Research from two new preliminary studies presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions this week warned of the health risks associated with excessive cannabis use. The two studies listed increased risk of stroke and arrhythmia likelihood as associated health consequences.
"As these products become increasingly used across the country, getting clearer, scientifically rigorous data is going to be important as we try to understand the overall health effects of cannabis," explained AHA president Robert Harrington, MD.
The observational study included 43,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 44, with 14% reporting cannabis use within the past 30 days. The data was obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) nationally representative cross-sectional survey, the behavioral risk factor surveillance system (2016-2017).
The study’s analysis yielded two important results for young participants:
The second study reported that individuals diagnosed with “cannabis use disorder” were 50% more likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmia). Cannabis use disorder is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) as “nine pathological patterns classified under impaired control, social impairment, risky behavior or physiological adaptation.”
Sometimes arrhythmia is harmless, and sometimes it is a serious cause for concern. Depending on the dosing, cannabis use can either cause the heart to beat abnormally fast or abnormally slow. The study specifically found that young African American men with cannabis use disorder between the ages of 15 and 24 were the most likely to be hospitalized for arrhythmia, even though young African American men were not the demographic group associated with the most prevalent cannabis use disorder.
Researchers from the study see great value in highlighting the importance of adequate cannabis use education so in places where recreational marijuana is legal, recreational users “know the difference between therapeutic cannabis dosing for medical purposes and the consequences of cannabis abuse,” explained physician Rikinkumar S. Patel, MD, PhD.