hemorrhagic strokes.

Scientific studies have shown that regular methamphetamine use significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing hemorrhagic strokes . These life-threatening strokes can occur in both first-time and habitual users. In addition to the immediate danger of stroke, prolonged methamphetamine use can accelerate and intensify the development of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the hardening of arteries according to Hopkins Medicine.

If you think you are having a stroke, it is crucial to call emergency services immediately. Recognizing symptoms such as sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body), confusion, trouble speaking, difficulty seeing, severe headache, or trouble walking can save your life.

Do People High on Meth Think They Are Having a Stroke When They Aren’t?

Yes, people high on methamphetamines can sometimes think they are having a stroke when they are not. The symptoms of methamphetamine intoxication, such as elevated heart rate, chest pain, severe anxiety, and paranoia, can mimic the signs of a stroke. This misperception is further compounded by meth-induced psychosis, where individuals experience intense fear and confusion.

What are The Cardiovascular Impacts of Methamphetamine use?

Methamphetamine’s impact on the cardiovascular system includes:

  • Increased Blood Pressure: Methamphetamine raises blood pressure, which can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Blood Vessel Damage: The drug causes inflammation and constriction of blood vessels, reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of clots.
  • Cardiovascular Complications: These include arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), and atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries).

Overall, methamphetamine use poses a serious threat to cardiovascular health, leading to potentially fatal events like strokes and heart attacks due to its profound effects on blood pressure, blood vessels, and heart function.

What is Meth Psychosis and Formication?

Meth Psychosis: Methamphetamine psychosis is a severe mental health condition triggered by the use of methamphetamines. It is characterized by symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions, and severe paranoia. Meth psychosis can occur during active use of the drug or as a result of withdrawal. Key features include:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Delusions: Strongly held false beliefs, often involving persecution or grandiosity.
  • Paranoia: Intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion of others.
  • Disorganized Thinking: Difficulty in organizing thoughts or focusing.

Formication: Formication is a specific type of tactile hallucination that methamphetamine users often experience. It involves the sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin. This sensation can lead to severe skin picking, resulting in sores and infections.

Other Common Causes of Strokes

Here are a few other common factors that, especially when combined with methamphetamine use, can increase your chances of experiencing a stroke:

  • Smoking and Nicotine addiction
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Family history
  • Heavy alcohol consumption, which can raise blood pressure and triglyceride levels
  • Gender: Strokes are more prevalent among women, who have a 1 in 4 lifetime risk of stroke after the age of 25

What Are The Signs of Methamphetamine Use?

Methamphetamine use has severe consequences, but recognizing the signs can help initiate the path to recovery.

  1. Physical Manifestations: Physical changes such as red eyes, weight fluctuations, and poor personal hygiene are common.
  2. Emotional Fluctuations: Users often experience significant mood swings, ranging from euphoria to depression.
  3. Health-Related Concerns: Signs include erratic sleep patterns, chronic fatigue, and the development of health issues linked to substance abuse.
  4. Declining Academic or Professional Performance: Meth dependence can lead to a lack of motivation, resulting in job loss, poor performance reviews, or failing grades.
  5. Social Seclusion: Addicts may withdraw from social interactions, face relationship difficulties, or associate with other drug users.
  6. Financial or Legal Troubles: Financial instability and legal issues may arise, including borrowing money without reason, theft, and run-ins with law enforcement.

What Are The Different Types Of Meth Addiction Treatment?

Many evidence-based treatments exist for methamphetamine use disorder, each promising in its effectiveness. However, what proves beneficial for others may not necessarily be your ideal solution. The journey to recovery and managing withdrawal is often a meandering path, underscoring the importance of exploring different treatment approaches until you discover the one that resonates with your unique circumstances. These are some of the most commonly used treatments here at White Light Behavioral Health.


Methamphetamine detoxification (detox) is the process of allowing the body to clear itself of methamphetamine while managing withdrawal symptoms. This process is crucial for anyone seeking to overcome meth addiction. Detox should be conducted under medical supervision due to the potential severity of withdrawal symptoms, which can include intense cravings, depression, fatigue, and paranoia.

Specialized detox centers provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals undergoing meth detox. These centers offer medical supervision, medications to manage withdrawal symptoms, and emotional support. The length of stay in a detox center varies but typically lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks. Methamphetamines can stay in your system for up to 72 hours, although this can vary based on the individual’s metabolism, the frequency of use, and the amount of drug used.

Managing meth withdrawal effectively involves both medical and psychological support. Medical professionals in detox centers may use medications to ease symptoms and prevent complications. Behavioral therapies and counseling are also crucial components of the detox process, helping individuals cope with cravings and address the psychological aspects of addiction. Post-detox, a comprehensive treatment plan, including therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes, is essential to maintain long-term sobriety.

Inpatient Meth Rehabilitation

A residential rehab program is ideal for anyone battling long-term meth use disorder. Within the realm of inpatient treatment centers, clients are required to reside at the rehab facility for the program’s duration. By fostering a stable environment, these centers effectively prevent clients from relapsing into methamphetamine use. They also offer a safe environment free of temptations and triggers, enabling clients to regain control over their lives. The duration of inpatient rehabilitation varies according to each client’s unique needs; it typically ranges from 30 to 90 days. Empirical evidence has consistently emphasized that inpatient drug addiction treatment programs extending beyond the 90-day mark often yield better outcomes.

Outpatient Meth Rehabilitation

In circumstances where the severity of meth addiction is less severe or individuals have work, school, or family responsibilities, outpatient rehabilitation is a viable alternative. This type of program allows clients to participate part-time while fulfilling their daily obligations. The flexibility in this program is advantageous when clients have a strong support system of friends and family, motivating them to attain sobriety.

Ryan Wakim MD
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Dr. Wakim is a board-certified psychiatrist with a passion for and expertise in addiction, mood disorders, trauma-related disorders and the subspecialty of interventional psychiatry. He obtained his medical degree from West Virginia University where he also completed his residency training, finishing as chief resident. Dr. Wakim co-founded and served as the CEO of Transformations leading to a successful merger with Shore Capital in May 2021. He is purpose driven towards improving the standard of and removing stigma related to behavioral healthcare. Dr. Wakim enjoys golf, traveling and time spent with his two dogs, Lulu and Rayna.

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