In a significant development, researchers from the University of Calgary have discovered that Canadian adults who have cannabis use disorder face about a 60% higher risk of having their first heart attack, stroke, or another major heart problem compared to those who do not have cannabis use disorder.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, looked at the connection between problematic marijuana use and the first-time appearance of cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, strokes, irregular heartbeats, and problems with blood vessels in the limbs.
Researchers studied over 60,000 patients using data from five distinct health databases. They split the individuals into two groups: those who had a cannabis use disorder and those who did not.
Matching participants based on gender, birth year, and when they visited the hospital system ensured that the groups were similar.
However, they did not include anyone who had previously experienced heart problems, and they followed the eligible participants' health from January 2012 to December 2019.
According to the findings of the study those diagnosed with cannabis use disorder had a 2.4% occurrence of their first cardiovascular disease event, totalling 721 cases. In contrast, the group without cannabis use disorder experienced a lower rate of 1.5%, with 458 individuals encountering their initial cardiovascular disease event.
Individuals with cannabis use disorder who had no other medical issues didn't take any prescriptions, and had less than five healthcare visits in the previous six months were at a higher risk of having their first cardiovascular disease incident.
The study revealed that this increased risk was roughly 1.4 times greater than the risk reported in the cannabis use disorder group as a whole.
According to researchers, one possible explanation is that these individuals felt themselves to be well, which may have led them to overlook or disregard warning indications of an impending heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular emergencies.
Emphasising the significance of these findings for public health and clinical practice, lead author Dr Anees Bahji said, "Our study does not provide enough information to say that cannabis use disorder causes adverse cardiovascular disease events, but we can go so far as to say that Canadians with cannabis use disorder appear to have a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease than people without the disorder.”
It may be noted that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that marijuana use can increase heart rate and blood pressure, potentially increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular conditions. Studies linking marijuana to heart issues primarily focus on smoking, which contains harmful substances like THC. It's difficult to distinguish the heart effects from the irritants in marijuana smoke, and further research is needed to understand its impact on the cardiovascular system and its potential mortality risk.