A new study from the American College of Cardiology finds that people who use marijuana daily could be more susceptible to heart disease than people who have never used the drug. The study analyzed health data from 175,000 people and found that daily marijuana users were 34% more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those who never used the drug.
The possible cause of the increased risk has to do with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects, which could promote inflammation and the buildup of plaque in the heart. Researchers caution that these findings should not be taken to mean marijuana use is without risk, and anyone who does use it consistently should talk to their doctor about the potential heart risks.
The study did not differentiate between smoking marijuana and consuming it in edibles or other forms. A survey published by the National Institutes of Health indicates 43% of young adults aged 19-30 used marijuana in 2021, an increase of 34% over the previous five years. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that at least 48.2 million people used the drug at least once.
As marijuana becomes increasingly legal in states across the country, the projected total from sales of legal recreational and medical cannabis in the U.S. in 2022 is estimated to be $33 billion. Iowa legislators introduced a bill earlier this week that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program while also legalizing its use for people over 21. If Iowa legalizes marijuana, it would be the 22nd state in the U.S. to allow recreational marijuana use.
The long-term health effects of marijuana use have not been as closely linked to tobacco use, however the CDC notes that using marijuana could increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases. Smoking it could also harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to blood vessels. More research is needed to understand the potential health risks associated with marijuana use.