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Opioids and Stroke Risk: A Growing Concern

Opioids and Stroke Risk: A Growing Concern

As the abuse of injected heroin and other addictive opioids continues to spread across the United States, heart experts are sounding the alarm about an escalating danger: strokes resulting from infections contracted through the use of contaminated needles.

Injecting opioids, such as heroin, can create an entry point for harmful bacteria into the body. These germs can lead to infection and inflammation of the heart valves, giving rise to a perilous condition known as infective endocarditis.

Researchers examining U.S. hospitalization data from 1993 to 2015 discovered nearly 5,300 patients hospitalized with stroke caused by opioid-related infective endocarditis. The incidence of such cases has been steadily increasing, rising from 2.4 cases per 10 million people in 1993 to 18.8 cases per 10 million people in 2015.

When infective endocarditis occurs, clusters of infected tissue may break off and travel through the bloodstream to the brain’s blood vessels, causing blockages that trigger strokes.

These opioid-related strokes have seen a concerning surge in recent years, with the most significant increase observed among white individuals residing in the northeastern and southern regions of the United States.

The prevalence of this dangerous link between opioid abuse and stroke underscores the urgent need for enhanced awareness, prevention, and treatment strategies to address the growing health crisis caused by opioid addiction.

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