Marijuana use may harm the heart.

Marijuana use may harm the heart.

Cannabis Use Disorder Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Problems

cannabis By Steven Reinberg

People who abuse marijuana may be setting themselves up for heart problems down the road, Canadian researchers report. According to a new study, individuals with cannabis use disorder have a 60% higher risk of experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or other major heart-related event compared to non-users.

Dr. Anees Bahji, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Calgary, led the study and highlighted the significant association between cannabis use disorder and the increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Bahji expressed the importance of considering heart-related risks associated with cannabis use disorder, which have been previously underestimated or overlooked.

It is important to note that the study does not prove that marijuana abuse directly causes heart problems, but it suggests that individuals with cannabis use disorder may be at a greater risk.

Bahji advised healthcare professionals to be aware of this potential risk when caring for patients with cannabis use disorder and emphasized the need for appropriate guidance and monitoring.

Understanding Cannabis Use Disorder

Cannabis use disorder is a pattern of marijuana use that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress. Symptoms and behaviors associated with this disorder include unsuccessful attempts to reduce or control use, excessive time spent obtaining or using cannabis, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using it.

Bahji emphasized that the diagnosis of cannabis use disorder depends on meeting specific criteria and is not solely based on frequency or quantity of use. Even infrequent cannabis use can result in this disorder if it significantly impairs an individual’s daily life, relationships, or overall well-being.

The Complex Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Heart Problems

The exact way in which cannabis use may increase the risk of heart problems is not yet clear. However, possible contributors include marijuana’s ability to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation in the body. It may also affect blood clotting, as well as the ability of blood vessels to dilate and relax.

There are also other factors that could influence the relationship between cannabis use and cardiovascular events, such as the method of cannabis consumption, the presence of other health conditions, and individual variations in response to cannabis. Further research is needed to better understand these mechanisms and their overall impact on cardiovascular health.

Study Findings and Expert Rebuttal

Dr. Bahji and his team analyzed data from five databases, totaling nearly 60,000 cannabis users, half of whom had cannabis use disorder. Over an eight-year follow-up period, 2.4% (721) of individuals with cannabis use disorder experienced a first-time heart attack, stroke, or another major heart event. In comparison, only 1.5% (458) of those without cannabis use disorder had similar heart problems.

However, not everyone agrees with these findings. Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, questioned the accuracy of cannabis use disorder as a determining factor for heart problems. He suggested that individuals with cannabis use disorder might also have had other medical conditions that they were using marijuana to treat, which could explain the higher rates of heart disease observed in the study.

Dr. Grinspoon acknowledged that excessive cannabis use could potentially trigger anxiety, leading to irregular heartbeats or coronary events, particularly in patients with a history of coronary disease or arrhythmias.


The study suggests a significant association between cannabis use disorder and an increased risk of heart problems. However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship and the impact on cardiovascular health. Healthcare professionals should be aware of this potential risk when caring for patients with cannabis use disorder and provide appropriate guidance and monitoring.

It is also important to note that the study does not prove causation, and other factors may contribute to the observed heart problems. Individuals should be cautious and mindful of their cannabis usage, especially if they have pre-existing heart conditions or a history of arrhythmias. As with any substance, moderation and responsible use are key.