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Cannabis Can Conjure Heart Attacks

Risk of Stroke Is Also High

Cannabis Can Conjure Heart Attacks

By Sean Zucker –

Gone are the days of marijuana being seen as a debilitating narcotic often viewed as a gateway drug. Societal views on cannabis have shifted greatly over the last few years as more states legalize it and increasing attention is paid to its medicinal benefits. But that doesn’t mean it’s without health drawbacks. In fact, new research indicates that cannabis use is linked with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association examined the relationship between marijuana and coronary conditions. The research didn’t focus on any particular type of consumption. Smoking, eating and vaping cannabis were treated equally. The team instead focused on the frequency of use. Research relied on survey data collected from 430,000 adults between 2016 and 2020 through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national and cross-sectional survey performed annually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Despite common use, little is known about the risks of cannabis use and, in particular, the cardiovascular disease risks,” reported Abra Jeffers, lead author on the study and a data analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The perceptions of the harmfulness of smoking cannabis are decreasing and people have not considered cannabis use dangerous to their health. However, previous research suggested that cannabis could be associated with cardiovascular disease.”

Jeffers’ team compared the cardiovascular health of the older adult population, people who had never smoked tobacco and younger adults who were defined as men under age 55 and women under age 65 who were at risk for heart disease. Specifically, they clocked the number of days per month each individual used cannabis products. After analyzing the data, it was discovered that any cannabis use, daily or not, was associated with an increased risk of heart attack when compared with people who did not use the drug at all. For daily users exclusively that risk was as much as 25 percent higher than non-users.

Additionally, the data displayed a 42 percent higher risk of stroke for daily cannabis users compared to non-users. This was on top of the fact that any marijuana use was independently associated with a higher number of adverse cardiovascular outcomes including heart disease, myocardial infarction and stroke. The risk was especially high—36 percent greater—for the men younger than 55 years old and women younger than 65 years old. The results are similar to the impact of smoking tobacco or e-cigarettes, the team suggested.

“Our sample was large enough that we could investigate the association of cannabis use with cardiovascular outcomes among adults who had never used tobacco cigarettes or e-cigarettes,” Jeffers added. “Cannabis smoke is not all that different from tobacco smoke, except for the psychoactive drug: THC vs. nicotine. Our study shows that smoking cannabis has significant cardiovascular risks, just like smoking tobacco. This is particularly important because cannabis use is increasing and conventional tobacco use is decreasing.”

The study, however, was not without its limitations. Cardiovascular conditions and cannabis use were self-reported, making the results subject to recall bias per the study’s own authors. Beyond this, of those surveyed, 90 percent reported to not consuming cannabis at all, while only 4 percent used it daily and 7 percent used it less than daily. Undoubtedly, further research is likely needed.





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