DALLAS – Frequent use of cannabis in young adults has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, and people diagnosed with cannabis use problems have been found to be more likely to be hospitalized for arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders), according to two new studies presented at the American Heart Association & # 39 ; s Scientific Sessions 2019.
In the first study, researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, studied more than 43,000 adult participants between the ages of 18 and 24. About 14 percent of the total participants pool reported having used cannabis in the 30 days prior.
Often cannabis users who also smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes were three times more likely to have a stroke than non-users. Those who did not use tobacco but reported using cannabis for at least 10 days of the month were found to be almost two and a half times more likely to have a stroke compared to non-users.
It also turned out that cannabis users were more likely to be big drinkers, as were current cigarette or e-cigarette users. It is possible that this may have affected their risk, although the researchers adjusted for the factors in their analysis.
"Young cannabis users, especially those who use tobacco and have other risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, should understand that they can increase their risk of getting a stroke at a young age," said lead study author Tarang Parekh, MBBS, MS, a health policy researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
"Doctors should ask patients if they use cannabis and advise them of its potential stroke risk as part of regular medical visits," he added.
Two new studies have found a link between frequent use of cannabis and increased risk of stroke, as well as a link between cannabis disorder and increased risk of arrhythmia. (Courtesy of the American Heart Association)
A second study looked at patients who have been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder – characterized by frequent, compulsive use of marijuana, similar alcoholism – and found that people with the disorder are 50 percent more likely to be hospitalized due to arrhythmia compared to nonusers.
In particular, the study found that young African American men aged 15 to 24 who have cannabis use disorders had the greatest risk of being hospitalized due to arrhythmia.
However, the demographic group most likely to be diagnosed with this disorder is white men aged 45 to 54. Some arrhythmias may be benign, but others can be life-threatening.
“The effects of using cannabis are seen within 15 minutes and last for about three hours. At lower doses it is linked to a fast heartbeat. At higher doses, it is linked to a slow heartbeat, says Rikinkumar S. Patel, M.D., M.P.H., a resident physician in the department of psychiatry at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma.
"The risk of using cannabis linked to arrhythmia in adolescents is a major problem, and physicians should ask patients who are arriving with arrhythmias about their use of cannabis and other substances because they can trigger their arrhythmias," Patel said.
“Since medical and recreational cannabis is legalized in many states, it is important to know the difference between therapeutic cannabis dosing for medical purposes and the consequences of cannabis abuse. We urgently need further research to understand these problems, ”Patel said.
In both studies, the results were only observational and have not yet established any causal relationship, but authors of both studies say that the noted trends are sufficient to justify more research on the effects of cannabis overuse and abuse.
"As these products are increasingly used across the country, it will become clearer, scientifically rigorous information that will be important as we try to understand the overall health effects of cannabis," said Robert Harrington, President, President of the American Heart Association and Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University in Stanford, California.
The American Heart Association has no opinion on legalizing marijuana, but in places where cannabis has been legalized, the association requires a public health infrastructure that places cannabis use in the same regulated space as tobacco through efforts that age restrictions on purchases and comprehensive smoke-free air laws, among other measures .
This story was reported from Los Angeles.