(HealthDay News) — Marijuana has been linked to a doubling in the risk of a heart attack in younger adults, no matter how they use it, a new study reports.
Eighteen- to 44-year-olds who used pot were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with non-users, whether they smoked, vaped or ate their weed, researchers found.
Lead researcher Dr. Karim Ladha, an anesthesiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, said:
“We found it wasn’t only smoking that had this kind of effect. The effect size was pretty similar regardless of how people consumed their cannabis.”
Further, users’ risk of heart attack increased with the amount of pot they used, the study found.
People who used pot more than four times a month had a 230% increased risk of a heart attack, while less frequent users had an increased risk of about 50%, results show.
The results suggest that chemical compounds in marijuana such as THC, which causes intoxication, might increase risk of heart attack, Ladha said.
“With all of the changes regarding the legalization of cannabis throughout the United States and Canada, there is a lot of assumption that cannabis has been around for thousands of years, this is a safe plant, a safe drug.
“But the reality is the cannabis that exists today is very different from what people were using even two decades ago.”
For this study, researchers analyzed two years of survey data (2017 and 2018) gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on more than 33,000 people between the ages of 18 and 44.
About 17% said they had used pot within the past 30 days. Heart attacks had occurred in 1.3% of marijuana users (61 out of 4,610) compared with 0.8% of non-users (240 of 28,563).
The small total number of heart attacks prompted Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, to question the power of the potential effect marijuana might really have on heart health.
“Let’s keep in mind the fact that it’s very easy to double a number if it’s very small in the first place,” said Earleywine, an advisory board member of NORML, which promotes marijuana legalization. “Truth be told, the absolute difference is literally 0.5%.”