Photo of cocaineCocaine greatly increases stroke risk in young adults within 24 hours of use, much more than other risk factors according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2014.

Cocaine users were six to seven times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke within 24 hours of using the drug, and the effect existed across different ethnicities, researchers wrote.

“We found the stroke risk associated with acute cocaine use is much higher than some other stroke risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking,” said Yu-Ching Cheng, Ph.D., research scientist at Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Researchers compared about 1,000 15- to 49-year olds who had ischemic strokes in 1991-2008 to about 1,000 people of similar ages in the general population. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked, preventing a continuous supply of blood to the brain.

More than a fourth of both groups reported using cocaine, with men twice as likely as women to report use, according to the abstract.

Cheng said results show the need for drug screenings when young stroke patients are admitted to the hospital.

“Despite the strong stroke risk associated with acute cocaine use, in our study only about one-third of young stroke patients had toxicology screenings done during hospitalization. We think the percentage of cocaine use could be higher than we’ve reported.”