One-in-five fatal strokes suffered by Australians aged 15 to 44 years involved 'uppers' or psycho-stimulant use, new research has found
Dying from a stroke probably isn't the first danger most young Australians associate with illicit drug use.
They probably should.
One-in-five fatal strokes suffered by Australians aged 15 to 44 years involved "uppers" or psychostimulant use, a new National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre study has found
"That's a massive contribution and in almost all these cases we're seeing the drug use is right before the stroke," Professor Shane Darke told AAP.
"Overwhelmingly in Australia it's methamphetamine."
The study of fatal strokes between 2009 and 2016 also found the likelihood of death following a psychostimulant-related stroke was 10 times greater than from a stroke not related to the drugs.
"They're far more deadly ... A third of people who have a stroke die," Prof Darke said.
Psychostimulant-related strokes are mostly haemorrhagic and more likely to kill the victims, he said.
That's because they generally occur deep inside the substance of the brain.
"When you take a drug like methamphetamine it increases your blood pressure dramatically, which puts pressure on the vessels inside the brain," Prof Darke said.
"It doesn't have to be a massive amount (of the drugs) to cause the damage."
"If there's any weakness in any of them they're more likely to rupture."
Prof Darke said and equal number of survivors of psychostimulant-related strokes are left disabled.
"We spend a lot of time talking about violence and psychosis with drugs like methamphetamine ... but there's a lot less focus on some of the other health aspects," he said.
"In a lot of these cases there were signs before of people having serious headaches, weakness in the limbs and not seeking help," he said.
"I don't think they're connecting it."
Young people and people treating drug users need to be educated about the risks, he said.
The study also included strokes caused by other psychostimulants, such as cocaine, MDMA and prescription stimulants.
The median age of the victims was 36 years and users generally smoked or injected the drugs.
None of the deaths in the age group had higher levels of known risk factors for stroke, such as obesity, previous stroke, alcoholism or diabetes.
They were more likely to have used tobacco, however.
The study was published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences on Wednesday.