Cannabis addiction linked to the growing number of heart attacks in young adults

9th November 2021

While there are many that insist that cannabis addiction or cannabis use disorder (CUD) do not exist, a new study claims that there could be a like between the condition and a growing number of young people experiencing heart attacks.

According to the American Heart Association, a growing number of young people who have developed some sort of cannabis dependency were hospitalised after suffering from a heart attack between 2007 and 2018.

The three most affected subgroups are those aged between 18-34, men, and African Americans.

While the results of this study should be considered preliminary, it paints a worrying picture for those suffering from CUD.

Lead researcher Darshi Desai, a clinical observer at the University of California Riverside, said: “Now that cannabis is becoming legal in many states, we need to specifically pay attention to this.

“If we have more (heart attack) patients coming in because of cannabis use disorder, if there is a temporal relationship, it is definitely going to put a huge stress on health care resources in general.”

What is a cannabis use disorder?

A few months ago, we at Canex looked into the existing evidence of cannabis use disorder.

There was a huge backlash on our social channels as people vehemently denied the fact that people who use the drug could develop a dependency.

However, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that cannabis addiction really does exist. The impact is sometimes invisible to others and the victim may have a hard time admitting they suffer from these symptoms.

As with any other substances, frequent use can actually lead to harmful consequences – from heart attacks to gross harm to the brain.

Marvin D. Seppala, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, said: “Most people can use marijuana without becoming addicted, and most who use occasionally will not suffer harmful effects.

“Still, it is important to know the risks, especially considering the new forms and tremendously high levels of THC available to users. The higher the potency of the drug consumed, the higher the likelihood of addiction, and the higher the likelihood of adverse side effects.

“It is also important to recognize that marijuana has several hundred ingredients, many of which we know very little about. With new research, more information will be coming to help us understand both the good and bad effects of marijuana in all of its forms.”

What did the study say?

In this new study, researchers analysed almost 820,000 patient medical records of hospital stays.

They found that a significant number of people aged between 18 and 49 had been hospitalised with a heart attack after having been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in the past.

Researchers reported that, of that cohort who were admitted to hospital for heart attacks, 4.1% had CUD too – and the “proportion” went up from 2.4% in 2007 to 6.7% in 2018. It nearly tripled.

When it comes to subgroups, the numbers have been seen to grow significantly between 2007 and 2018.

While “only” 7.3% of people aged between 18 and 34 with CUD were hospitalised for heart attack in 2007, it was 20.2% in 2018 – the change for African Americans and men is 15.8% to 35.2% and 71.6% to 78.1%, respectively.

Robert Page, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado in Aurora, said: “These data add to the body of literature that there is a red flag with cannabis use in young adults.

“It is not safe. It’s like any other psychotropic medication – it has side effects, and this could be one of them.

“We need to determine whether or not cannabis is a risk factor for heart disease, particularly in younger adults.

“Because as we know, young adults think that they’re invincible, and they’re not.”

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