Marijuana Use Could Increase Chances For Heart Disease, Study Suggests

Topline

People who use marijuana daily could be more susceptible to heart disease than people who have never used the drug, according to a study released Friday, as marijuana becomes legal in more states and as use among young adults continues to grow.

Key Facts

Analyzing health data from 175,000 people, researchers from the American College of Cardiology found that daily marijuana users were 34% more likely to develop coronary artery disease—the most common form of heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart—than people who never used the drug.

An interaction between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the molecule responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects—and blood vessels could promote inflammation and the buildup of plaque, researchers said.

Researchers noted their findings should be a warning for people who believe that marijuana use is without risk, adding anyone who does consistently use the drug should consult their doctors about possible heart risks.

The study does not differentiate whether smoking marijuana or consuming it in edibles or other forms would affect the chances of heart disease.

Surprising Fact

A survey published by the National Institutes of Health indicates 43% of young adults—people aged 19 to 30—used marijuana in 2021, an increase of 34% over the previous five years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated at least 48.2 million people used the drug at least once in 2019.

Big Number

$33 billion. That’s the projected total from sales of legal recreational and medical cannabis in the U.S. in 2022.

What To Watch For

Iowa legislators introduced a bill earlier this week that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program while also legalizing marijuana use for people over 21 years old. If Iowa legalizes marijuana, it would be the 22nd state in the U.S. to allow recreational marijuana use, though dozens more have decriminalized low-level cannabis possession offenses.

Key Background

The long-term health effects of using marijuana have not been as closely linked as smoking tobacco, though the CDC notes that using the drug could lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases. Smoking marijuana can also harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to blood vessels. A small study released in November 2022 suggested emphysema and airway inflammation was more common among marijuana smokers than cigarette smokers. An August 2022 Gallup poll indicated the use of marijuana reached an all-time high, while more Americans smoke the drug more often than cigarettes.

Further Reading

Gallup Poll Finds More Americans Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes (Forbes)

Smoking Marijuana Is More Likely To Cause Emphysema Than Cigarettes, Study Suggests (Forbes)

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