Cannabis use linked to heart attack risk in under-45s

A new study finds that adults under 45 who regularly smoke cannabis are more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who don’t.

Researchers found that adults younger than 45 who use cannabis were twice as likely to have a heart attack, with this likelihood increasing in more frequent users.

The study, released September 7 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, analysed the data of over 33,000 people between the ages of 18 and 44 to conclude that getting high poses a danger to those who are not considered at risk of a heart attack due to their age.

Cannabis increased heart attack risk
Image: CNN

With recent legalisation and decriminalisation, cannabis use is increasing in young adults in North America, and we do not fully know its effects on cardiovascular health,” said clinician-scientist at Unity Health Toronto Dr Karim Ladham in a press 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,” Dr Ladham added.

Overall, heart attacks occurred in 1.3 per cent of those who had recently used weed, while only 0.8 per cent of those who had not consumed it suffered from heart attacks.

The link between weed and heart attack risk was also significantly weaker in those who reported getting high less than four times a month, suggesting that the dangers posed by cannabis may be limited to regular users.

Of the 33,000 people analysed, 17 per cent said they had used it within the previous 30 days.

The cannabis users were more likely to be men who smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes and drink alcohol heavily, which may have contributed to their higher risk.

Those factors, and others that could contribute to heart attacks, were adjusted for the analysis.

According to IFL Science, the study provided information on the relationship between cannabis use and heart attacks but not the biological mechanism.

Cannabis can induce myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] through several different mechanisms, but the data is often convoluted and difficult to determine, as many individuals smoke both cannabis and cigarettes, which is also a risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks,” Dr Monty Ghosh, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of General Internal Medicine and Neurology at the University of Alberta in Canada, told Healthline.

With cannabis, especially THC, we see an increase in heart rate as well as blood pressure, both of which can be quite fast, which can precipitate a heart attack. This is especially true after the first hour of use.”

The study concluded that “further studies and more data are needed to confirm these findings and elucidate the mechanisms contributing to cannabis-associated cardiovascular outcomes”.