Think Smoking Cannabis Won’t Damage Your Heart? Think Again

Cannabis Heart Cardiology Concept Art

A study by UC San Francisco researchers indicates that the cardiac risks associated with smoking marijuana are on par with those of smoking tobacco. With the increasing legalization and use of cannabis, there is concern about the potential rise in heart health problems. Daily cannabis use is linked to a significant increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke. Credit:

Researchers find smoking marijuana poses similar cardiac risks to tobacco, with increased legalization leading to potential heart health issues. Daily users face higher risks of heart attack and stroke.

The cardiac risks of smoking marijuana are comparable to those of smoking tobacco, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, who warn that the increasing use of cannabis across the country could lead to growing heart health problems.

The study found that people who used cannabis daily had a 25% increased risk of heart attack and a 42% increased risk of stroke compared to non-users.

Cannabis has become more popular with legalization. Recreational use is now permitted in 24 states, and as of 2019, nearly 4% said they used it daily and 18% used it annually. That is a significant increase since 2002, when 1.3% said they used it daily and 10.4% used it annually.

“Cannabis use is increasing in both prevalence and frequency, while conventional tobacco smoking is declining,” said Salomeh Keyhani, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at UCSF and senior author of the study, which was published on February 28, 2024, in the Journal of the American Heart Association. “Cannabis use by itself might, over time, become the more important risk factor.”

Cardiac Risks Even for Those Who Never Used Tobacco

The researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national cross-sectional survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine the association between cannabis use and adverse cardiovascular outcomes including coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

They examined whether cannabis use was associated with coronary heart disease, acute myocardial infarction, and stroke among the general adult population and among people who had never smoked tobacco.

Among the 434,104 respondents, about 4% were daily users, 7.1% were non-daily (about 5 days in the month) and 88.9% had not used any marijuana in the past 30 days. Among current users, about three-fourths said they mostly smoked it.

The study found that cannabis use was independently associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, and the odds rose with the number of days per month that a person used it.

The study also examined the effects for those who had never smoked or vaped tobacco, finding that just using cannabis was associated both with stroke, and with the combination of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

“This is an important public health finding, particularly given our ongoing efforts to reduce the burden of heart disease in this country,” said David C. Goff, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Perception of Risk Needs To Change

People who smoke cannabis often hesitate to disclose it to their physicians, in part because they don’t consider it as harmful as smoking tobacco, and many states, like California, first approved it for medical uses. The researchers noted it will be an uphill battle to change these attitudes.

“There is a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry that markets cannabis use as not only harmless, but good for you,” Keyhani said. “It can be a challenging discussion to have with patients because there is evidence that cannabis has some therapeutic properties. However, as suggested by this study, cannabis use also has significant cardiovascular risks.”

For more on this research:

Reference: “Association of Cannabis Use With Cardiovascular Outcomes Among US Adults” by Abra M. Jeffers, Stanton Glantz, Amy L. Byers and Salomeh Keyhani, 28 February 2024, Journal of the American Heart Association.
DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.123.030178

Co-authors: Additional UCSF co-authors include Stanton Glantz, PhD, and Amy L. Byers, PhD, MPH.

Funding: NHLBI 1R01HL130484-01A1 and National Cancer Institute (grant T32 CA113710).

6 Comments on "Think Smoking Cannabis Won’t Damage Your Heart? Think Again"

  1. Cherie Pikkin Dayda | March 16, 2024 at 10:47 pm | Reply

    EDITOR! This is the same study as SciTechDaily’s “Unveiling the Hidden Heart Risks in Cannabis Smoke” on March 8th. It remains a garbage telephone survey of the public, which incidentally found people who used cannabis non-daily had dramatically less risk of obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or heart attack, or stroke than people who do not use cannabis. This would actually be evidence of non-daily cannabis being beneficial cardiovascular for health, if it wasn’t still a garbage survey. My full comment is on the other article.

    • Cherie Pikkin Dayda | March 17, 2024 at 10:55 am | Reply

      That sounds much more like a proper study. It says the cannabis smoking was self-reported, which still won’t be reliable in the UK where cannabis isn’t grey-market but black-market. That’s the best criticism I can offer, since that press-release didn’t link or even name the study.

      The press-release claims the study found genistein in soy beans could block cardiovascular risks of cannabis it claims to have found. Weed with soy sauce, anyone?

    • Yes, I do not see an obvious link to the actual study. You can try reaching out to the contact at the bottom of the article if you want to try and get a pointer to it.

      • Cherie Pikkin Dayda | March 18, 2024 at 12:04 am | Reply

        Thanks Jojo. I searched by author name and didn’t find it. I always like your comments, plus I sense a concern for my health.

        I’d dig deeper, but I’m at near-zero risk. The old government propaganda worked, so I didn’t try cannabis until maybe too late in life. I researched in the 90s, found I had been tricked, and still waited. But I don’t like it, and it doesn’t work for me. I’m open to the apparent myriad health benefits, and the potential risks, but the NIH abusing science to reinforce the ban offends me. Hopefully anyone using it often does their research, and evaluates the Stanford study, but the repetition of articles like this NHLBI one just adds noise.

  2. Apocatastasia | March 18, 2024 at 1:03 pm | Reply

    Smoke is risky; some cannabis is smoked. You may not conclude that cannabis is risky. With all the edibles, tinctures, etc, this is a very misleading article. It does not even specify smoked vs swallowed cannabis.

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