According to a recent study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with the World Congress of Cardiology, people using cannabis daily are one-third more likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD) compared to those who never use the drug. This study is one of the largest and most comprehensive to date to investigate the possible long-term cardiovascular implications of frequent cannabis use.
CAD is the most common form of heart disease, occurring when the arteries that supply blood to the heart narrow down due to a buildup of cholesterol. This condition causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue, and can ultimately lead to heart attacks. Previous studies have suggested that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive component of cannabis – acts on receptors located not only in the central nervous system, but also in the heart and blood vessels, which could induce inflammation and the buildup of plaque, and ultimately lead to CAD.
In the current study, the experts analyzed data on the health and habits of 175,000 people – collected through the All of Us Research Program of the National Institutes of Health – in order to better understand the relationship between cannabis use frequency and rates of CAD. The analysis revealed that daily cannabis users were 34 percent more likely to develop CAD than people who never used the drug – a causal relationship found to be independent of potential confounding effects of age, sex, or other major cardiovascular risk factors, such as alcohol or tobacco use.
“We found that cannabis use is linked to CAD, and there seems to be a dose-response relationship in that more frequent cannabis use is associated with a higher risk of CAD,” said study lead author Ishan Paranjpe, a resident physician at Stanford University. “In terms of the public health message, it shows that there are probably certain harms of cannabis use that weren’t recognized before, and people should take that into account.”
Since cannabis is currently legal or decriminalized in over half of U.S. states for recreational use (and over three-quarters of states allow it to be used for medical purposes), these findings suggest that it is important for people to be aware of the drug’s potentially dangerous effects, and make sure to regularly monitor their heart health if they use it frequently.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer
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