New research finds that at a time of increasing marijuana legalization, an increasing number of people under the age of 50 diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder are hospitalized due to a heart attack.
The upward trend from 2007 to 2018 was most pronounced in three groups: 18- to 34-year-olds, men and African Americans, according to findings presented Sunday at the American Heart Association’s Virtual Scientific Sessions conference. The results are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“We need to pay attention to this specifically,” said principal investigator Darshi Desai, a clinical observer at UC Riverside who is applying for her medical residency, with cannabis now legal in many states.
She and her colleagues analyzed it Medical records Of 819,354 people from a large public database of hospital stays. They identified 18 to 49 people who had been hospitalized for a heart attack and their records showed a previous diagnosis of cannabis use disorder. This is defined as excessive and chronic marijuana use with symptoms of dependency, inability to control use, and impairment in social functioning.
Marijuana use is increasing in the United States, particularly among 18 to 25-year-olds, as legalization of medical and recreational use progresses. But researchers have not determined whether this has translated into an increase in cannabis use disorder. A 2019 study published in Gamma Psychiatry showed that the disorder increased slightly among people aged 12 to 17 and people aged 26 or older from 2008 to 2016. Other Gamma Psychiatry A study from 2016 found that while usage increased, the trendlines for turbulence were flat.
The new analysis found that 4.1% of patients hospitalized for heart attacks also had a cannabis use disorder, and the proportion nearly tripled from 2.4% in 2007 to 6.7% in 2018.
When the researchers divided the data into subgroups, they found the largest increases during the decade between:
- 18-34 years old, 7.3% in 2007 to 20.2% in 2018
- African Americans 15.8% in 2007 to 35.2% in 2018
- Men 71.6% in 2007 to 78.1% in 2018
Robert Page, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Colorado in Aurora, said that although previous studies have suggested a link between cannabis use and heart attacks, this adds to the evidence. He holds a doctorate in pharmacology and leads the group that produced the American Heart Association’s scientific statement published last year on cannabis and cardiovascular health.
“This data adds to the body of literature that there is a red flag about cannabis use in young adults,” said Page, who was not involved in the new study. Cannabis users need to realize that just because it is “natural” does not mean it is safe. “It’s unsafe. It’s like any other psychoactive drug – it has side effects, and this could be one of them.”
Because the study is observational and did not control for the use of other substances such as tobacco, alcohol, or cocaine, the research cannot be used to show a direct cause. What is needed, Page said, is a large, long-term study that tracks people over time to determine whether cannabis use can be definitively linked to heart attacks and, if so, the effect of frequency of use and how cannabis is consumed.
Such studies remain challenging, he said, because the drug remains illegal at the federal level and in many states.
“We need to determine whether or not cannabis is a risk factor for heart disease, especially in younger adults,” Page said. “Because as we know, Youth I think they are invincible, and they are not.”
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