It’s all over the mainstream press today: A new study by scientists in New Zealand supposedly has found an unusually high number of stroke patients smoke marijuana. In the study, researchers used urine samples from hospitalized patients.
And while most of the press has uncritically repeated the study’s shaky conclusions, examining the evidence just a little more closely reveals what’s going on. Researchers in the study were unable to eliminate tobacco users from their test group of about 160 patients, reports Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story.
All but one of the patients who tested positive for cannabis in the study also smoked cigarettes, which, according to the National Stroke Association, can double one’s risk of stroke.
About one in six stroke patients in the study smoked marijuana — roughly the same number as in the general population, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The reason the study claims marijuana “doubles the risk of stroke” is that while 16 percent of stroke victims studied had cannabis metabolites in their blood — again, same as the general population — only 8.1 percent of controls tested for cannabis in their urine samples showed up positive.
Now, if there’s a story here, it would seem to be why the control group tested at only half the level of marijuana use of the general population — not why stroke victims test the same as everyone else. A sampling error in selecting the controls or some other factor, perhaps?But study author P. Alan Barber, Ph.D., M.D., professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland, seems to want to insist it’s the pot — perhaps because he gets fat government grants for finding things wrong with it?
“We believe it is the cannabis and not tobacco,” Dr. Barber told MedicalXpress. But even he has to admit he can’t prove that.
“This may prove difficult given the risks of bias and ethical strictures of studying the use of an illegal substance,” he said. “However, the high prevalence of cannabis use in this cohort of younger stroke patients make this research imperative.”
Speculation about a possible link between smoking marijuana and strokes or heart attacks has been around for awhile, fueled by the knowledge that smoking pot can raise blood pressure and affect blood flow to the brain, possibly leading to cerebral ischemia and infarction.
But maybe we should repeat, at this point, that the incidence of marijuana smoking in the new stroke study group was the same as in the general population — one in six.
Let’s also point out, while we’re on the subject, that according to former heart surgeon Dr. Dave Allen, eating marijuana can reduce the likelihood of strokes.
“Eating a bud a day will keep the stroke away,” Dr. Allen said, reports Sabrina Rodriguez at Fox 40. “No other medicine made by man can help in this manner.”
A U.S. government study backs up Dr. Allen. The study, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, found that rats had their incidence of stroke reduced by 50 percent with the administration of cannabinoids.
Dr. Allen recommends raw marijuana, not dried buds, to avoid the “high” that comes with cannabis. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is activated by the drying and curing process.
Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants (U.S. Patent No. 6630507):
“The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma [emphasis added], or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”