TORONTO, Ontario — Adults under the age of 45 may be doubling their risk of suffering a heart attack if they use cannabis, a new study reveals. Researchers in Canada have discovered that, even after accounting for other habits like drinking, smoking, and vaping, cannabis users see a noticeable uptick in heart attack cases compared to non-users.
The findings add to previous reports that show heavy cannabis use has a link to heart attack risk among hospital patients. The new report finds younger adults who used marijuana within the last 30 days saw their chances of myocardial infarction go up two-fold.
The team examined a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that included over 33,000 adults between 18 and 44 years-old. Of those participants, 17 percent reported using cannabis during the past month. Overall, 1.3 percent of cannabis users (61 of 4,610) had a heart attack, compared to just 0.8 percent (240 of 28,563) of non-users.
Although cannabis users were more likely to also smoke cigarettes, vape, and drink more heavily, the team says they accounted for these factors and others which also influence a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack.
“With recent legalization and decriminalization, cannabis use is increasing in young adults in North America, and we do not fully know its effects on cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Karim Ladha, a clinician scientist at Unity Health Toronto, in a media release. “We found an association between recent cannabis use and myocardial infarction, which persisted across an array of robust sensitivity analyses. Additionally, this association was consistent across different forms of cannabis consumption, including smoking, vaporization, and other methods such as edibles. This suggests that no method of consumption is safer than another in this regard.”
What’s marijuana doing to the heart?
Study authors note that their study reveals a link between cannabis and heart attacks, but doesn’t reveal the trigger.
“We analyzed the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data set (2017–2018) because it is the best available source for providing insights which are generalizable and nationally representative,” says Nikhil Mistry, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. “As a young adult, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with cannabis use, especially in the current climate where we are exposed to a wealth of misinformation and non–evidence-based health recommendations.”
“Not only young adults, but physicians and other clinicians need to be aware of this potentially important relationship. Cannabis use should be considered in cardiovascular risk assessment. When making decisions about cannabis consumption, patients and physicians should consider its associated benefits and risks, in the context of their own health risk factors and behaviors,” adds Dr. David Mazer, a clinician scientist at Unity Health Toronto.
“The large sample size, generalizability and detailed data on cannabis consumption of this cross-sectional study provide unique insight into this growing public health concern,” the authors conclude.
The findings appear in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.