Early Cannabis use Linked to Heart Disease

Liz Filmer
28 Dec 2022

Smoking cannabis when young may increase your risk of developing heart disease later in life, according to a recent study. Researchers found subtle but potentially significant changes in heart and artery function.

Cannabis is the most typically used recreational substance worldwide, behind alcohol. Cigarette smoking affects cardiovascular health, causing blood vessels and heart changes. Less is understood about the influence of smoking cannabis on long-term cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, even as substance use grows in many parts of the world.

The research team observed 35 participants aged between 19 to 30, half of whom were regular cannabis users. Ultrasound imaging examined the heart and arteries. The researchers measured arterial stiffness, arterial function and the ability of arteries to expand with greater blood flow suitably. All three criteria are indicators of cardiovascular function and possible disease risk.

Arterial stiffness was more significant in cannabis users than in non-users. This was established by measuring how fast a pressure wave travelled down the artery. The idea is that stiffer arteries will transmit a wave more quickly.

In cannabis users, cardiac function appeared to be lower than in non-users. However, the research team was shocked to see no difference in artery dilation in response to changing blood flow.

Typically, all three measures see a change in the case of cigarette smokers, with stiffer arteries and lower vascular and heart function reported. It is not clear why in cannabis users, there's no difference in vascular function. It is thought that differences might reflect variations in how tobacco and cannabis are consumed, amounts and frequency and the user's age.

This study presents exciting new data, suggesting that before more overt cues and symptoms of cardiovascular disease are present, there may be more nuanced indications in altered physiological processes.

Liz Filmer