|Young cannabis addicts are likely at a higher risk of heart problems such as stroke than those who don't use the drug. / Photo by nito500 via 123rf|
Young cannabis addicts are likely at a higher risk of heart problems such as stroke than those who don't use the drug. Using marijuana along with cigarettes or e-cigarettes poses an even greater risk, according to a new study.
The study, which will be presented at the annual American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions meeting, is an addition to the growing body of evidence that links marijuana use to increased risk of cardiovascular problems. A second presentation also concluded that frequent cannabis use among young people raises the risk of stroke.
The findings of the first presentation will be published in the journal Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association (a division of the AHA).
Increased risk for heart rhythm problems
The first presentation looked into heart rhythm issues, which CNN said occurs when the electrical impulses make the heartbeat in time malfunction. This malfunction makes the heart either beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Not only is it troubling but problems with the heart rhythm can also be deadly—possibly leading to a stroke or heart failure.
"The effects of using cannabis are seen within 15 minutes and last for around three hours," Rikinkumar S. Patel, a resident physician in the department of psychiatry at the Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma, said in a press release. "At lower doses, it is linked to a rapid heartbeat. At higher doses, it is linked to a too-slow heartbeat."
Based on the analysis of data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), the researchers found an association between weed and heart problems. That data found that 2.6 of patients hospitalized due to arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat were frequent marijuana users.
These patients were relatively young, with ages from 15 to 24 and were male and black. After adjusting for other factors, the NIS data found that 15- to 24-year-old weed users were 1.28 times more likely to be hospitalized for the said heart problem while those aged 25 to 34 have 1.52 times higher odds.
Analysis of this data showed that a young person who has been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder—and still regularly uses the drug—is at greater risk (47 percent to 52 percent) of being hospitalized due to arrhythmia.
Patel said the link between arrhythmia and cannabis use among young people is a major concern and that attending physicians should also ask if patients admitted with arrhythmias use cannabis and other substances to determine if these triggered the illness.
A higher likelihood of stroke
The researchers will discuss another presentation in which they looked into the risks of stroke among young people who frequently use cannabis as well as smoked cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
For this study, they looked at the data from 43,000 adults aged 18 to 44 over for a year. Among them, 14 percent said they used cannabis in the last 30 days and were mostly younger males and were either Hispanic or African American.
Analysis of this data showed that those who frequently used cannabis and also smoked cigarettes or used e-cigarettes were three times more likely to suffer a stroke than non-users. Those who didn't use tobacco products but smoked weed for over 10 days a month were nearly 2.5 more likely to have a stroke.
"Young cannabis users, especially those who use tobacco and have other risk factors for strokes, such as high blood pressure, should understand that they may be raising their risk of having a stroke at a young age," Tarang Parekh, lead author and a health policy researcher at George Mason University, said in a statement.
Parekh echoed Patel's recommendation, saying physicians should also ask patients about their cannabis use and advise them about the potential risks of stroke as part of the patient's regular visits.
In the statement, the researchers noted that the study merely determined the potential link and not the cause and effect considering that it was observational. This means the researchers did not look into the biological mechanism connection between stroke and cannabis use.
Addressing issues with cannabis use
As the legalization of cannabis becomes widespread, the researchers hope more studies would be done to examine the possible health risks as the usage becomes increasingly acceptable.
The AHA recommended developing a public health infrastructure that would integrate the use of cannabis into comprehensive tobacco control efforts including age restrictions when purchasing and comprehensive smoke-free air laws among other measures.
"As these products become increasingly used across the country, getting clearer, scientifically rigorous data is going to be important as we try to understand the overall health effects of cannabis," said Robert Harrington, president of the AHA.
What's more, it's also important to know the differences between medical and recreational cannabis to ensure the prevention of overdose and dire consequences of the use of marijuana. Additional research could also help understand these issues and possibly provide solutions to address them.
|The AHA recommended developing a public health infrastructure that would integrate the use of cannabis into comprehensive tobacco control efforts. / Photo by Prapass Poolsab via 123rf|