Smoking Weed May Increase Risk of Stroke Among Young Adults, Study Finds

A preliminary study that will be presented this weekend may spell bad news for weed smokers: Young people who frequently smoke marijuana may be at an increased risk of stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The study will be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2019, a conference taking place November 16-18 in Philadelphia. Further, it is set to be published in the journal Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association.

The study that found the possible association between stroke risk and marijuana was based on an analysis of "more than 43,000 adults aged 18 to 44, of whom nearly 14% reported using cannabis in the last 30 days," the AHA said.

According to a summary of the findings, the study found that young adults who smoked marijuana frequently and also smoked cigarettes and e-cigarettes were three times more likely to suffer a stroke, compared with those who did not smoke marijuana at all. While the AHA acknowledged that the subjects' habits of smoking tobacco and e-cigarettes may have also factored into their stroke risk, it said researchers adjusted for those variables.

Research also showed that cannabis users who did not use tobacco products but reported using cannabis for more than 10 days a month were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke, compared with nonusers.

The cannabis users were also more likely to be heavy drinkers, current cigarette users and e-cigarette users, which may have also influenced their risk, even though the researchers adjusted for those factors in their analysis.

"Young cannabis users, especially those who use tobacco and have other risk factors for strokes, such as high blood pressure, should understand that they may be raising their risk of having a stroke at a young age," the study's lead author, Dr. Tarang Parekh of George Mason University, said. "Physicians should ask patients if they use cannabis and counsel them about its potential stroke risk as part of regular doctor visits."

Recreational smoking of marijuana, also known as cannabis, is currently legal in only 11 out of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. Even so, some polls have indicated the drug is popular across the country, such as one reported on by NBC News in 2017, which stated most Americans had tried smoking weed at least once.

As more and more state governments, like Pennsylvania's, seriously consider legalizing cannabis for recreational use, the president of the AHA said it is important to consider the health implications of the drug.

"As these products become increasingly used across the country, getting clearer, scientifically rigorous data is going to be important as we try to understand the overall health effects of cannabis," said Robert Harrington, president of the AHA.

Weed in Brazil
A man smokes a joint during a June 1 march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Brazil. Getty/Miguel Schincariol