Cannabis use disorder and cardiovascular disease risk.

Cannabis use disorder and cardiovascular disease risk.

Cannabis Use Disorder Linked to Cardiovascular Disease: Understanding the Risks and Responsible Use


Cannabis use disorder has long been a topic of interest among researchers and healthcare providers. With the widespread legalization of cannabis, it is crucial to understand the potential risks associated with its use, especially concerning cardiovascular health. A new study published in the medical journal Addiction has found a significant association between cannabis use disorder and cardiovascular disease, emphasizing the need for responsible and informed cannabis use.

Unexpected Findings

Researchers analyzed data from five Canadian health databases to assess the risks of cannabis use disorder. The study revealed that individuals with cannabis use disorder were approximately 60% more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events, compared to those without the disorder.

Dr. Anees Bahji, the lead author of the study and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Calgary, expressed surprise at the magnitude of the increased risk. While an association between cannabis use disorder and adverse cardiovascular events was anticipated, the findings highlight the need for moderation, regular health check-ups, and caution when mixing cannabis with other substances, like alcohol.

Understanding Cannabis Use Disorder

The current definition of cannabis use disorder has been criticized by experts. Dr. Peter Grinspoon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, believes that the criteria for the disorder are flawed and influenced by a punitive mindset.

To receive a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder, an individual must meet at least two out of 11 criteria, including tolerance and withdrawal. However, Grinspoon argues that tolerance and withdrawal alone are not sufficient to diagnose addiction. Instead, he suggests focusing on the negative consequences of cannabis use, such as impaired driving, inability to fulfill responsibilities, and negative impacts on education or employment.

It is important to differentiate between severe addiction and recreational cannabis use. While addiction to cannabis does occur, most of the harm stems from those with a severe addiction who continue to use the substance despite negative consequences.

Unpacking the Findings on Cannabis and Heart Health

It is essential to note that the study is associational and does not prove causality. The increased risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with cannabis use disorder may be influenced by various factors.

One potential factor is the mode of consumption. Smoking, which is the most common method of cannabis consumption, involves inhaling smoke, which poses health risks. Combustion products, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tar, and benzene, are harmful to the body. While cannabis may potentially contribute to coronary disease, it has not been definitively proven, as association studies can have numerous confounding variables.

Another factor to consider is the potential for cannabis to trigger anxiety in some individuals. Anxiety attacks can increase heart rate and blood pressure, potentially leading to cardiovascular events. However, proper patient selection and education can help avoid these circumstances.

Using Cannabis Responsibly

The study findings and the risks associated with cannabis use highlight the importance of responsible consumption. Individuals using cannabis should be mindful of the potential health risks, especially if they use it frequently or exhibit problematic patterns of use.

Dr. Anees Bahji advises individuals to consult with medical professionals to ensure safe and responsible use of cannabis. Similarly, Dr. Peter Grinspoon emphasizes the need for compassionate dialogue between doctors and patients regarding cannabis addiction, acknowledging the severe impact it can have on individuals.

As cannabis legalization becomes more widespread, accurate information about the potential risks and benefits is essential for policymakers and healthcare providers. A comprehensive understanding of cannabis use disorders within the context of mental health and substance use is crucial to provide comprehensive care and support to those affected.

In conclusion, while cannabis use disorder is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, further research is needed to understand the precise mechanisms involved. Responsible and informed cannabis use, coupled with professional medical guidance, plays a vital role in minimizing potential risks and ensuring optimal well-being for individuals using cannabis.