Is Cannabis as Harmful as Tobacco?

Liz Filmer
29 Apr 2023

New research reveals that cannabis may be as damaging to the heart as smoking cigarettes. In one study of regular users, cannabis significantly increased blood pressure and heart rate, similar to heavy smoking.

In the Canadian-based trial, 21 otherwise healthy volunteers who smoked cannabis frequently were given a 'vape' containing the drug. A single session of inhaling was enough to alter the nervous system region responsible for blood pressure and pulse, according to scans. It is believed that the changes could be sufficient to raise the risk of a heart attack in less healthy patients.

"When the tobacco industry began, we didn't know the damage smoking caused. It was only once it was in widespread use that we started seeing the health consequences and acted to try to limit it," 

I feel like we are going through the same thing with cannabis now."- Research associate and Cardiologist Dr Abbas Alshami.

In another study, U.S. researchers analysed nearly 35 million hospital admission records. It was found that the chances of cannabis users developing acute coronary syndrome - including conditions such as heart attacks and angina – were the same as for heavy tobacco smokers

Other research found older cannabis users with common conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, were more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who didn't touch the drug, and over-60s who used it were also more likely to have a stroke.

Expert Professor Robert Page of the American Heart Association believes that cannabis may 'absolutely be the new tobacco' when it comes to heart risk, saying, "Cannabis is a psychotropic drug that impacts not only the brain but also the nervous system, so what we're seeing in these studies makes a lot of sense."

The worry originates from the fact that we're observing an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes even in younger adults, the biggest recreational users of cannabis." But, again, more research on a larger scale is needed before any definite conclusions can be drawn.

Liz Filmer