Cardiovascular Disease Risk Higher for People with Cannabis Use Disorder

A study that was recently published by the journal AddictionTrusted Source mentions that Canadian people suffering from marijuana use disorders (also called “marijuana use disorder”) are likely to be at around 60% more likelihood of suffering from the first significant cardiovascular incident, such as heart attack or stroke in comparison to those who do not have the condition.

The study also looked at the possibility of occurrences like heart disorders (abnormal rhythm of the heart) or peripheral vascular disorder (narrowed blood vessels that run through the legs).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source estimates that 30% of those who smoke marijuana suffer from marijuana use disorders and are not able to stop using the drug regardless of the fact it’s adversely impacting their lives.

In addition, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports mari,juana consumption is rising for adults aged 19-30 and has reached the highest levels recorded since the beginning of monitoring in 1988. In 2021, 43% of young adults had reported using marijuana in the previous year. Comparatively, just 29% reported using it in the past year in 2011.

The American Heart Association’s trusted source states that cardiovascular diseases affect nearly 50% of American people and can be the leading cause of death, which makes it vital to be aware of and reduce the risk elements.

What causes cannabis use to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?

Dr. Blen Tesfu Dr. Blen Tesfu, a general doctor and medical advisor to the British-based platform for healthcare Welzo Dr. Blen Tesfu, a medical advisor for Welzo, said: “It’s important to note that the association between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease is complex and can vary depending on factors like frequency and duration of use, the method of consumption, and individual susceptibility.”

According to The CDC Trusted Source, “Most of the research that has linked marijuana to heart attacks as well as strokes are based on data of people who have used marijuana (as in contrast to other methods of taking it). Smoking marijuana can deliver tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as other cannabinoids into the body. Smoking marijuana also provides numerous of the same compounds that researchers have observed in tobacco smoke. These substances are harmful to your heart and lungs.”

Tesfu pointed out that there are many reasons cannabis consumption could be linked with an increased risk of heart illness.

He said that using cannabis could result in a temporary increased heartbeat. “In susceptible individuals, this can trigger or exacerbate underlying heart conditions, especially in cases of pre-existing heart disease.”

He also said that cannabis may trigger changes in blood pressure. Tesfu stated that studies suggest that the blood pressure changes are temporary. At the same time, in other instances, they can cause orthostatic hypotension (an abrupt drop in blood pressure after standing), which could lead to the risk of falling and fainting.

In addition, cannabis use may result in blood vessels narrowing temporarily, possibly decreasing blood flow to your heart. According to Tesfu, this could increase the chance of having a heart attack, particularly if you already have a heart condition.

Tesfu said that the use of cannabis is also associated with alterations in lipid profiles, such as an increase in the level of triglycerides and a decrease in the known as “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. “These changes can contribute to atherosclerosis and the development of CVD [cardiovascular disease],” Tesfu said.

Dr. Atif Zafar, who is the Chief of the Stroke Program at St. Michael’s Hospital of the University of Toronto and founder of, further explained that cannabis contains THC, the compound that is responsible for the “high” that people feel. The combination is able to affect a receptor referred to as “CB1,” he said. “The inappropriate activation of CB1 due to frequent marijuana use can cause inflammation within the blood vessels.”

Zafar was able to share a research study that he published in the year 2016 in which one of his patients used cannabis as much as 20 times per day and later suffered a stroke. “[W]e found on brain imaging that his blood vessels were tight and over time they slowly opened up,” Zafar explained. “He ended up having brain damage as a result.”

What is the best way to determine whether they suffer from a cannabis-related disorder?

Tesfu explained that cannabis-related disorder (CUD) is identified based on the criteria that are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is a manual for clinicians to determine mental disorders.

“To determine if someone has CUD, healthcare professionals assess whether an individual meets at least two of the following criteria within a 12-month period,” the doctor said.

  • Injecting cannabis in greater quantities or for a longer time frame than was planned
  • Failure to reduce or limit use despite there is a need to do so.
  • A significant amount of time obtaining either using, consuming, or recuperating from marijuana
  • Feeling a strong desire for drugs
  • Failure to fulfill obligations at school, home, or work.
  • Constantly using cannabis, despite the fact that it can cause issues
  • The decision to cut off important work or social activities due to cannabis usage
  • The drug can be used even if it’s physically harmful
  • Utilizing cannabis even when it’s exacerbating or causing the physical or mental issue
  • In the future, you will require more cannabis to achieve the same high
  • Experimenting with withdrawal symptoms while cutting down or stopping the use of the medication

What can people do to receive help for their cannabis-related disorder?

Tesfu explained the treatment for cannabis-related disorder typically requires a mix of behavioral therapy, counseling, and, in some instances, medications.

The first step to seeking assistance is to make an appointment with a healthcare professional. “They can assess the severity of your cannabis use and help determine the most appropriate treatment approach,” the doctor suggested.

Tesfu emphasized that behavioral therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational enhancement therapy, has proved to be the most effective method of treating the symptoms of cannabis use disorder. “These therapies help individuals identify and change behaviors and thought patterns related to cannabis use,” Tesfu explained.

Tesfu also recommended joining support groups as well as attending group therapy sessions since these will provide support from peers and a sense of belonging in your recovery.

Furthermore, depending on the degree of the disorder, either inpatient or outpatient treatment programs are recommended, According to Tesfu. “Inpatient programs provide more intensive support and structure for individuals with severe CUD.”

“It’s important to remember that seeking help is a positive step towards recovery,” Tesfu said. “The most important step is to recognize the issue and then deciding to address the issue. A medical professional can direct you to the best treatment plan, based on your personal requirements and situation.”


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