Opioid epidemic is fueling a rise in STROKES: Rate soared in 20 years

Opioid epidemic is fueling a rise in STROKES: Rate has soared in 20 years driven by heroin injection use, new study reveals

  • Users who inject heroin often get traces of bacteria in their bloodstream, which can reach their heart causing endocarditis
  • New data show strokes from opioid-related endocarditis has rocketed 

The opioid epidemic has fueled a rise in strokes caused by bacteria from injecting drugs, an alarming new study claims.

When users inject heroin, it’s common for traces of bacteria to enter their bloodstream, too, which can reach their heart. 

That can cause the heart valves to inflame, leading to endocarditis, a condition which often leads to stroke. 

New figures show the rate of opioid-related endocarditis resulting in strokes has soared in the last 20 years.  

When users inject heroin, traces of bacteria can enter their bloodstream, which can reach their heart causing endocarditis. New data show strokes from opioid-related endocarditis has rocketed

‘Our findings add to the urgency of addressing the underlying opioid epidemic in the United States and suggest that people need to be more aware that stroke can be a devastating complication of injecting opioids,’ said lead author Setareh Salehi Omran, MD, a fellow in vascular neurology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center in New York. 

Dr Omran used a national hospital inpatient database to identify US residents who were hospitalized between 1993 and 2015 with opioid abuse, infective endocarditis and any type of stroke. 

In the total 22-year time period, 5,283 patients were hospitalized with stroke from opioid-related infective endocarditis.

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But the rate was much lower in the mid-90s before opioids took hold of the US. 

In 1993, 2.4 people out of every 10million were hospitalized for stroke from opioid-related infective endocarditis. 

That remained more or less the same up until 2008. Then it started to tick up about 20 percent a year.  

By 2015, a staggering 18.8 per 10million were suffering strokes from opioid-related endocarditis.  

The hardest-hit were white people in the Northeast and the South, particularly women under 45 years old.   

‘The rise in hospitalizations for infective endocarditis-related stroke associated with opioids parallels the rise in heroin overdose-related complications and deaths, which tripled between 2010 and 2015,’ Dr Omran said. 

‘I believe efforts to minimize prescription opioid abuse are important in addressing this public health problem, since the highly addictive nature of opioids can lead some people to turn to cheaper alternatives, such as injectable opioids like heroin.’   

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