Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Frequent Cannabis Use Raises Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Frequent cannabis use may raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found.

Abra Jeffers, Ph.D., M.S., M.Phil., of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues examined data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) between 2016 and 2020. The BRFSS is an annual telephone survey of adults in which participants report on their health behaviors and whether health care professionals had ever diagnosed them with a health condition. Jeffers and colleagues drew data from 434,104 adults aged 18 to 74 years across 27 states and two territories to assess the association of cannabis use with self-reported cardiovascular outcomes.

In the BRFSS, participants were asked how often they had used cannabis in the previous 30 days and whether they had any diagnoses of coronary heart disease or angina, myocardial infarction (heart attack), or stroke. Jeffers and colleagues adjusted for tobacco use and other characteristics, including the participants’ age, sex, race, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity levels, and socioeconomic status.

Among all participants, 4% reported using cannabis daily, and 7.1% reported using cannabis nondaily. Among participants who reported any cannabis use, nearly 75% reported that they mainly used cannabis by smoking it, and approximately 25% reported using cannabis by some method other than smoking, such as vaping, drinking, or eating it.

The researchers found that participants who used cannabis daily by any means had a 25% increased likelihood of heart attack and a 42% increased likelihood of stroke compared with participants who did not use cannabis.

The researchers wrote that although the mechanisms linking cannabis to heart disease are unclear and were not explored in the current study, multiple factors could play a role. In addition to toxins, endocannabinoid receptors—the part of cells responsible for recognizing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis—are widespread in the body’s cardiovascular tissues and might increase heart risks. They also noted that smoking, the predominant method of cannabis use, may pose additional cardiovascular risks via inhalation of particulate matter.

“Cannabis has strong, statistically significant associations with adverse cardiovascular outcomes independent of tobacco use and controlling for a range of demographic factors and outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “Patients and policymakers need to be informed of these potential risks, especially given the declining perception of risk associated with cannabis use.”

For additional information, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “Risks and Benefits of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Psychiatry.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/ThomasVogel)

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