Medical Research

Researchers Warn That Daily Cannabis Use Can Cause Heart Disease

Written by Lydia Kariuki

Most people would agree that consuming cannabis daily, or several times a day, is probably not a good idea. Well, that applies to those who at least believe that cannabis use disorder is indeed a thing. But when it comes to how bad is bad? “As bad as heart disease” would seem like an exaggeration to many. but that’s what expert researchers from Stanford University are now saying, as was first reported by CNN.

A group of researchers conducted a study to investigate the relationship between cannabis use and heart disease. They used data from the All of Us Research Program which is run by the National Institutes of Health. The participants completed a survey questionnaire on their cannabis use. The researchers used the responses to group the participants into five distinct categories:

  • Daily users (4,736 people)

  • Weekly users (2,720)

  • Monthly users (2,075)

  • Those who used cannabis  once or twice in three months (8,749)

  • Those who had never used cannabis (39,678 people)

A few years later, the researchers analyzed the medical records of the participants to determine heart disease. They used a technique known as Mendelian Randomization (MR) to determine the causal influence of the risk factor (cannabis use) on coronary artery disease (CAD).

They found that the participants who used cannabis daily were three times more likely to develop heart disease, compared to those who had never used cannabis at all. Conversely, participants who used cannabis once a month had no significant risk for developing heart disease.  These results were established after all compounding factors such as age, sex, and other significant cardiovascular risk factors had been taken into consideration.

What’s The Link Between Cannabis Use and CAD?

Coronary artery disease (CAD), also referred to as atherosclerosis, refers to the buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries of the heart and hence obstructing the flow of blood. It is the most common form of heart disease.

The researchers believe that the relationship between cannabis use and CAD is causal, in spite of other potential confounders. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) increases heart rate and thus may damage heart and blood vessels over time when used daily. That’s one plausible explanation, although there is research suggesting that cannabis may ease cardiovascular diseases.

Of course, smoking cannabis regularly could also damage the lungs and cardiovascular system, though evidence here is conflicting. As the researchers concluded, “the decision to use cannabis must be carefully weighed against the potential for serious heart disease,” said lead study author Dr. Ishan Paranjpe, a resident physician at Stanford University. The results of this study are yet to be published.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki