According to a study published in the journal – AddictionTrustedSource, Canadian adults who have cannabis use disorder or “marijuana disorder” are at a 60% higher risk of experiencing their first major cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers also looked at the risk of cardiac dysrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat) and peripheral vascular diseases (narrowed vessels in the legs).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 30% of people who use cannabis have cannabis use disorders and are unable to stop using it despite it negatively affecting their lives.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also states that marijuana usage is on the increase among adults aged 19-30, reaching the highest levels recorded since 1988. In 2021, 43 percent of young adults said they had used marijuana in the last year. Only 29% of young adults reported using the drug in the past year in 2011.
The American Heart AssociationTrustedSource states that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in America and affects almost half of its adult population. It is, therefore, important to control and understand its risk factors.
Why could cannabis use increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?
Dr. Blen Tesfu is a UK-based general practitioner, medical advisor, and spokesperson for Welzo. He said: “It is important to note that there are many factors involved in the relationship between cannabis and cardiovascular disease, including the frequency, duration, and method of consumption.
According to CDCTrustedSource, “Most scientific studies linking marijuana with heart attacks and strokes were based on the reports of people who smoked it (as opposed to other methods of use). Smoked marijuana is a source of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and other cannabinoids. Researchers have also found that marijuana smoke contains many of the same substances as tobacco smoke. These substances are harmful to the lungs and the cardiovascular system.
Tesfu pointed out that there could be several reasons for cannabis use to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
He said that cannabis can cause a temporary increase in heartbeat. In susceptible individuals, it can trigger or worsen underlying heart conditions. This is especially true in cases where heart disease has already been present.
He also noted that cannabis could cause fluctuations in blood pressure. Tesfu stated that research has shown that blood pressure fluctuations are sometimes transient. At the same time, in other cases, they can cause orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up. This can increase the risk of fainting or falling.
Cannabis use may also cause blood vessels to narrow temporarily, reducing the blood flow to your heart. Tesfu says that this can increase your risk of a heart attack, particularly if you have cardiovascular disease.
Tesfu said that cannabis use was also linked to changes in lipid profile, such as an increase in triglycerides or a reduction in “good” HDL cholesterol. He said that these changes could contribute to atherosclerosis and CVD (cardiovascular disease).
Dr. Atif Zafar, who is the Chief of the Stroke Program at St. Michael’s Hospital of the University of Toronto and founder of Human-Healthcare.com, further explained that cannabis contains THC, the compound that is responsible for the “high” that people feel. He said that this compound could interact with “CB1”, a receptor. “The inadvertent activation of CB1 by frequent marijuana use may cause inflammation inside the blood vessels.”
Zafar then went on to describe a Case StudyTrusted Source that he published in 2016, where a patient was using cannabis as much as 20 times per day and had a stroke. He said that he discovered on brain imaging his blood vessels were very tight, and they gradually opened up over time. He ended up with brain damage.
What are the signs of cannabis use disorder in people?
Tesfu stated that clinicians use the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose mental disorders.
He said that healthcare professionals can determine whether someone has CUD by assessing if they meet at least two criteria in a 12-month time frame.
Taken cannabis in greater amounts or for a longer period than intended.
Cannabis use, even when it causes or worsens a mental or physical problem.
You need more cannabis to get the same high.
When you reduce or stop using the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
What are the options for people with cannabis use disorder to get help?
Tesfu stated that the treatment of cannabis use disorder is a combination of behavioral therapy, counseling, and, in some cases, medication.
He advised that the first step to getting help was to visit a healthcare provider. He said that a healthcare provider can help you determine what treatment is best for your situation.
Tesfu stated that cognitive-behavioral and motivational therapy have been proven most effective for treating cannabis use disorder. He added that “these therapies help individuals to identify and change behavior and thought patterns associated with cannabis use.”
Tesfu suggested that you join support groups or attend group therapy. These can offer peer support as well as a sense of community.
According to Tesfu, depending on severity, outpatient or inpatient programs are recommended. Inpatient programs offer more intensive support and structures for those with severe CUD.
Tesfu concluded, “It is important to remember that asking for help is an important step in the recovery process.” The first step in addressing a problem is to acknowledge that it exists. You can get the best treatment plan for you based on what your needs are.
According to research, people with cannabis use disorder are 60% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event for the first time, such as a stroke or heart attack.
The study was limited in that it didn’t look at the different types of marijuana consumption, such as smoking or vaping vs edibles.
Cannabis can increase your risk in several ways, including by narrowing your blood vessels or lowering your “good” cholesterol.
You may be suffering from cannabis use disorder if you experience symptoms of addiction, such as wanting but not being able to quit cannabis.
Your healthcare provider may be able to provide you with resources that will help you quit cannabis and reduce your cardiovascular risk.