For Heavy Cannabis Users Risk of Stroke Doubled
In two separate studies, both of which will be presented at the annual American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions meeting November 16 -18 in Philadelphia, links were found between marijuana use and an increase in stroke as well as increased risk of heart arrhythmias in young adults.
- Young people who reported using cannabis frequently had higher risk of having a stroke, according to a Virginia study.
- The risk of being hospitalized for arrhythmia was significantly greater among people diagnosed with cannabis use disorder, according to an Oklahoma study.
The findings of both studies add to a growing body of research linking marijuana use to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. The new studies, which will also be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Stroke, are some of the first to specifically focus on the risk of stroke in young cannabis users (under age 45).
“In the current discussion of legalization of marijuana in the United States, we believe this study was a crucial step towards understanding stroke risk in young marijuana users. Even though cannabis is not as harmful or addictive as other substances, we cannot ignore its potential health risks.”-lead author Dr. Tarang Parekh
The Virginia Study Research (Oral Presentation 333)
The researchers analyzed results from a national survey, called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which had published data on marijuana use and stroke incidence.
The authors compared the frequency of marijuana use to the incidence of stroke in people ages 18 to 44 years old.
Among the 43,860 participants, 13.6% had used marijuana in the last 30 days. (The data doesn’t specify the way in which participants used marijuana, though a majority of the survey respondents said they smoked it). Marijuana users tended to also report heavy drinking and use of tobacco cigarettes.
The authors found that frequent marijuana users, or people who used marijuana more than 10 days a month, but who did not use tobacco products were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than people who did not use marijuana, according to a statement.
For those who used marijuana frequently and also smoked cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the risk was even greater. These individuals were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke, compared with those who didn’t use either marijuana or cigarettes.
The Oklahoma Study (Poster Presentation Mo2053)
The authors found that young people, or those between the ages of 15 and 34, who have cannabis-use disorder had a 47% to 52% increased risk of being hospitalized because of an arrhythmia.
Cannabis use disorder is characterized by frequent, compulsive use of marijuana, similar to alcoholism.
In this study, young African American men with the disorder, between 15 to 24 years of age, had the greatest risk of being hospitalized for arrhythmia, although cannabis use disorder was more common among white men, 45 to 54 years of age.
Cannabis might also trigger “reversible cerebral vasoconstriction,” or a temporary narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain that has been linked with stroke.– Dr. Tarang Parekh
These findings show only an association and not direct cause and effect for cannibis use causing strokes. The authors noted that other substances, such as alcohol, may also influence the risk of stroke seen in the study, even though the scientists attempted to adjust for additional substance use in their analysis. Cannibis use has also been linked to an increased number of blood clots, which might, in turn, increase the risk of stroke.
American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, Oral Presentation 333 and Poster Presentation Mo2053