Study finds cannabis use associated with higher risk of heart attack in young adults

A study led by Toronto researchers suggests recent cannabis use is associated with a higher risk of heart attack in younger adults, with a stronger association among frequent users.

The research team, which had its paper published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said that while risk of heart attack among young cannabis users is low overall, their findings suggest those younger than 45 were nearly twice as likely to have had a heard attack than non-users.

Researchers looked at data from a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that included more than 33,000 adults aged 18 to 44, with 17 per cent of them reporting cannabis use in the past 30 days.

Heart attack was reported in 1.3 per cent of cannabis users, compared to 0.8 per cent of non-users.

“We know there are lots of people using cannabis and not everybody is dropping dead from a heart attack,” said Dr. Karim Ladha, a clinical scientist at Unity Health Toronto and one of the study’s authors.

“But I think it’s something important that health-care providers need to be aware of and counsel patients on. And it’s something we need to share with the public so they understand that there is a risk.”

The research team said their findings add to evidence from earlier studies that suggest a link between heavy cannabis use and heart attack.

The current study examined frequent cannabis use — defined as four or more times over the last 30 days — and how it was being consumed in younger adults, who otherwise weren’t high risk for heart attack because of their age.

A history of heart attack was associated with more frequent cannabis use, the study said.

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