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.  

‘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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